The commercial application of Greatest Hits

How Greatest Hits training can transform your business.

  • I take 15 minutes to explain what is in a book
  • We discuss the content and its implications
  • Attendees have to work out how they can apply the thinking to their business, customers, clients, or staff
  • This generates a minimum of 10 ideas per book
  • Repeat 6-10 times and you have 60-100 ideas to stimulate the business
  • Over 200 books to choose from


number of view: 0


12 2012

Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek

The one-sentence summary

Effective leaders manage the people, not the numbers – making them feel safe and keen to follow.


· The book looks at why some teams pull together and others don’t.

· Proper leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown; who put their interests aside for the greater good. They would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours.

· This makes followers feel safe (a primal need), which is why they will work tirelessly to see their leaders’ visions come to life. In a circle of safety, we feel like we belong.

· The title refers to the tradition in the US Marines in which, at mealtimes, the junior people are served first. This reinforces the fact that the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.

· The author charts our needs based on the chemicals we crave:

Endorphins – mask physical pain in ‘the runner’s high’, increasing endurance

Dopamine – creates a good feeling and is a perpetual incentive for progress

Serotonin – the ‘leadership chemical’ – the pride from having others respect us

Oxytocin – friendship, love and deep trust – the cornerstone of teamwork

· Modern managers are too abstracted from their people and tasks, and they have a destructive abundance – too much of everything.

· To cope, they need to bring people together and keep it real, keep the numbers manageable (Dunbar’s number means no more 150 in a team), meet their people properly, give them time (not just money), and be patient for results.


· In strong organisations, people break the rules because it is the right thing to do for others. In weak organisations, people break the rules for personal gain.

· The Boomer generation is described as the ‘pig in the python’ – a demographic bulge that grew up used to getting what it wanted. When these people became leaders, they had a negative effect on what proper leadership should be, which is why we now have so many leadership failures.

· There is a fascinating but tragic example from the Taj hotel group. Of the 31 people who died in the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, half were staff, some of whom were so determined to protect guests that they re-entered the building even after escaping, to help people further.

· Taj has learned that graduates from second-tier business schools often treat others better than those from top-tier business schools, so they prefer to hire from the second tier to get the right type of (unselfish) leader.

· Creating vicious tension in a company creates short-term value, and also deep resentment. At GE, Jack Welch introduced a ‘rank and yank’ policy. Every year he would fire the bottom 10% of managers and reward the top 20% with stock options. Nice bloke.

· “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Zen Buddhist saying.


· The structure is a bit messy. The book is divided into 4 sections that are not signposted in the contents (the force, the path we chose, challenges & temptation, and the abyss); this doesn’t entirely tally with the part or chapter headings, but is arguably a clearer sequence.

number of view: 56


04 2014

The Big Lie – Jouan, Quoirin, & Murphy

The one-sentence summary

There is a gap between what people say in surveys and what they really think, so you need to work out what their answers actually mean.


· The Big Lie is the gap between social norms and private reality, between expressed opinions and inner emotions, between what people say in surveys and what their answer actually means.

· There is a juxtaposition between how people live inside their heads and the generalised assumptions made by those people and the companies that market to them.

· Businesses need to create products and communications campaigns that tap into consumers’ realities as well as their projected personas.

· Consumers need to feel good on two levels – a duality that needs recognising. This duplexity means consumers are capable of ‘living in two apartments at the same time.’

· Four main areas are dealt with:

1. Ever smarter consumers, endlessly irrational choices

Behavioural economics has exposed flawed decision making despite people having more information.

2. Power of Me, Value of We

Despite what individuals claim, groupthink and social copying dictate many decisions and opinions.

3. Comfortable Lives, Uncomfortable Truths

People will only go so far to live a truly co-friendly and green life.

4. The Call of Yesterday, The Scream of the New

Everyone claims things were better in the past, whilst craving everything that’s new.


· People now have effective knowledge – a good understanding of how everything works and how they should be seen to be behaving, so they can easily claim one thing and do another.

· They also have a new ruthlessness, and do not want to let go of their living standards.

· For consumers, perfect is often not worth the price.

· Research is pretty much incapable of replicating the living process that affects most purchasing decisions. No matter what people say in surveys, it’s never that simple.

· The Big Lie can = The Big Lazy. People may think responsibly, but then fail to act accordingly, creating a disconnect between opinion and action.

· More caring, positive, virtuous responses are offered in face-to-face interviews as opposed to online. People want to seem good in person.


· The book would benefit from a decent index.

· It is produced by the trends and forecasting agency The Future Foundation, and often strays into becoming a brochure for the company.

· The first half of the book is written in an over flowery style. A more balanced approach would have provided some academic calmness.

number of view: 94


04 2014

The Undercover Economist Strikes Back – Tim Harford

The one-sentence summary

In macroeconomics, everything is related to everything else, so every policy decision has an effect elsewhere.


· This is all about how to run – or ruin – the economy. In an original approach, the reader is asked to assume the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer. A question and answer format puts you through your paces to see how good a job you would make of running the economy.

· Whereas his previous books have been concerned with microeconomics (Why does a cup of coffee cost less when it is 100 yards further away from a station?), this one is about macroeconomics (the big overview, and very much interlinked with other nations).

· Macroeconomics is all about what is not seen – all the knock-on effects that occur when factors such as taxation, pay, employment and so on, are adjusted. It’s all interrelated, so much of the time the true effects of policies are not really understood.

· A hundred or so years ago a man called Bill Phillips invented an extraordinary machine called the MONIAC (Monetary national Income Analogue Computer). This was a hydraulic machine that used liquid to represent the value of different parts of the economy – tax income, expenditure etc. Reduce or increase one element, and the liquid moves elsewhere to demonstrate the effect on the economy. It proved remarkably accurate.

· Two important economic laws:

1. John Maynard Keynes: an economy’s output is constrained by the demand for goods and services

2. Jean-Baptiste Say: an economy’s output is sometimes constrained by their potential supply


· The author provides a user’s manual for the economy, and guides you through dealing with recession, inflation, unemployment, taxation, providing fiscal stimulus, the subtleties of GNP and statistical reporting.

· Money is a store value. It enables people to transact, but it is not actually worth what it claims.

· Moderate inflation is desirable for forward motion. Hyperinflation is clearly not. As the analogy goes, an occasional drink can kick-start an evening, but drinking constantly or excessively is not a good idea. Deflation is bad all round.

· Management quality in companies varies a lot: a typical Tanzanian worker produces in a month what an American produces in a day. The countries with the worst managers are India, China, Brazil and Greece.


· Not much. It’s an excellent layperson’s guide to how economics works.

number of view: 248

When Cultures Collide – Richard Lewis

The one-sentence summary

Careful analysis and understanding of distinctive cultural traits can lead to more effective leadership and collaboration across diverse nationalities.


· Originally published in 1996, this seminal work has been thoroughly updated to cover the business habits and etiquette of over 60 countries.

· Its main purpose is to offer leaders and managers practical strategies to embrace differences and work successfully across diverse business cultures.

· The author has created a model of cultural types based on three main styles:

1. Linear-Active: introvert, patient, quiet, minds own business, likes privacy, plans methodically, does one thing at a time, punctual (Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, emanating out to the USA and UK)

2. Multi-active: extrovert, impatient, talkative, inquisitive, gregarious, plans grand outline only, does several things at once, works any hours, not punctual (Hispanic, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile)

3. Reactive: introvert, patient, silent, respectful, good listener, looks at general principles, reacts, flexible hours, punctual, sees whole picture, reacts to partner’s timetable (Vietnam, then Japan and China)

· Understanding some of these traits can lead to a far better understanding of how to conduct meetings, negotiations, the passage of time, and many other interactions between different cultures, often inside a company.

· Views of time are particularly complex:

~ The US regard it as linear – time is money and can be divided into clear chunks.

~ Latins see time as multi-active – using human interactions to get things done, regardless of specific meetings and timetables.

~ Eastern cultures see time as cyclical – everything goes round in a circle.

~ Madagascar have an interesting one – they see the future as flowing into their heads from behind, with the past stretching out in front of them. The past is visible in this regard, whereas the future is unknown.


· Language is something of a straitjacket. The one you happen to speak influences the way you think. Multi-linguists are more broad-minded.

· Who is normal anyway? Attitudes depend on our perception.

· There is a set of diagrams showing leadership and organisation styles by country. They include the UK (casual), US (structured individualism), France (autocratic), Germany (hierarchy/consensus), Australia (one of the mates), Spain (human force), Japan (ringi-sho consensus).

· Anyone working in a global organisation or doing any overseas business should read this. Understanding can only increase.


· Not much. This is a 600-page textbook so the best approach is to read the main principles (180 pages) and then go straight to the sections that cover the cultures you most commonly interact with.

Click to enlarge

number of view: 745

A Technique for Producing Ideas – James Webb Young

The one-sentence summary

Gather both general and specific materials, ponder on the issue, then do something completely different for a while, and a decent idea will arrive.


· Originally produced in 1965, this short book was arguably the first to attempt to explain how to generate an idea, and lift the veil of mystery from the creative process.

· The author claims that the production of ideas is an operative technique – exactly the same as producing products on an assembly line.

· As such, it can be learned, controlled and practiced in exactly the same way.

· The Italian sociologist Pareto (who wrote in French) thought that the world could be divided into two types of people:

1. The speculator – speculative, constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations.

2. The rentier – the stockholder – routine, steady-going, unimaginative, conservative.

· Nevertheless, even the conservative mind can be trained in the method by which ideas are produced. Here it is:

1. Gather raw materials – there are two types; those specific to the issue in hand, and those that are general. (The latter should be collected all the time. This so-called fugitive material eventually finds its use when later combined with a specific need).

2. Mental digestion – work over materials in the mind.

3. Incubation – do something else while the idea synthesises.

4. Eureka moment – the idea will appear apparently out of nowhere.

5. Shaping – development to practical usefulness.


· Two general principles make good sense:

1. Ideas are merely new combinations.

2. An ability to see new combinations is heightened by an ability to see relationships.

· That’s why it pays to be a mental magpie – constantly on the lookout interesting things that may be of value later.

· You can read this in twenty minutes and understand what to do.


· Not much. It’s a discussion point, but one could argue that, even after reading this, a so-called ‘uncreative’ person could still fail to have a decent idea.

number of view: 254