Squirrels, Boats, and Thoroughbreds by Jamie Gerdsen - Book review

Squirrels, Boats, and Thoroughbreds

Lessons for Leading Change in Traditional Businesses

By: Jamie Gerdsen

Published: June 4, 2013
Format: Paperback, 232 pages
ISBN-10: 1938416317
ISBN-13: 978-1938416316
Publisher: River Grove Books

"What I had to do - and what you'll have to do if you're in charge of leading a traditional business - is separate sound thinking from conventional thinking. One leads to success. The other merely continues the status quo", writes business owner, innovator, and thought leader Jamie Gerdsen, in his transformational change focused and results oriented book Squirrels, Boats, and Thoroughbreds: Lessons for Leading Change in Traditional Businesses. The author describes how change leadership can transform a traditional business into a true modern day success story to rival anything offered by the latest technology based companies.

Jamie Gerdsen recognizes that high technology company success stories receive the bulk of the headlines. As a result, more traditional product and service based companies are often overlooked as sources of innovation, leadership, and productive change. Jamie Gerdsen demonstrates how leading change within a traditional company can be both profitable and rewarding.

The author provides his proven strategies, techniques, and innovative ideas for moving past the status quo and into the realm of innovation bases success. The author demonstrates how and why traditional companies, whose products and services have lasted over the long haul, can be the source of some of the most innovative change found in any companies.

Jamie Gerdsen (photo left) understands that the long term success of established, traditional companies often leads to complacency and a reliance on techniques that are no longer relevant or effective. The author points to the conventional wisdom that prevails in those traditional businesses as preventing change. For the author, traditional companies must let go of the status quo, and move forward with innovation and vision.

Jamie Gerdsen tackles the challenge of hiring and retaining the best people for the organization in a direct and forthright manner. The author points out that the standard practice in traditional businesses is to push the employees to do the work. Jamie Gerdsen presents a powerful rebuttal to that mode of managerial thinking. Instead of a mindset of pushing employees to achieve their results, the author takes the opposite approach of hiring people who will pull the company forward.

The author uses the metaphor of animals to underline his employee behavioral concepts. In traditional companies, the tendency is to hire safe, reliable, and non boat rocking employees he labels dogs. In their place, the author recommends hiring fast moving and action oriented squirrels. In another animal metaphor, Jamie Gersen outlines the importance of hiring fast running thoroughbreds to the more task oriented quarter horse. In both cases, the author conveys the idea of hiring fast moving innovators,m rather then usual plodding type people usually found in traditional companies.

For me, the power of the book is how Jamie Gerdson combines a proven framework for transformational change in a traditional company, with the practical skills and techniques to make that change a reality that lasts. The author brings his own personal experiences in a family owned traditional company to the book, adding both background and insight. Jamie Gerdsen applied the principles outlined in the book to his own career as employee, and later as owner of the company. Each chapter contains a specific lesson with a real world application added to further illustrate the concepts in action.

While the author may have been involved in a family owned business, and describes vividly the challenges faced by both family members and employees in such companies, his ideas are equally applicable to traditional small and medium sized businesses. A The author's ideas on the power of pull, the value of squirrels and thoroughbreds, sound thinking and leadership are presented in a readily understood format that lends itself to the straightforward implementation of the principles.

I highly recommend the clear and concise book Squirrels, Boats, and Thoroughbreds: Lessons for Leading Change in Traditional Businesses by Jamie Gerdsen, to any entrepreneurs, managers and owners of traditional businesses, and leaders in traditional companies, and anyone else seeking an insightful and practical skills packed book on change in traditional companies. This book will place your traditional business in the forefront of change,innovation, and leadership, regardless of the industry.

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