"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Power of Why by Amanda Lang

The Power of Why
Author:  Amanda Lang
Published:  October 2012
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Pages: 273 including an index, notes (acknowledgements/sources)
Source:  borrowed
Genre:  business
ISBN 9781443413183

Why are some people able to get so much more done in so much less time than others? Why do some companies flourish in tough times while others fail? Why are some countries more productive than others?
Through an entertaining mix of examples from the business world, insights from innovation gurus, little-known research, the experiences of business leaders and her own candid stories of life off-camera, Amanda Lang explains how asking the right questions has changed the world and how it can change you, too. From the invention of the curved shower curtain rod to the introduction of an elevator that creates electricity as it moves from floor to floor, The Power of Why persuasively spells out the connection between innovation and productivity that is so crucial in the knowledge economy.
Instead of obsessing over working smarter, we ought to focus on the instinctive urge to question that?s so natural for young children. As Lang shows, it's possible to reignite that instinct at any age and to become more innovative and productive, as well as more fulfilled in our jobs and happier in our relationships. That's the power of why.

"... paradoxically, the less willing you are to make mistakes, the more likely you may be to make them because you've narrowed your mind and drastically reduced your openness to new opportunities." (page 116, The Power of Why

Discussing the innovations of curious minds including one who developed a safety feature that ensures a saw will stop when it comes in contact with human flesh, another few who developed a new "chain" for Otis elevators, a man who made his hotels the epitome of hospitality.  All of these and more are discussed in The Power of Why as examples of how one can become innovative when we allow ourselves to ask questions, think beyond the typical boundaries, be creative and unafraid to fail.  

As children, we were all curious and full of questions.  The favourite word for a five year old is usually "why?"  Not because they are trying to be difficult, but because they really want to know.  Over the years spent in the educational system children are discouraged from being disruptive, the fear of failure grows and children are less inclined/discouraged to ask questions.  Amanda Lang's theory of The Power of Why encourages that childlike wonderment, the curiosity, the lack of fear of failure, and a desire to learn.  By allowing ourselves, our employees, our co-workers, our family members to think laterally, to embrace the challenges, and to respectfully question, we unleash the power of innovation and creative solutions.  

The more I read The Power of Why, the more I realized that I fit into the "play it safe" category.  I do ask questions to better learn reasoning, but I fear failure in a big way.  I don't take risks, at least not many.  Upon reading this powerful little book, I feel a little more emboldened to take on new tasks and embrace the opportunity to learn, to grow, to think laterally and to make mistakes.  Okay, that last word is still painful.  Maybe I need practice with the whole concept.

The Power of Why goes against the norm.  Author Amanda Lang encourages the reader to question why and how.  To think outside the box.  To think laterally.  The chapter on working as a team and the mentality of an employee who feels valued really struck me.  I recommended this book at work as an essential read for all employees.  The Power of Why could be an amazing tool in building a team with common aspirations and a mindset in which they acknowledge their role as valued, as an important member of a team.

Highly recommended whether you are a parent, an employee, an entrepreneur (especially!), a manager.  Whatever your role, The Power of Why is enlightening!

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