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The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World

Traditionally, leadership has been equated with vision. We look to leaders in business and government to have the genius to know the future and lead the rest of us to where that vision becomes a... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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Great introduction of feedback based thinking - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act - repeat

I just completed reading The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World. Great book. The book does an excellent job of discussing the world of business and the role that turbulence has played in shaping it. Donald Sull does a great job describing how to embrace turbulence and seize the opportunities that turbulence can bring. How do you embrace turbulence? By being agile. Before we continue, don't confuse `being agile' with the agile development methodology....while they may be similar, for the purposes of this article, I'll be talking about a different `agile'. That said, let me clear up what I mean when I saw agile (and what Donald Sull means when he uses it): Agile isn't about speed. Agile has to do with the ability to change course when needed. Being agile means taking a look at your organizational landscape (strategy, operations, etc) and breaking up the long-term view into smaller samples of time to make it easier to see and respond to opportunities. Dr Sull defines agility as: "the capacity to identify and capture opportunities more quickly than rivals" (p. 138). In addition, he uses the concept of air warfare to help tell the story of how agility can provide tremendous benefits. Out of these stories of air warfare, Dr Sull introduces John Boyd, a military strategist who helped with a lot of the science behind the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, and Boyd's OODA Loop. What is the OODA loop? It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Some reviewers have noted that the book provides very little actionable steps. I agree...with a caveat. I see the main purpose of this book as being one of informing the reader on how to change your mindset. To survive in a turbulent world, you've got to step away from the world of linear thinking and move into the world of feedback based thinking. What is feedback based thinking? Plan appropriately, make decisions and then revisit the plan and decisions to ensure your plan is working and organization is oriented appropriately. This is a great book...well worth the read.

If you read only one business book this year, this is the one...

Having been forced to read Porter and Chandler's weighty tombs in business school, and found little connection between academic studies and business success, I'm always skeptical of books that claim to help discover opportunities or define business strategies. Professor Sull however combines well-researched studies with a lucid writing style that builds his case chapter-by-chapter and mixes old ideas together in a new and compelling way. There an absence of absurd diagrams that frequently litter books like these, and Dilbert-esque "what on earth does that mean?" acronyms and buzz phrases. The essential idea is that agility is the key to business success especially in difficult times. While this may not seem groundbreaking, the author elaborates on this concept by comparing winners and losers in various industries, and looking at the inherent cultural elements in organizations that decide their ability to be agile. Personally, I'm a huge fan of this concept, having cheer-leaded agile software and project management concepts for years, and the book makes a strong case for scrapping the 5-year corporate plan and taking a more nimble approach to seizing opportunities. Also, in all the business books I've ever read, no author has had the confidence to accept that luck plays a significant role in the success of strategy. Porter brushes this under the carpet with the "environmental factors" umbrella, but Sull grasps the idea firmly and credits chance with the significant role it deserves. Rather than undermining his theory, in many ways random chance provides the endless environmental change that makes an agile response so essential. Overall, apart from being an enjoyable read, I'd highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to change traditional thinking in their organization - there are many interesting case studies and concepts that will challenge standard strategic thinking.

Another way of thinking about crisis.

I liked the book. In a nutshell, it explains that calm moments are not the norm in business. They are the exception. Turbulence, in fact, is where all things are made due to the way the right leaders look at it.So you are in business and think the turbulence will pass? Think again: that's where you'll live from now on. The book presents a very good case with lots of great examples and case studies that makes it clear that we need another way of thinking if we want to succeed. All the points the author wants to make are beautifully organized and you can really read it and keep each full concept without feeling lost. Great buy.

A framework for managing in today's increasingly complex world

The convergence of global markets, information technology and shorter product lifecycles requires a new framework for management and leadership to deal with today's complex environment. The systems and concepts that worked in a complicated world fail us in the emerging chaos of today's market. Traditional management practice rests on the assumption that things are knowable and they can be properly planned for. Organizations that rely on this approach today are increasingly inflexible and unable to adapt. A company that expects uncertainty and is designed for that environment looks and acts very differently than those designed for yesterday's context. Don Sull highlights those individuals and organizations who actually thrive in chaos, and distills the principles that enabled them to succeed into straightforward concepts and actionable advice for managers. Drawing out lessons from the US Marines, agile software development, cruise line entrepreneurs and innovators in the steel industry (among others), Sull provides a roadmap for those looking to seize the initiative in the face of uncertainty. This book combines high-level strategy and stories from the trenches to provide an engaging and compelling guide to managing in the face of complexity.

Seizing Opportunity in a Turbulent World with Instant Information

This book is exactly what it says it is. One very engaging read where Sull tells us about companies that actually grew in the most turbulent industries. He tells us about US Steel verses Mitel as one example of taking advantage of opportunities and being there when the opportunities presented themselves. He goes through the what, where, how to and gives you a compare and contrast with easy to read charts and checklists of sorts. Sull discusses being Agile in all aspects of business. Not stifling intitiative in the usual ways that businesses can do in meetings. He tells about Lehman Bros and other companies that became somewhat myopic and a 'we do not do that here' mentality. These companies missed many opportunities by not allowing differences to flourish. One area he cautions and suggests improvement in is where there is a need for instant information. The most nimble of companies has a continous flow of information for decision making purposes. Montly and quarterly information can be a little stale by the time you get it and may not be the most accurate for current overall state of your company and industry to take advantage of the market that is present. Even in the toughest of times, companies may be able to thrive and more than just survive a difficult downturn.
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