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Uncommon Sense, Uncommon Nonsense - review of leadership book by Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles

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What makes "Uncommon sense, Common nonsense" so unique?

I never do formal book reviews on this website, even of those written by friends.  So why make an exception now, after 16 years and 15 million different people have visited this site?  Despite the mobile digital age, the world is full of new books. Too many some would say. 200,000 new titles were published last year in the UK alone, and I have written 16 books myself.  So what makes this book so unique?

Blast of fresh air - attacking management myths

“Uncommon sense, Common nonsense” is a much-needed blast of fresh air from Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles. Clever, witty, challenging and provocative, a sharply written and entertaining attack on all kinds of management myths, warning of the dangerous and futile nonsense promoted by many so-called business gurus.  It is full of leadership common sense.

“Uncommon sense, Common nonsense” is deeply rooted in the daily realities of business life. It will challenge how you think about running a corporation, leading teams, making things happen.  The authors are not asking you to agree with every page, but you will find fresh insights in every chapter.

Worth buying just to learn about "Discovery Programmes"

“Uncommon sense, Common nonsense” is worth buying just for the “how to” section on running Discovery Programmes, which many large corporations have used to transform their vision, leadership and strategy.

The book is down to earth, courageous and contains the ring of truth.  The authors are targeting leaders who are at heart “radical optimists”, to “make a dent in many of the tired and cynical assumptions that kill enthusiasm at work and act as a drag on creativity and ingenuity”.

Based on daily realities of business life

So let’s get the personal bit out of the way. I know both the authors of the book, have had the privilege of working with Tony Eccles and Jules Goddard for years on a wide range of London Business School Executive Education / leadership development programmes, and elsewhere.  And every time I do so, I come away re-energised by fresh insights, life-changing perspectives which have been directly relevant to my own work.  So I was highly expectant when they decided to write together, and my attention was immediately captured by their book title.

Tony Eccles was Professor of Strategic Management at London Business School for 15 years, has taught at many other Schools and has several decades experience of advising multinationals at the most senior levels. He has thousands of personal anecdotes of success that break all the traditional rules.  Tony delights in slashing and burning through conventional management theory, to develop growth strategies that actually work.  He has helped mentor and guide a generation of business leaders.

Jules Goddard is also well known internationally as a leading business lecturer, boardroom advisor, group mentor and eclectic Accademic. Jules is a Professor at several business schools, and consultant to many large corporations.  He pioneered so-called “Discovery Programmes” as a new concept in corporate leadership development, encouraging business heads to think radically, laterally, and creatively, learning important lessons from unusual places and unfamiliar situations – whether with people recycling coke cans from rubbish on the streets of Mumbai, or observing a rapidly growing social enterprise in Brazil. 

“Uncommon sense, Common nonsense” is in two main parts: firstly a stack of fast-moving mini-chapters which expand a bold truth; secondly, a description of the Discovery Process and how to use Discovery to transform your leadership teams, strategy and future success.

The Discovery Process – revealed

Discovery Programmes have multiplied around the world over the last decade as different leadership teams have been touched by them, and promoted the model and philosophy developed by Jules.

Fundamental principles:

* People chose to participate – no one gets nominated by their boss
* Those who guide are catalysts rather than expert teachers - we learn from each other on the journey
* Expertise is left at the door - we look to learn in unexpected ways
* Participants are taken to unfamiliar countries, locations, situations – that are personally challenging and mind-stretching
* Organisations visited are often non-profits, or others where teams are motivated powerfully by things other than personal financial reward
* Visits are arranged but unscripted, so the week-long process is shaped profoundly by the team
* Practical lessons are applied not only to the future of the business, strategy and organisational structure, but also to personal leadership

Quotable quotes from the main part of the book:

“A theory of business cannot be a substitute for insight”.

“Firms outperform their competitors by aiming to be different, not better”.

“Losers look to competitive benchmarks rather than to their own imagination for their model of success”.

“Success is best measured by added value, not profit”.

“Winners are motivated more by meeting a need than by meeting a target”.

“The greatest threats to corporate performance are internal, not external.”

“It is better to be first than it is to be better.”

“Losers are typified by the “catch up” strategy of a better product at a lower price’.

“Most marketing efforts just re-inforce the status quo”.

“The measure of a strategy is not its ambition but its truth”.

“The true strategist resembles an experimental scientist”.

“There cannot be a method of strategy, just as their cannot be a method of science”.

“Most discoveries in business are the result of accident rather than design”.

“Strategy is more dependent on courage and humility than talent and charisma”.

“The primary role of management is to motivate employees and co-ordinate their activities”.

“The internet is disintermediating management”.

“Paranoia is the dominant mood of management.”

“The need for extraordinary management suggests a poorly structured organization.”

“Everything important happens at the edge of chaos”.

“The smallest changes, if well chosen, can have the biggest effects”.

“Statements of corporate values trivialize ethics and demean employees”.

“Progress results from wise insights rather than grand designs”.

“There are greater returns on simplicity than on scale”.

* BUY from Amazon: "Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense" - why some organisations consistently outperform others - by Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles, Published by Profile Books 2012.

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