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Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review: "The Way We're Working Isn't Working"

AUTHOR: Tony Schwartz
PUBLISHER: NY: Free Press, 2010, (335 pages)

In his previous book, the Power of Full Engagement, the author explains that 'energy' is the critical force that determines success. By taking care of one's energy levels, being conscious of one's energy cycles and the need to replenish oneself regularly, the author submits that such will then lead to a 'power of full engagement.'

This follow-up book does not detract a lot from his previous treatise about energy. He attempts to differentiate this book from his famous predecessor by addressing 'four forgotten needs' behind the energy and performance level. Beyond survival, these four needs are essentially similar to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with a minor difference. Schwartz flips the triangle with the apex at the bottom but retains the level of needs.

Simply put, according to the author, great performance comes about when all four needs such as sustainability (physical), security (emotional), self-expression (mind), and significance (spiritual) are adequately met. Current ways of working are not 'working' because of an error in assumptions. Such as:

  • Bigger and faster is better;
  • more and more is better;
  • Far too little effort is done to focus on these four core needs.
Using multidisciplinary research, and with illustrations thrown in, Schwartz presents a compelling case for an alternate paradigm toward productivity and performance. Each 'need' are presented in a renewal quadrant. Every chapter ends with action steps for the reader to adopt. The book concludes with a helpful refresher 'big ideas' page. In this section, each chapter is compressed into 1 page which makes it an easy reference to learn and re-learn Schwartz's points.   

Book Saint Comments
Firstly, this book clearly appeals more to the left-brained. It strikes me as one that sees the four core needs from a 'left-brained' angle. The way that the book is written, the structure of the various quadrants, and the prescribed action plans all look more leftist to me. Perhaps the author is left-brained himself. Perhaps, readers who pick up this book will tend to be more left-brained. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how we can learn to cultivate the whole brain when the book seems more left than right.

Secondly, the parts about the physical, the mental and the emotional tend to be meatier. They contain chunks of good advice, supported with scientific observations and practical examples. For the physical, I like the part about sleep, where more sleep leads to better attention span. For the emotional, Schwartz uses more stories to convey the emotions. For the mental, the part about cultivating the whole brain sheds insight into the way we learn and behave. 

Thirdly, the spiritual part of the book appears flaky. Not only that, I feel the author ought to have consulted with some spiritual masters or guidance in writing this part. Of all the four needs, I think Schwartz is weakest here.

Fourthly, I appreciate the author putting in a BIG IDEAS section toward the end of the book. It helps the readers to reinforce what has been written in the earlier chapters. 

Will I recommend this book? I am ambivalent about it. This book will only appear to most left-brained, and those who needed some motivation to re-energize their work lifestyles. In summary, this book does not work far enough.

Ratings: 3 stars of 5.


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