Our Suggested Reading List Has Been Updated

Our Suggested Reading List Has Been Updated

This week, we are sharing some updates and general knowledge blogs from Ron Slee. First, we kick the week of information off with this post: “Our Suggested Reading List Has Been Updated.”

From the time I started my consulting business I have always been interested in helping people learn and become better at what they do. I suspect it was from my upbringing as a competitive swimmer. I learned at an early age that I was not competing with others, I was competing with myself.

Believe me when I suggest that it is much more difficult to do that than to compete with others.

When I was teaching at McGill University in Montreal, I was always recommending books and having discussions with my students. I am certain I learned as much from those discussions as my students. That was the beginning of my “book club” approach to communications and learning.

Everywhere I have worked around the world I have always recommended a book for my clients or employees or students to read. I give everyone a month to get it done. In some cases, I buy them the book. Then we sit down as a group and talk about the book. My granddaughter who is taking her master’s here at the University of Hawaii has her own book club with fellow graduate students. They are part of the Graduate Women of Science, Hawaii (GWISH) organization. She is a Teaching Assistant and a Research Assistant as she is taking her degree.

When we created our first website in the 1970’s and then more formally in 1983 when we moved to the US, I have always included a suggested reading list. Those of you who have subscribed to our quarterly newsletter will have noticed the last section is a recommended list of three or so books. I guess it has become a habit.

Recently we have come of age. We have completely updated our Suggested Reading List. With our ever-present IT Director, Ross Atkinson, keeping me in line he has created an extremely useful segment on our webpage for books. I used to call it A Reading List for Interested People. 

We have well over 250 books on the site. We used to categorize the books by our selections. Topical Authors, Teachers, General, etc. We still have the categorization, but Ross has created searchable access to our suggested reading list by book title, by author, by category or even ISDN number. 

As most of you know I am always reading. It is part of my job. Now with our updated approach to our reading list I am asking for your help and input. If you have read a book that you found particularly helpful either personally or professionally, please let me know. You can send me your suggestions at my email ron@learningwithoutscars.com or ron@learningwithoutscars.org.

I am also considering creating an online book club with interested people. Say a Zoom or Teams meeting once a month with perhaps as many as a dozen people who have all read the same book, getting together for an hour or so and talking about it. This is something else I would ask for your input. Please let me know. Is this a good idea, a bad idea, or an ugly idea?

One last thing. You can order the books you find directly from our website with either Amazon or AbeBooks. I use both extensively. I hope you enjoy our fresh look and approach. We are always interested in your feedback. It can be an email, a written paper, or a thumbs up (or down) as you see below.

The Time Is Now.

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The Future of Strategies: Fusion

The Future of Strategies: Fusion

This week, our Founder Ron Slee is writing about “The Future of Strategies: Fusion,” inspired by his ongoing reading and research into the methods AI might bring to our workforce.

For many of us strategy is a nice word but doesn’t really apply to us. As more time passes and technology continues to advance at a pace that seems incomprehensible, I am seriously changing my mind.

Consider if you will the following examples of disruptions in the marketplace.

Uber analyzes data on more than twenty-five billion rides. Taxi companies don’t.

Netflix tracks people’s viewing preferences by the second. Cable and TV don’t.

Airbnb tracks where, when, and how long travelers stay and what they do and prefer. Hotels don’t.

What about you?

You have telematics and sensors. You have purchase data on what your customers buy and what they don’t buy. You know at what rate your customer stops buying from you. You have customer buying habits. Frequencies and dollar values. So, what do you do with all that data? Do you have employees who analyze and report back their findings? Do you act on those findings? 

The change here is not in the equipment anymore. We have seen unbelievably rapid changes in the capital goods industries, in the machines, over the past two decades. Now, however, it is not about the machine. It is about merging all the data you own in your business with AI. By itself this is aa monumental shift. And this is only the beginning. The competitive advantage is changing. The rewards are going to businesses that have real-time analytics not those that have the most valuable physical assets. 

This is where fusion comes into play. This is what is going to change the business models we have depended on for the past fifty years. The change in the business model will accelerate strategic thinking. It will allow you to evaluate the relationships that you have with each customer. After all we are in a relationship business. My changing my mind reflects my belief that companies will either adapt and adjust to this way of thinking and achieve incredible growth in value. Of they will be left behind and, in many cases, simply disappear.

In a recent book I read, “Fusion Strategy,” they introduce a thing called “Datagraphs.”

A Datagraph captures the relationships, the links, and the interrelationships between the supplier and the consumer. They are the basic building blocks of the fusion strategy. The concept of a datagraph came from social networks and graph theory but it required Artifical Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) before it could become widely used. The datagraph gets smarter over time. It becomes better as the data becomes more widespread and better defined. This creates an advantage that I think you can see. That datagraph advantage redefines scale and scope. The very foundation of strategy.

Many of you are familiar with my belief that most people are linear thinkers. They proceed through life with a “if this is done this happens.” The world requires us to be geometric thinkers, there is more than one option in every situation. In the linear world business expanded their scale of operations by increasing sales. It was based on the company’s ability to access physical and human and financial capital. Essentially the barrier to entry into any market was financial. 

Datagraph leaders are not concerned with absolute numbers, they want details. There lies the difference. You must accept that you don’t know what you don’t know. You won’t know until you get details at every level.

This presents us with a rather clear warning. Datagraph insights allow datagraph businesses to expand and grow. It is time for our capital goods industries to recognize this and adapt.

This is the challenge of AI. We can find out many things. However, you must know what question to ask. There is the sticking point. Who knows what questions to ask? Who knows what Datagraphs you need to develop? Let’s start at the beginning.

With Datagraphs we can understand what happened. So that is the WHAT. Next, we must figure out the more puzzling question. WHY. 

This is a brief overview of what is coming to you. It is here now for many. We are confronted with the arrival of a new business model. That alone will be a rather large challenge. We are going to have to be much “smarter” in how we look at our businesses. It is no longer about improving the process and making more money. It is about serious analyses – descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. We will be covering this more in the coming months.

The Time is Now.

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Check This Out: We are announcing our Quarterly Newsletter

Check This Out: We are announcing our Quarterly Newsletter

Check this out, will you? It is already the middle of 2021. I really can’t believe it. We have been extremely busy at Learning Without Scars. Tonight, we are happy to be announcing our quarterly newsletter.

However, I am pleased to announce that on July 1st, 2021 we will be sending out our first quarterly newsletter. The first newsletter has six sections of industry-relevant information. I am sure from feedback and wider thinking we will adapt and adjust it as time goes on, however, it is coming soon.

I strongly urge you to go to our website www.learningwithoutscars.org and click on the blue “Sign Up” button to subscribe to our newsletter. Share it with your co-workers and talk about the subject matter exposed. We cover an Introduction, Parts, Service, Sales and Marketing, Business and Learning. There will be a lot of content and it is intended to provoke thinking and hopefully some changes in your perspective.

I want to express a HUGE thank you to Ross Atkinson for helping make this possible. Thanks, Ross.

Happy Reading everyone and welcome to our Quarterly Newsletter. Sign Up soon.

The time is now.

Why Things Always Go Wrong

Why Things Always Go Wrong

Why Things Always Go Wrong

This week, Ryszard Chciuk gives us a recipe for success in his blog post on why things always go wrong.

Do you want to have a successful year? Do you want to become a better person? Listen to what Ron Slee is saying to you in his first vlog in 2021 and do it, because The Time Is Now. The time for reading books.

If you are able to read only one book during your whole life, and you want to achieve true satisfaction, both in business and life, read The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull (both of them born in Canada of course).

The Peter Principle:

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence

What is incompetence? Perhaps you have heard of the nurse who says to the patient: Wake up! It’s time to take your sleeping pill.

First time I read The Peter Principle was in 1977. It was really funny to observe my superiors and colleagues through the Laurence Peter glasses. The book is written in the Mark Twain style so it’s OK to laugh, but you’d better take the content seriously. At that time nobody told me it would be the most important book in my life. Later on, I read it again and again, usually every few years. Also, I read it each time I had an opportunity to get a new job. Why? Nobody likes to make a fool of oneself. I also never wished to be an incompetent person. And believe me, it is not easy to recognize whether you are already only one step below your level of incompetence or perhaps not yet.

Each of us spends his life in a hierarchy and everybody is subject to the Peter Principle. As Peter Laurence claims, in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.

You are not allowed to hurt your employee. So, be careful promoting him to another post, even he is very eager to. Imagine your best technician is getting a chance to manage a team of field technicians. For many years he was solving the most difficult problems with customers’ machines and he was proud of it. Are you sure he will also be happy and competent as a supervisor for another people? Maybe he is destined to become the Chief Diagnostics Specialist? I know, this is obviously about a career path and your HR department should be able to support you in this matter. Are you sure the HR specialist is still below his/her incompetence level?

Let’s jump out for a while from business. In democracy we have rights to vote. Why there are so many totally incompetent politicians occupying posts which are so important for the safety and well-being of the nation? Do you think you are still one step below your level of incompetence as a citizen of your country?

Are there any exceptions from the Peter Principle? The third chapter in the book has a title Apparent Exceptions.

What about super-competence? Standard incompetence is only a bar to promotion to higher post. If you are super-competent and your superior reached already his/her level of incompetence you will probably soon be fired due to the violation of the first commandment of hierarchal life i.e., the hierarchy must be preserved.

The people who have reached their level of incompetence are everywhere, so who turns the wheels? Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

The final question: is there any way to protect your own organization from reaching the total level of incompetence? Yes, two things could prevent this happening: that there should not be enough time available, or not enough ranks in the hierarchy.


Do not decide lightly to read The Peter Principle. This is just a book, but I have to warn you using words of Raymond Hull:  The decision to read on is irrevocable. If you read, you can never regain your present state of blissful ignorance; you will never again unthinkingly venerate your superiors or dominate your subordinates. Never!

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My Friend Max

My Friend Max

My Friend Max

Sometimes wisdom and life changing opportunities come out of the blue. The challenge for us is to recognize them and take heed. In this second abstract from Ed Wallace’s book, Business Relationships That Last, that is exactly what Ed experiences… Please enjoy this guest blog, “My Friend Max.”

My Friend Max

A number of years ago, my sales efforts required that I travel a great deal. I didn’t like being away from my family any more than necessary, so I became king of the day-trippers. It got so that I could leave my home on the East Coast around 5:00 a.m. for a meeting in Minneapolis or Des Moines and still make it back home the same day for a late dinner and to see Brett, our first child, for a few precious minutes before tucking him into bed.

The night before one of these trips, my car developed an engine problem. I asked my wife, Laurie, to reserve a taxi to the airport for me. As usual, when she got involved in helping me solve one of my problems, remarkable events began to unfold. The next morning, I waited anxiously for the car to arrive. At precisely 5:00 a.m. I noticed an old-fashioned British taxi, with stately, rounded exterior lines, running boards, and a large passenger compartment pull up in the front of the house. Even in the faint light of dawn I could tell the car was spotlessly clean. In the short amount of time, it took me to exit the house and lock the door, the driver had already exited the taxi and was on his way up the walk toward the house. He was a tall, lanky fellow with glasses and the sort of calm, kind face you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. I was about to learn that he was not your average taxi driver. He gave me a warm, “Good morning,” and we walked together toward his parked taxi. I climbed into the passenger area of the car, settled into a luxurious leather seat, stretched out my legs, and felt a deep sense of comfort and relief. When the driver started the car, I noticed there was no noise—no scratchy dispatcher’s voice barking instructions, no jangling music on the radio. A cooler within reach provided a supply of bottled water. It was amazing! As we pulled away, the driver turned around to introduce himself. “Hello, Ed, my name is Max,” he said with a smile. “Glad to meet you, Max,” I replied, wondering how he knew my name. As we drove, he asked me a couple of questions about myself. Since I’m pretty much my own favorite topic, I happily offered plenty of information. He was a terrific listener, and I found myself sharing a good deal about my life with this person that I hardly knew. He had a special calm, sincere demeanor that made me feel comfortable opening up to him. He took special note when I told him about our new young son and how he had just started sleeping through the night. When we arrived at the airport, I gave Max a more generous tip than I usually give drivers. I had so thoroughly enjoyed his company and the stress-free ride to the airport I asked him to schedule me for the following Tuesday. Max hesitated and then said, “I’m truly sorry, Ed, but I cannot pick you up next week.” “What’s wrong, Max, is it something I said?” I inquired, half-jokingly. “No, nothing like that, Ed. I just have a great deal of fares— friends, that is—and they usually need to book three to four weeks in advance with me.” “For a ride to the airport at five o’clock in the morning?” I asked incredulously. “Yes, I have a lot of friends,” Max responded. “I just happened to have a cancellation last night before I got your wife’s request for a ride.” “Okay, how about three weeks from today?” I tried again. “That works. I look forward to seeing you then,” Max answered, and he was off.

We will continue with the story of Max next week.

The Time is Now.

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What Would Winston Say Today?

What Would Winston Say Today?

Winston Churchill was a special individual. A unique individual. He always stood on principle even at a significant cost to himself personally. He saved the United Kingdom by the force of his will during World War II. Then he got rejected after the war in the first election. It wasn’t the first time he was rejected. But he never strayed from him principles. He was born in 1874 and passed in 1965.

Let’s review some of his quotations.

  • When I was younger, I made it a rule never to take a strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast. (Single Malt is perfect.)

For today consider the following.

  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
  • Democracy is the worse form of government, except for all the others.
  • Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.
    • (Read about how the Scots viewed societal responsibilities)

Then getting closer to home.

  • You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.
  • An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
  • If you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.
  • To build may have to be the slow laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.
  • When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.
  • All of the empires of the future will be empires of the mind.
  • Every man should ask himself each day whether he is not too readily accepting negative solutions.
  • If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future.
  • Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent value of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.
  • We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

The Time is Now.

Goals – Passion – Struggles

Goals – Passion – Struggles

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman by the name of Ed Wallace. He is he author of many books as well as being on the faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s Program.

In his book “Business Relationships That Last” he talks about five steps to transform contacts into high-performing relationships. It is a great read.

In it he talks about GPS. No, not the type in your car or on your telephone, GPS in your relationships with people. He is telling us that if you are perceived by people, your customers, your co-workers, your family and friends, to be interested in and helping them deal with their goals and passions and struggles you are on the way to building a strong relationship with them. There is a problem with this though isn’t there? People generally will not share their goals, passions and struggles. They have to have developed trust with you first.

You develop trust in how you communicate with them and how you are as a person. Do you care about them? Do you listen to them when they are talking? No, I mean LISTEN to them not just hearing them. It is about who you are as a person. Are you capable in what you do, your competence? Are you credible? Do you know what it is that you are talking about and are you believable? These are very simple attributes that I am sure each of you have in a large quantity.

Read the book, have a fresh look then at how you operate. It will be worth your while. You will be building better relationships every day. You will be more conscious of how you are being with others. That is a terrific beginning, isn’t it?

The Time is Now.

Disruptive Activities in Learning

Disruptive Activities in Learning

Internet based learning will be viewed as one of the most significant disruptive forces for the human race. For our purposes here I am going to suggest it started with Salman Khan and his Khan Academy. In 2008 a not for profit educational organizational organization was started with the aim of providing free world class education to anyone, anywhere.

Move forward a bit and we find Udacity a learning business funded by Sebastian Thrun. Udacity is the result of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford. These were classes that Thrun offered on line which became Udacity. He has been called the “Godfather” of Free Online Education.

One day in 2011 he sat down in his living room and started to create an online class. He begins “Welcome to the first unit of Online Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” Over the next three months the Professor offers the same lectures, homework assignments and exams to the masses as he does to the Stanford students. A computer handles the grading and students are steered to web discussion forums if they need extra help.   Some 160,000 people signed up for those classes.

Higher education is an enormous business in the US – we spend about $400 billion annually on Universities. Suddenly, something that had been unthinkable, that the internet might put a free, University caliber education within reach of the poor seems tantalizingly close. This information is available from Wikipedia.

But this is not the end of the story. Only 10% of the students actually finished the learning. Thrun calls this a painful moment. He is currently pivoting to a position that involves charging money for classes and abandoning academic disciplines in favor of more vocational focused learning.

The Time is Now.

The Science of Successful Learning

The Science of Successful Learning

There are many things that people can do for themselves in order to learn better and remember longer. We have to remember that the responsibility for learning rests with each and every individual. Teachers and coaches, too, can be more effective right now by helping their students understand these principles and by using these principles to design each learning experience.

The book “Make It Stick” discusses the science of successful learning. Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel are the authors. Two of them are cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to the study of learning and Peter Brown is a storyteller. The book is not about how to change the education system, although there are clearly implications for that as well,  rather the book is written for students and teachers who have a high priority to make learning effective. It also outlines ideas and thoughts for adult learners who want to hone their skills so that they can stay relevant.

This book is obviously one of the elements we used in constructing our learning programs at “Learning Without Scars.” One of the critical lessons that I learned from this book, that we have utilized in our class learning paths, is that simple quizzes after reading a text, or hearing a lecture, produces better learning and remembering than rereading the test or reviewing lecture notes. In other words, it deals with what we should have learned as students from our school and. Periodic practice stops forgetting, strengthens richer retrieval paths, and is essential for hanging onto the law of knowledge that we want to gain. Putting new knowledge into a larger context helps learning. People who learn how to extract key ideas from new material and organize them into their mental model and connect that model to prior knowledge show an advantage in learning complex mastery. This book is the diamond in the learning universe.

I highly recommend that you read it and think seriously about the content. It might initiate ideas that you can use to become a better you. All the best.

The Time is Now.

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

Branch Operations.

In most dealerships the senior management structures are similar. There is a President, perhaps a CEO, in larger dealers a COO, followed by the Departmental Executives. There are numerous customer facing functions, and support facing functions.

The “Executives” focus on goals and objectives and market share. That is important, performance matters. Everything looks at goals and objectives: financial performance, sales, gross profit, expense control. All are very important. What about the Customer Experience? Who is responsible for ensuring that the Customer is at the forefront of everything that we do?

Who is the person that creates the “vision” for the dealership? Who is it that inspires every employee to be driven to get better at what they do – at “delighting” the customer?

This is an area that Simon Sinek points at in his recent book “The Infinite Game.”

He posits that we are all too concentrated on winning and avoiding losses. We are focused on the short term with no real attention paid to the future. But he isn’t talking about next year or the year beyond. He is talking in terms in decades. How can we make our businesses sustainable over time?    

This caused me some interesting reflection time. Most of you know I swam when I was a young person. Swimming is all about improving your own performance and less about “beating” the other swimmers in your race. I think that gave me a focus that was somewhat different than my peers. I was always about making everything better. There was no such thing as “best.” That is a “point in time.” Think about GE under Jack Welsh, arguable one of their best leaders to date. He was always about the short term. His comment was “Isn’t long term just a series of short terms?” Well to be honest it isn’t. As a result, GE since he left has had serious performance failures. Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” among others, famously compared two companies in the same Industry and pointed at similar things. Most of our businesses focus on the short term. A study by McKinsey reported that the average life span of a S&P company has dropped since the 1950’s, over a span of fifty years, from sixty-one years to eighteen years today. Harvard Business Review, and many others, report that 70% – 90% of acquisitions fail. A rather serious statement on the ability of business to merge two businesses together.

Sinek contends that is because of our focus on the short term at the expense of the long term. In his book “Start With Why,” on of the most watched TED Talks ever he says; “Most people know What They Do, some can even tell you How they do it, but very few people can tell you Why they do it. It isn’t about making money.

“The Infinite Game” uses the United States as an example of a “Business.” It started with the War of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was not a statement of getting rid of the control of the country by Great Britain. It was about “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That made the effort worthwhile. They then got to work on writing the Constitution which set out a series of enduring principles to protect and advance their big, bold, and idealistic vision of the future. That is a future that we still strive to achieve and will constantly be aiming at that vision. It is not an end game it is a journey.

In order to stay in the game long term, to stay in business, long term we must be good operationally at all of those win/lose games we play; market share, gross margin and expense control, asset management, etc.. That this is critical, is something on which we can all agree. But in order to have long term sustainable success it is also about the culture of the company. What makes each employee strive to be better at what they do in order to satisfy their customers.      

I highly recommend that you read “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It might provoke you to reevaluate your view on how your business operates. 

The Time is Now.