Words to Live By: Lori Richman
I’ve been fortunate to serve QBP and bicycle retailers for nearly 18 years as QBP’s Director of Organization Development. That means I focus on how businesses grow and develop to serve their ultimate purpose, who they are at their core, where they’re headed, their approach, and how they continue serving that purpose in a rapidly changing environment. But it involves, most of all, people—who we are individually, what motivates us, how we see the world, how our inner voices inform us, what is hard-wiring and what isn’t, and how we show up to others. And that leads to leadership, structures and systems.
My book selections reflect that background. I like books that make me dig deeper, incorporate new ways of thinking, or beautifully say what I’ve intuitively known but can’t articulate. I love lessons that have me shift my approach or inform my actions. Or create a new understanding about the world of people. I rarely take in an entire book lock, stock, and barrel. More often, I read the entire thing, digest it, and begin an inner process of identifying what’s helpful and what isn’t. The following books have been instrumental in recent years:
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
By Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
"Organizational health will one day surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage." This is the promise of The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni's bold manifesto about the most unexploited opportunity in modern business.
Richman’s Take: This is an excellent overview, and even how-to, of OD, with a clear, step-by-step plan for developing healthy alignment within an organization. Lencioni is a master of organizational consulting, has plenty of case study examples, and a simple and compelling argument for organizational health as the secret, largely untapped advantage.
The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 2015)
Far more than a couple of Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, Wilbur and Orville Wright were men of exceptional ability, unyielding determination, and far-ranging intellectual interest and curiosity.
Richman’s Take: I learned of this book from Hill Abell (thanks Hill!), picked it up and read it cover to cover. It’s an incredible study of people and innovation. It’s technically fascinating, historically accurate, and also a masterful story that’s worth the read for anyone who wonders what deep and driving curiosity, personal humility, and passion coupled with vision can accomplish.
Brandtender Marketing: True Customer Engagement from the Inside Out
By Dan Day (Synergy, 2009)
True customer engagement can be driven only by brand-conscious employees who are engaged themselves. The encounters that customers have with these people will trump a customer loyalty program every time.
Richman’s Take: Deep down, we all know that good people are your secret weapon, and what differentiates you from your competitors and the internet. Notice the theme here: That we bike people (staff included) truly believe in the bicycle is not sufficient; we must also be able to convey, convince, engage, thrill, challenge, inspire, and connect with the people that we want to convert. This book gives you the steps for instilling your brand ethos and expectations in your staff.
The Anatomy of Peace
By The Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015)
What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstand that cause? And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?
Richman’s Take: The book, and its prequel, Leadership and Self-Deception, are two must-read books by the Arbinger Institute. Written as slightly fictional narrative, both books bring us deep into our own motivations and blind spots that cause us continued difficulty and conflict.
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
By M. Mitchell Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
The science of complexity studies how single elements, such as a species or a stock, spontaneously organize into complicated structures like ecosystems and economies; stars become galaxies, and snowflakes avalanches as if these systems were obeying a hidden yearning for order. Scientists from diverse fields are studying complexity at The Santa Fe Institute, and their discoveries could change the face of every science from biology to cosmology to economics. This bestseller takes readers into the hearts and minds of these scientists to tell the story behind this scientific revolution as it unfolds.
Richman’s Take: Many years ago in a Master's-level course called "Methods of Critical Thought," I was assigned to read this book on Complexity Theory. It rocked my world, confirming what I believed in my core (but couldn’t articulate) about how the world is connected, that no action is completely isolated, and that, despite prevailing wisdom, everything can’t be reduced to an equation.