Business Think: Rules for Getting It Right - Now, and No Matter What!

Business Think: Rules for Getting It Right - Now, and No Matter What!


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471430667
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 05/09/2003
Pages: 257
Product dimensions: 5.59(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

DAVE MARCUM, a ten-year veteran of FranklinCovey Co., is an authority on complex sales and works with global companies like EDS, Microsoft, Accenture, and others.
STEVE SMITH led development of FranklinCovey’s The Four Roles of Leadership. He is the founder of his own consulting firm and works with clients such as Nike and the U.S. Air Force.
MAHAN KHALSA is a world-renowned expert in business development, a Harvard MBA, and a Vice President at FranklinCovey.
FRANKLINCOVEY is the world’s leading learning and performance solutions firm with a client portfolio that includes eighty-two Fortune 100 companies and more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies.

Read an Excerpt


In the Middle Ages, the Western world viewed bloodletting as one of the best means of healing the sick. Because physicians believed that illnesses existed in "bad blood," they systematically bled people to rid them of illness. If the patient's condition didn't improve, the logic of bloodletting simply dictated that they should do more--they just had to do it better this time. This way of thinking persisted even into the early twentieth century.

Now, what if we were to apply today's hottest, most powerful management ideas to the challenge of making bloodletting practices more effective? What if we applied quality control and statistical analysis to bloodletting techniques? Or how about organizing team-building workshops for bloodletting physicians and technicians? You could take the trained medical people of the Bloodletting Unit to the hills, let them do free falls into each others' arms and work on building trust. You could implement an empowerment program so that the members of the unit would have greater latitude in developing innovative tools and methodologies for bloodletting. Better yet, you could conduct positive mental attitude (PMA) training for both patients and medical personnel in order to build stronger symbiotic patient-physician relationships, and then both parties could exude greater positive energy during the procedures. The result? It's laughable. Sure, the Bloodletting Unit would optimize bloodletting efficiency, and everyone would be happy and efficient--that is, everyone but the dead patients and their loved ones!

Thankfully, empirical science led to the germ theory. Ignaz Semmelweis of Hungary andLouis Pasteur of France brilliantly developed this simple, commonsense explanation of the cause and means of prevention of infection. For the first time, physicians understood why women preferred to have their babies delivere by midwives--the midwives washed their hands! Physicians finally understood why more men died from disease behind the front lines than from bullets on the battlefield. A new, revolutionary paradigm shifted their thinking. The age of bloodletting was forever gone, and a new, lifesaving paradigm of science replaced the old paradigm.

This part of human history illustrates a very simple principle: The key to powerful breakthroughs is not simply to change your behavior--it's not enough to change your attitude; it's necessary to change how you see the world, your paradigm, the assumptions you make. All the great transformations in history have come primarily from paradigm shifts--from changing the way people see things. I've learned over the years that if you want to make small, incremental changes, work on behavior or attitude. However, if you want to make quantum changes or improvements, work on paradigms.

Significant progress and breakthrough results come as we examine our paradigms, our thinking, and remain open to changes from the inside out. But this is risky business! Many private victories that deepen our inner security, courage, and humility must first be won before we can afford the emotional risk-taking that produces the great public victories. Anwar Sadat once said, "He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress."

What are our paradigms today in the business world? Are we making significant progress? If not, what is holding us back? Are we achieving breakthrough performance and results? What are our modern-day management equivalents of bloodletting?

It is absolutely vital to have a process for regularly examining your paradigms to survive and thrive in today's turbulent world. Each day brings a new challenge demanding a response that is equal to it. When the response is equal to the challenge, you have success. The problem is that when a new, greater challenge arises, the tendency is to use the patterns, processes, and practices that have brought success in the past. However, often these patterns, processes, and practices no longer work. To quote Arnold Toynbee, one of the greatest historians of our time, "Nothing fails like success."

Consider today's challenges. The world is changing at unthinkable speed. Uncertainty rules the day. Many new ideas and products face the likelihood of being obsolete at, or shortly following, their launch. Industries have been revolutionized by technology. Entire business sectors have been wiped out or have thoroughly transformed themselves in order to remain relevant. A global marketplace with global competition puts many industries and organizations at the mercy of fluctuating global economies. Customers are fickle and brand loyalty is hard to sustain. Companies have to manage in the face of crisis, and employees demand greater opportunities for self-leadership. Perhaps most dramatic of all, whereas information was once autocratic and guarded by an elite few, information today is universally democratized--and there is an unstoppable demand for participative and democratic systems in all sectors of society.

What can we rely on in this new world? I suggest there are only three reliable constants in life: (1) change, (2) principles, and (3) choice--the power that we have to adapt and respond to the first two constants. The greatest need we have in a world that changes at the "speed of thought" is for something that does not change: principles. Unchanging principles, like a compass that points to true north, enable us to navigate in the face of change and the new dynamics of a global marketplace.

Relentless change is certainly a fact of life. However, how we choose to respond to change is an entirely different proposition. As we examine the business world today, what pragmatic choices must we make to be successful? Can we get breakthrough results without some break-withs--breaks with old ways of thinking? The challenging realities of our changing world demand principle-centered solutions that are equal to our present and future challenges.

I believe that businessThink presents a provocative, principle-centered paradigm shift for radically rethinking the way we do business. For some time now, the business world has made incremental progress in finding better leadership and management practices, but for too long we seem to have remained on a plateau. Why? Why is it that innovation, as the authors so convincingly suggest, is at history's highest level, but business failures are, too? Why is there such a gap between generating terrific ideas and actually executing them successfully?

Part of the answer can be found in the abstract nature of our solutions to new problems. Too many of us (myself included) become entrenched in abstract models that do not always make the leap to the tangible. It may be this disconnect between the why and the how that has created this gap. But with businessThink, the gap is bridged, because it provides not only the abstract or conceptual but also the schematic and empirical framework. In short, the paradigm shift is from the hypothetical to real-life application.

Steve Smith, Dave Marcum, and Mahan Khalsa masterfully create a compelling case for changing the way we look at problems and opportunities, for changing the way we make decisions, and for changing the things we do. businessThink introduces a powerful, yet simple, framework for achieving breakthrough results. First, businessThink breaks the old "business-as-usual" rules, which we've too often blindly followed or lazily accepted. Then, through a sequential process of disciplined thinking, this new framework teaches us how to gain clarity of mind and heart, and how to get it right--no excuses. In fact, I'm convinced that using the principles of businessThink can significantly increase your effectiveness and success in any area of your life. I have personally experienced an exciting paradigm shift, and I am greatly encouraged by the prospects of businessThink.

Unleashing Human Potential

In his book, Management Challenges of the 21st Century, management scholar Peter Drucker observes:

The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the MANUAL WORKER in manufacturing.

The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of the KNOWLEDGE WORKER.

Such quantum leaps in productivity will come only when we tap into the mind, body, heart, and spirit of people, and when leadership is seen as an enabling art an art that communicates to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. The bottom line is that human capital (intellectual and social) is the most valuable asset of any organization. The challenge is to unleash the minds and hearts of people towar greater creativity, productivity, and results. And it is, in fact, the paradigm and leadership style of the supervisor or manager that defines the manual worker or knowledge worker. Choose to see all employees as knowledge workers--then teach them to businessThink--and you will find yourself surrounded by energized knowledge workers.

For instance, take a janitor's job--a so-called low-level, unimportant job. Surely, businessThink or other models don't apply to such positions. But wait: Don't the janitors have the same four parts of human nature--body, mind, heart, and spirit--as any other employees? Why not treat all workers with the same paradigm? Involve the janitors in the planning; in fact, turn the planning over to them. Let the janitors select the materials; let them organize a work schedule and create the criteria for completing and evaluating tasks. In essence, let the janitors run their business! You will find that when people are given the directed autonomy to set the criteria, methods, and evaluation process, they are usually tougher on themselves than others would be. Let them manage their work and let them evaluate their own performance against the criteria you ve developed together, and you will find greater results.

Now you ve got janitors with true, internal motivation, using all four parts of their nature. They are whole persons in a whole job. They are knowledge workers. In reality, they always have been knowledge workers, but others are just now realizing it. (I share this example not as a hypothetical one but as a true story. And it clearly illustrates the power of the whole-person paradigm working in any job or circumstance.)

There is no doubt that the knowledge worker deserves to be treated as a whole person--a self-directed human being who has intellectual and emotional intelligence with potential for growth someone who has the power and freedom to choose and who aspires to achieve a valuable purpose. Indeed, the knowledge worker has great capabilities and great expectations. When leaders and managers believe in and reinforce these capabilities and expectations, you will most often find tremendous individual, human potential being released. Only then do you see enduring breakthrough performance and results produced.

Every Person's MBA

businessThinking is a powerful method for unleashing this human potential. Regardless of position, status, rank, or file, anyone can use this model and its eight accompanying rules to get remarkable results. For too long, we have depended on a few "top" minds to solve our pressing business problems (and not always successfully). The rest of us go through the motions of doing, but perhaps not really thinking, and therefore, not fully achieving . With businessThink, every employee in an organization may develop the business acumen to think, investigate, discover, and act. Never before have I seen a framework that so disciplines our mind-set and heart to balance logic and pragmatism with intuition and idealism. In a sense, it is every person's MBA--an MBA for the real world.

These authors teach business for the real world--they are entrepreneurs who have owned their own businesses; they have been employees of small to large companies; and they have been consultants for various industries. They have been in the throes of running successful and failed organizations. They have been around the block. They have succeeded and they have failed--and they're refreshingly honest and open about their successes and, perhaps most importantly, their failures. These authors perhaps represent the new mind-set of the Internet generation, which is highly technical and rigorous, but also intuitive enough to grasp the roots of effective human relations. Clearly, they have eveloped conscious competence by striking on principles of effectiveness--by way of research and by sheer experience--and their work is an innovative, fresh, and lively look into the realities of the business world.

In addition to bringing greater clarity to business, businessThink also reminds us that business should be fun. If not entirely fun, it ought to be, at its core, a creative adventure. It is easy and exciting to discern the adventurous nature of the authors as they explore the business world and share their insights. They have an unusual knack for creating excitement around a rigorous discipline that reminds people to think clearly and deeply.

No Margin, No Mission

I once attended a board meeting conducted by a CEO facing painful challenges. Layer by layer, this CEO built his case for rethinking the organization's core strategy. He asked questions that allowed him to say less and listen more. Then he asked more questions, digging deeper and deeper for answers. His mind was honed and disciplined with facts, data, and evidence, but he also kindly addressed the questions, fears, and discomfort of the change process. Because he carefully took the group through each level of thinking, placing the issues at hand in context, all present were led to understand the pressing economic reality: no margin , no mission.

Through this painstaking process, the CEO was able to present his case as though he were before a jury--providing the hard evidence but doing so with a keen sense of respect and dignity for the best judgment of the jury. Clearly, he was a leader who blended the best in EQ (emotional quotient) and IQ (intelligence quotient), and he eventually won the support and commitment of the board.

As I looked back at this board meeting, I came away with a clearer sense of what it means to be effective--to blend disciplined, investigative thinking with a heartfelt, intuitive ability to build high-trust relationships. This level of effectiveness is accomplished by balancing EQ (kindheartedness) with IQ (tough-mindedness). I would bet that the leaders or people who have most influenced you and your life are those who possess this EQ/IQ acumen.

This acumen has taken a name today--it is called businessThink.

Of course, it isn t enough for one person, the CEO, to possess businessThink qualities. True, lasting change and long-term success come only from institutionalizing best practices and principles into the systems, structures, processes and culture of an organization. businessThink acumen can be cultivated throughout an organization's culture by planting in the minds and hearts of employees a belief that things can be done in a new way--teaching them to think outside their own situations, outside their jobs, so they can see the larger picture of the business itself. Simply, businessThink teaches everyone in an organization to be a knowledge worker--someone who fully understands the business; someone who is encouraged to think and feel deeply; someone who is unleashed towards creativity, innovation, and results.

businessThink not only illuminates the need for a new business model, it goes a vital step further by teaching the reader how to do it. It is in this instruction that businessThink can be institutionalized in any organization--and herein lies its remarkable power.

Disciplined Decision Making

Every endeavor begins with an idea. Good business is propelled by good ideas that are translated into good decisions. The best decisions are made when people look beyond their own cubicles, considering their entire organization and the possible business impact. This requires business savvy and seeing success as an ecological phenomenon--a framework that considers the needs of all stakeholders as integral parts of a larger, whole entity. businessThink presents a definitive and sequential process for understanding that you have to have success in the workplace and in the marketplace jointly in order to have success in the capital marketplace and with the shareholders. The ultimate mantra of the public CEO is shareholder value. But producing shareholder value requires this ecological balance between knowledge workers, the workplace, the culture, the marketplace, and the customers. These are absolutely indivisible parts, and focusing only on one part causes a critical imbalance, which will ultimately hurt the outcome.

Language of the Effective CEO

I will conclude by repeating that businessThink is the language of effective CEOs worldwide. Find any highly successful and effective CEO, and you will naturally find the principles of businessThink at work. Dig deeper, and you will find that any effective leader--whether in government, the community, the school, the family, or in business--is a businessThinker. These leaders are people who balance disciplined thinking with intuition. They ask questions, explore for answers, dig for deeper meaning and context, and at the same time they genuinely build integrity, trust, compassion, synergy, and respect in their relationships. businessThinkers are also mindful to teach these commonsense principles to others, thereby building greater, more powerful thinking capacity in the organization. Clearly, these people work in a third alternative way--simultaneously kind-hearted, and tough-minded--emulating the best in businessThinking.

The authors are quick to acknowledge that businessThink is a compilation of learning from many individuals, organizations, institutions, books, leaders, writers, coworkers, family, friends, and people in general. Its theory is developed primarily from the trenches. What is refreshing to me is that by being disciplined and faithful students, the authors are also great teachers. And great teachers are ultimately good examples or models of what they teach. So, again, this all boils down to the fact that you can learn to businessThink your way to effectiveness and success in any area of your life and in any undertaking. Furthermore, you can model these principles and teach others to be businessThinkers--creating exponential power for evolving pragmatic, new thinking for new times.

--Stephen R. Covey

Table of Contents

Foreword by Stephen R. Covey.





Ego Alert!

The Language of Humility.


The Deep Dive for Curiosity.


Welcome to the Main Event.

No More Guessing.

Resist the Solution Seduction!


Failure at the Speed of Light: Addicted to Speed.

In God We Trust—Everyone Else Bring Evidence.

Searching for Soft Evidence.

Digging for Hard Evidence.


Whiteboard Economics.


Who and What Else Is Affected?


Let's Get Real—or Let's Not Play.


Why Ask Why?


Pat Attention: Time, People, and Money.

Maybe-Proof Your Company.

The Age of Now.

Q&A for the businessThink Curious.



About FranklinCovey.

What People are Saying About This

William G. Parrett

If your organization–like ours–wants to be recognized as the best, this book should be required reading for all current and future business leaders and managers.

Tom Curley

businessThink is every person's MBA for the real world. It takes straight aim at the decades of dysfunction in business and hits the mark with a real-world 'degree' of pragmatic, new thinking for new times.

Warren Bennis

Thinking is hard. Thinking creatively is harder. Thinking creatively about business is the hardest. This book not only enlightens you from hard to hardest but does it with profound simplicity.

Tom Peters

businessThink is a gem. Its 'common sense' is in fact very uncommon sense. Follow the 8 Rules the authors derived from their research and consulting, and you'll dramatically up the odds of success––and the joy that flows from work well done.

Pete Beaudrault

businessThink . . . could very well, in my opinion, qualify as the 8th Habit of Highly Effective People. The book is simply brilliant.

Stephen R. Covey

businessThink introduces a powerful, yet simple, framework for achieving breakthrough results. . . . [it] breaks the old 'business as usual' rules, which we've too often blindly followed or lazily accepted.

Gary Crittenden

businessThink provides a commonsense, jargon-free return to the core concept of creating real value in business.


Author Essay
If business were a class, we would all have a pretty low GPA. As a matter of fact, if "the professor" handed out grades right now...well, we wouldn't exactly be on the dean's list. "But wait a minute," you say, "how could we be getting an F? How would the economy survive if we were failing?" The answer is in the extraordinary amount of time, people, and cash it takes to get just one thing to actually work, and then what we have to pay (and charge) just to cover the heavy costs. How many times are we failing to get just one thing off the ground? Here are some quick stats:

  1. Research shows that 50 percent of all decisions inside a company fail.
  2. From 1917 to 1987, only 39 members of the original Forbes 100 companies survived. (Profit from the Core)
  3. One study revealed that 65 percent of strategic acquisitions and mergers have been failures, resulting in negative shareholder value and market share. (The Synergy Trap)
  4. One Small Business Administration study indicated that 60 percent of all new businesses fail within the first six years of operation.
  5. Globally, Dun and Bradstreet estimates that 82 percent of companies go under by their tenth anniversary.
  6. Some experts estimate that 95 percent of all new products fail.
And the scary (and sad) thing about all the gloomy numbers is that we're not learning from the failure, which is probably the biggest failure in and of itself. To compound the business fracture, the numbers haven't improved for decades, yet businesspeople say they are as confident as ever in their ability to make business decisions that lead to that kind of failure. The dangerous (and well-disguised) gap is that we're not all that great (major understatement) at doing business -- at making business decisions -- but we still think we're great.

The reason we were compelled to write businessThink is that we see a lot of the failure as unnecessary. Having experienced the failure firsthand, we felt it was time to start learning from it rather than closing our eyes to it.

There are addictions that we all have in business that get in the way of being great businessThinkers; the power we wield (or perceived lack thereof); our lack of curiosity in the name of "obedience" or playing it safe; playing politics; being defensive; crowding out others by our arrogance; speed for the sake of speed;, being "busy"…the list could go on (for way too long). And many of these addictions have embedded themselves as standard operating procedure in companies (and in our thinking) for decades, and they often feel like the only tools we have left to deal with the dysfunction. Not true.

There are dozens of reasons we fail, but we wanted to find the driving force behind the failure, and we didn't find just one. What we did find, though, was that one thing was certain; it starts inside our heads -- our thinking. In our research and pursuit to write businessThink, we didn't study organizations. We studied people -- individual human beings, and the interactions within strategy meetings, team projects, and conversations. We watched what worked and what got in the way, and what developed was a set of rules that separated the ordinary "workers" from the extraordinary businesspeople, and this became the "get it right" acid test for every product researched and developed, idea funded, alliance formed, merger contemplated, operational overhaul implemented, management theory espoused, and strategy adopted. It is the contrast between the good and the truly great businesspeople that made us all the more passionate about what emerged as businessThink. (Dave Marcum, Steve Smith, Mahan Khalsa)

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businessThink: Rules for Getting It Right - Now and No Matter What! 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
codywilk More than 1 year ago
1 - 9 - 13 Let’s Talk About Business Cody Wilkerson businessThink By: Dave Marcum, Steve Smith, and Mahan Khalsa 238 pg. Franklin Covey Co. $24.95 (young entrepreneurs)  businessThink is a revolutionary book that alters the business world by creating an instruction manual to success. It challenges the average business man to change his way of thinking when it comes to making business decisions. businessThink offers an ingenious system that can power your business to success. businessThink’s genius system involves eight relatively easy steps. The steps eight are: 1. Check your ego at the door 2. Create curiosity 3. Move off the solution 4. Get evidence 5. Calculate the impact 6. Explore the ripple effect 7. Slow down for yellow lights 8. Find a cause These steps are evidently pretty effective. The authors tested their system back in 1998 with South Korea’s failing economy. “Since businessThinking, South Korea has enjoyed a 50-70% growth rate for the first three years…” (6) Those are pretty decent statistics; they were good enough to make me keep reading the book.  I wanted to figure out how to get 50-70% growth in just three years. That is doubling your income in only six years.  This book tries to help the business world. The authors realized the struggles of young entrepreneurs based on statistics that they have obtained. The book also explains the struggles companies have to keep their businesses on top when they get on top. The three authors create an effective system to help get the most out of any business/company. The system has stats and history to prove that the system is effective. For any entrepreneur that is looking for a way to expand and grow his business, I recommend that you read this book.  businessThink is the only book that I feel is worth reading in this genre. Yes, it is good to read about other business tactics, but this is the book that I find most effective. businessThink has a thick history of success and growth; at least 50% growth in income, 3 years is a good enough reason to put your face in this book. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
They don't come along very often, but this one delivers. Busienss Think teaches you how to think like a CEO. This book shows people how to think through all the variables and factors the executive team has to take into account before they make a decision. Then you can make a presentation of your ideas that blow them away. You want to help your business, buy two cases of books: Good to Great and Business Think and hand both out to your people. We spend way too much training managers to empower their people, and not enough helping people think in a way that gives them power--the power of strong, well thought-out ideas. I have no patience for politics. I think the best idea should win. This process taught me how to take my best ideas or the ideas of colleagues and do my homework before I prematurely waste my opportunities. I'm cutting the time I spend on power points, and spending the time figuring out how to make ideas work real time. If you hate politics but want to be respected for your ability to come up with good ideas, this book will show you how to build them and more importantly--sell them!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Now more than ever businesses must get it right, no matter what! businessThink is great for all levels of the organization to get everyone on the same page. Practical steps to frame your thinking to get to work on what you SHOULD be doing and not what you COULD be doing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is not only a terrific read, but truly provides the insight needed to ensure success in today's business world. A mini-MBA is the best way to describe the takeway from this great work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This important work shows you how to jump out of your existing business rut without landing in a deeper hole. Using thinking techniques remarkably similar to those taught in Why Didn¿t I Think of That? - Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness, the authors help you find clarity, purpose, perspective, and, above all, truth, in your business thinking - lessons you can apply to all your thinking at work and home.