Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Learn and Share

Late last year, a very inspiring tweep and fellow blogger handed me a copy of Jim Collin's bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and others Don't.

Owing to commitments and other hitherto scheduled reads, I gave the book to my dad, who has really liked reading it.

I have however started reading the book, and just flipping through the pages, I realize it has wonderful insights that apply both in business and in life.

Good to Great

Good to Great by Jim Collins

What Others Say

This post isn't exactly a review of the book. You can read editorial reviews at Amazon.

A quick glance at the first chapter [titled Good is the Enemy of Great]:
Good is the enemy of Great.

And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.

We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.

The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good - and that is their main problem.

Worth Reading?

Yes. This is a book that will remind you that just being good isn't enough, and show you the way to being great.

You then get to do the needful to become great!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Nature of Violence, and How We can Reduce it

Premise: Following various reports of heinous crimes being committed in our country, and the recent confession by a former G4S employee of killing 17 people, many Kenyans are shocked at the frequency and intensity of violence.

Violent Times

Many people believe that we live in especially violent times. But is this true? To better understand this, we need to distinguish violence against other people and against things. In fact, the concept of using force [read violence] to realize law and order in civil societies is in many situations inspired by a mood as violent as that which it claims to fight.

Heightened Awareness

All in all, rising crime continues to be much discussed, with statistics frightening many people. Hate and destructiveness are impulses which obscure rational and objective thinking and easily create a polarization, by reinforcing each other.  

Is Violence Inherent?

1) An affirmative answer has been maintained from Hobbes to Freud to Lorenz. Those who subscribe to this school of thought maintain that aggression and destructiveness are innate, directed toward self or toward others.

 2) A counterview asserts that man is good by nature, and only destructive because social circumstances corrupt him. Others assert that aggressiveness is learned. This was the thinking that was popularized by psychological experts during the age of enlightenment.

3) A third view, originally presented by John Dollard, maintains that aggression is always occasioned by frustration. Despite all the above however, some individuals and societies have either very high or very low levels of violence.  

The case with Humans

The theory that violence is hereditary and has been passed down generations is found wanting, upon the observation that other mammals, especially primates are less aggressive and destructive than man. Human destructiveness is consistently more frequent and intense. It can therefore only be explained as a result of specific conditions on our existence, not animal hereditary or as a neurophysical necessity.

Types of Human Aggressiveness

  • Reactive or defensive aggressiveness - when vital interests are threatened.

  • Lustful aggressiveness - sadism, and cruel desire to exercise absolute control over others

  • Necrophilia - a cold, unalive attraction to death, decay, sickness and the mechanical

Controlling Destructiveness  

Main causes of Violence

  • Feeling of anxiety

  • mechanization of life, where thinking and reasoning are much separated

  • powerlessness of individuals

  • contradiction between values professed and what is acted

Control Measures

  • individuals should cease to feel powerless

  • compulsive consumption should be reduced

  • humanization of our technological society

  • society must serve human ends - growth and development of humans

  • emotions and reason should be brought together

In a nutshell

Reduction of violence will be achieved not through an increased control of aggression and violence, but reduction of destructiveness and violence. This is best done by making individual and social life more meaningful and human. Note: This post has been condensed from the article "The Nature of Violence" by Eric Fromm

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It is Written: The Human Condition since Time Immemorial

From Time Immemorial

Towards the end of March this year, I watched the 10th episode of the final season [6] of the wildly popular TV Series LOST. Titled Ab Aeterno, which is a Latin phrase that means "from an infinitely remote time in the past", the episode tells Richard Alpert's back story.

Having accidentally killed his physician in 1867, Richard [then known as Ricardo] is sentenced to hang. While in jail, Ricardo reads his Bible. Minutes before his execution, a priest visits him. At this point, Ricardo is reading from the book of Luke, chapter 4.

It is Written

This entire chapter is an account of  Jesus' activities shortly after he returned from his 40-day fast in the wilderness.

Following are personal deductions from various verses in the chapter, with respect to how relevant they are to our every day life situations:

  • v2-3 Not just God, but the devil too will often meet you at your point of need.

  • v13 Overcoming temptations is not an end in itself. The devil usually leaves for just a while, only to return when you are no longer steadfast or keen to resist temptation.

  • v23 Human beings just love to compare themselves with others.

  • v25 Some things are meant for only some people. That is why only the widow in Zarephath was fed in the days of Elijah, inasmuch as the entire land was experiencing famine.

  • v27 Likewise, only Naaman the Syrian was healed of leprosy in the days of Elisha

  • v28-29 People cannot handle the truth, they will all too often get very angry and irrationally kill the messenger...

  • v31, 32, 36,37 Thankfully, the people of Capernaum had a different reaction. They welcomed the message of God. They went ahead and shared the good news with others, thereby spreading the word everywhere

  • v40 Jesus did perform miracles and heal the sick

  • v42 These people were so interested in Jesus' message, that they sought him and requested him to stay on with them

The Human Condition

In view of the above, I found it very striking that people can react so differently to the exact same message. Additionally, people will invariably compare themselves with others.

Unique, just like every person else

The widow who was fed in Zarephath and Naaman the syrian who was healed of leprosy, both underscore the importance of understanding that some things are only meant for some people, no matter how much we feel we deserve similar treatment.

Additionally, not every good thing comes from the right place or person, or is offered with noble intentions. We therefore need to be discerning whenever seemingly good things come our way.

Standing by our word

The devil departed from Jesus Christ only for a while.

This basically means that winning the battle doesn't necessarily mean that the war has been won. We therefore need to be steadfast in seeking good and overcoming evil.

The Written Word

The more I read this and many other chapters in the Bible, the more I realize that there are many ways of looking at everything that happens to us.

In the same vein, the more I marvel at the genius of the writers of LOST.

What do you think?


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