Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Silo Effect (Gillian Tett)

The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett is a smart, all-encompassing look at the corporate and government world's constant battles with itself around corporate culture.  Silos in the business world often refer to the attitude that is found in some organizations when departments or teams do not share information or knowledge with other parts of the same organization, which reduces efficiency and sometimes leads to the different teams competing with each other internally.  The Silo Effect has two key objectives in attempting to answer the questions of why silos arise and what can be done by us to master silos in our world before they master us.

Tett covers several examples of corporations and government organizations that either overcame or fell victim to the silo effect.  From the example of one large corporation that lost its way due to layers of bureaucracy to how one city changed the way different departments communicated with each other, the author weaves a narrative to show the importance of how corporate culture and human interaction both play a role in helping silos grow to unmanageable heights, hindering corporate performance as a result.  But that can be overcome through effective communication, corporate culture, and smart management.

The author argues that our modern world has made silos a major part of our life, going so far as to say that "we cannot live without silos in the modern world" and citing psychological and anthropological examples to back that point up.  She then goes on to say that while it is easier and even convenient for businesses to organize themselves into highly structured silos, there are missed opportunities for growth, missed risks as collaboration and communication suffer, and internal departments are loathe to share information and resources with each other, which leads to lower productivity and efficiency in the long run.  Without giving people some rope to be creative, to collaborate, to work outside of their norms, Tett argues that short-term gain does not yield long-term breakthrough impact.  Through her eight case studies that range from major cities to major corporations, she is able to make an effective case to prove her point.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Admissions (Meg Mitchell Moore)

At first glance, Meg Mitchell Moore's The Admissions seems to be referring to the pressure-filled world of college admissions.  In fact, daughter Angela Hawthorne and her father, Gabe, are desperate for her to be accepted into the hallowed halls of Harvard. However, it becomes apparent throughout the book that Moore was going a bit deeper into the meaning of the word "admissions."

The Hawthornes seem to be a have-it-all family living in sunny California.  Mom Nora is a real estate agent selling luxury properties; Gabe has a similarly lucrative career. Angela is stretched to the limit trying to reach her goals; in addition to being fast-as-lightning in cross country, she's also on track to becoming valedictorian of her class. Her younger sisters, Cecily and Maya, are also facing their own issues.

All this comes to a boiling head when the pressures of daily life seem to unravel the family.  What will they stoop to in the quest to remain "perfect" and prevent their secrets from coming out?  It is this where the origin of the title The Admissions becomes crystal clear.

Moore's novel is a quick read, whip-smart, and very relevant in today's world.  Is there ever a time when people can just sit back and enjoy life or is there just too much pressure today?  Moore addresses this head-on in an extremely thought-provoking novel.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Choosing Hope (Kaitlin Roig DeBellis and Robin Gaby Fisher)

How do you move forward after going through a tragedy of unimaginable proportions?  That is something that author (with Robin Gaby Fisher) Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis has not had an easy road determining, but her answer lies in Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours.

A dedicated first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary in a quaint little Connecticut town called Newtown, Roig-DeBellis was in circle time one minute with her primary-age students, and the next, forced to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to save all their lives.  It was the young educator’s quick thinking that piled her entire class into a bathroom not big enough for even one adult.  Not knowing if any of them were going to make it out alive, she tried to keep the children calm as they could hear the horror happening all around them.  After they were led out of the ravaged school by police and into the arms of waiting parents, the trauma Roig-DeBellis and her class faced became all too real.  This is where the story of Choosing Hope really begins.

Most people know the story of Sandy Hook based on what they have read and seen on the television.  However, what makes Choosing Hope so inspirational is that Roig-DeBellis has learned not to let that unbearable day define her; in fact, she even mentions that readers can skip the chapters about the shootings if they wish because that’s not what the book is about.  With much therapy and the loving support of her family, husband, ex-students and their parents, the author has chosen instead to make some good come out of this tragedy.  She has left teaching (not by choice), but has developed a nonprofit called Classes 4 Classes, where classrooms across the nation adopt other classrooms in need.

Roig-DeBellis doesn’t sugarcoat anything and is completely honest. However, readers expecting a minute-by-minute account of December 14, 2012 should turn elsewhere.  Choosing Hope is about one woman’s journey to remember all those that died that day by giving to others and choosing to reframe her thoughts.