Pub. Date:
Harvard Business Review Press
The Art of Possibility

The Art of Possibility

by Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander
Current price is , Original price is $35.0. You

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Please check back later for updated availability.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780875847702
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date: 09/01/2000
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 381,229
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Rosamund Stone Zander is a family therapist, leadership coach, and landscape painter. Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Table of Contents

An Invitation to Possibilityix
Launching the Journey1
The Practices
1It's All Invented8
2Stepping into a Universe of Possibility16
3Giving an A24
4Being a Contribution54
5Leading from Any Chair66
6Rule Number 678
7The Way Things Are98
8Giving Way to Passion112
9Lighting a Spark122
10Being the Board140
11Creating Frameworks for Possibility160
12Telling the WE Story180
About the Authors205

What People are Saying About This

Margaret J. Weatley

I truly want everyone to read this book-it opens us to the treasures of our great human capacity for creativity.

Warren Bennis

The Zanders' book of practices has made my life one of the infinite possibility. Each day, since reading it, has been perfect. The implications for corporate and political life are extraordinary.

Klaus Schwab

The passionate energy permeating The Art of Possibility is a true force for every reader for self-development and life fulfillment.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

This is a wise, uplifting and important work, a seamless blend of insight and inspiration, personal revelations, and stories drawn from the worlds of art, psychology, business and politices.


What does the "art of possibility" mean for business leaders?

Roz: The Art of Possibility relies on all the arts to develop a framework for transforming the way we define ourselves, our connections to others, and the environment we live and work in. For business leaders, it offers refreshing insights into many of the challenges people routinely face in organizations in the areas of leadership, management, motivation, teamwork, creativity, and personal and professional fulfillment. Success in today's business environment relies almost completely on an organization's ability to invent and innovate. This book shows how leaders can overcome limiting assumptions about what is possible—to reinvent obstacles that appear to be holding them back—whether a difficult customer, a competitor's product, or the defection of a talented employee—into new pathways for possibility.

What lessons can today's leaders take from the world of the symphony orchestra and the role of the conductor?

Ben: The world of the symphony orchestra has traditionally been a maelstrom of competition, survival, backbiting, subservience, and status seeking. Many would say the same of today's business culture. Yet this is not an environment from which we can expect performances—in music or in business—that resonate with nobility, playfulness, inventiveness, brilliance. The idea of the all-powerful leader has given way to the belief that in order to innovate successfully, to perform beautifully, we need leaders in every chair. This book guides leaders in enabling every individual to recognize the leader in themselves, and to perform with passion, energy, and flair.

You suggest that measurements of any kind—job titles, salary levels, performance assessments—hamper possibility. Why?

Roz: We've been conditioned to live in a world driven by what we call "survival-thinking." We are so concerned with personal advancement that we fail to take in the big picture, and either hold back in fear from taking exactly the kind of risks that would optimize an organization's chances to develop its contribution, or make moves that favor some at the expense of the whole. The Art of Possibility aims instead to provide the means to break away from an individual focus, which centers on measurements, comparisons, and competition as an end in itself—to focus on the visionary aspect of an organization: to enhance relationships, and bring out constructive forces for possibility.

But isn't this an overly simplified way of looking at things? Don't we need some form of assessment in life—particularly in professional life?

Roz: Assessments are important for seeing where things stand at any given moment. They can show, for example, what an employee has accomplished and what is still left to be done to get a project off the ground. We are not against assessment—we are suggesting that ranking an employee against others is generally not a good method for empowering her to do her job with passion and commitment.

As a leading family therapist (Rosamund Zander), and the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (Benjamin Zander)—you bring unique perspectives to how business leaders can resolve problems and explore possibility in the workplace. How does your partnership work?

Roz: Ben's public presence conducting orchestras around the globe, teaching generations of music students, and speaking to major corporations, often brings him face to face with challenging situations that call for new kinds of leadership and new conceptual frameworks. When these challenges appear to have broad implications, Ben brings them to me, and I then call on a lifetime of work with family and organizational systems to sketch out innovative new approaches for resolving these dilemmas. Ben then takes the new designs into the public arena to try them out. That is the essence of our dynamic, constantly moving partnership—and it is through this "team work" that the practices we outline in the book evolved.

The stories you tell in the book really bring the practices to life. Can you talk a little bit about what the stories represent?

Ben: Arthur Andersen's sponsorship of a major orchestral performance before live television crews for thousands of underprivileged, troubled students. The woman in the nursing home who discovered that it is never too late to take a step, however small, for it can alter your experience of life. The Asian music student who was "number 68 out of 70" in his homeland, who saw suddenly that "it's all invented" and that you might as well invent a story that lights up your life and the lives of those around you. The stories illustrate how our common everyday assumptions give us our sense of what is real, and limit what we will try to accomplish. The situations these people find themselves in represent universal dilemmas: the fear of taking a foolish risk, the feeling that we don't make a difference, the pressure of competition and being compared to others. Each story shows the moment when the character suddenly sees something new, and bypasses his assumptions about impossibility, giving the reader a map for doing the same.

Can you explain the story of the Silent Conductor?

Ben: I had been conducting for nearly twenty years when it suddenly occurred to me that the conductor is the only person on stage who doesn't make a sound. His picture may appear on the cover of the CD in various dramatic poses, but his true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful. This realization was so profound that it dramatically changed the way I conducted orchestras from that point forward, asking questions like "what makes a group lively and engaged" rather than "how good am I?" The focus shifted to how effective I was at enabling the musicians to play each phrase as beautifully as they were capable. In the world of business, as in the world of the symphony orchestra, a leader who feels he is superior is likely to suppress the voices of the very people on whom he must rely to deliver his vision.

Can you explain the practice of "Giving an A"?

Roz: Michelangelo is often quoted as having said that inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue; one need only remove the excess material to reveal the work of art within. If we apply this visionary concept to the workplace, it would be pointless to compare one employee to another. Instead, all the energy would be focused on chipping away at the stone, getting rid of whatever is in the way of each individual's developing skills, mastery, and innovative self-expression. We call this practice "Giving an A." It's a way of moving beyond measuring people against our expectations and helping them to realize themselves. When you give an A—to your boss, your colleague, even your competitor—your eye is on the statue within the roughness of the uncut stone. This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.

What is a "one-buttock player" and how can this concept transform companies?

Ben: We tell a story in the book about a young pianist playing a Chopin prelude in one of my classes. While he was playing the piece technically correctly, he was unable to convey the emotional energy of the piece. Noticing that his body was firmly planted in an upright position on his chair, I blurted out to him "The trouble is you're a two-buttock player!" Once the pianist allowed his body to flow sideways, really catching the wave of the music and giving himself over to it, his performance was markedly different: he'd become an energized, impassioned, "one-buttock playe." In the same way as it did for this musician, the access to passion gives momentum to efforts to build a business plan, it gives a reason to set up working teams, it gives power to settling individual demands, and it gives urgency to communicating across sections of a company. Leaders who are "one-buttock players" speak so passionately and surely to the people they lead that they enroll them in their vision, and create passionate performers.

You say that in the realm of possibility, competition isn't as important as contribution. How can that be true in such a ruthlessly competitive business environment?

Roz: The competition game is all about success and failure. We judge ourselves by other people's standards, or by previous accomplishments—whether by how our competitors are doing or by how we performed this year versus last. So competition, like measurements, in many ways actually sets limits on what is possible. On the other hand, the contribution game is not arrived at by comparison. By focusing only on the aspect of contribution in what you do—to others, the company, and the world—you can transform from a person who is "out for himself" to a person who is out to make a difference. Leaders who view their colleagues, employees, and competitors that way can help transform the workplace into a vibrant, vision-led environment where people are energized by having a voice, and the world is inspired by the product.

What is "second fiddle-itis"—and how can leaders help others avoid this feeling?

Ben: This is a disease that runs rampant in the world of the orchestra—popularly known as "playing second fiddle." Players whose parts are duplicated by many others (second violins, for example) often perceive their role in the group to be of little significance. A string player just entering a new position in an orchestra will often start out with great enthusiasm, but once it begins to dawn on him that the conductor doesn't seem to care or even to hear when players are out of tune, he quickly beings to show signs of the onset of the disease. Leaders must take great care to ensure that all employees—especially those at the front lines, who are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of "second fiddle-itis"—recognize that they, too, are a leading player, an integral voice, and that the company cannot "make its music" without that voice.

Why is Rule #6 a good guiding principle for business leaders?

Ben: Many leaders still tend to believe that the company cannot succeed unless they are in charge of everything. This is also a hard belief to resist, since shareholders often hold CEOs directly responsible when a company's fortunes start to fall. But Rule #6, which states simply: "Don't take yourself so goddamn seriously!", helps us remember that taking the trials and triumphs of life too personally actually drags us down to a place where things just go from bad to worse. Even—and perhaps especially—in business, humor and laughter can be extraordinarily effective tools in helping us to "get over ourselves" rather than acting entitled and demanding, putting other people down, or assigning blame. Once we learn how to "lighten up," we learn how to see the essential value of mistakes, to view problems and situations differently. By doing so, we can find ways to turn seemingly impossible problems into opportunities for possibility.

Many of the practices seem, at first glance, rather simplistic. But you say they are extremely challenging to implement. Explain.

Roz: The practices presented in this book are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement. They are geared instead toward a total shift in our posture, perceptions, beliefs, and thought processes. They are about transforming our entire world. So while the practices are simple to understand, they are not easy to implement. Like learning to play an instrument, these practices require constant and thoughtful repetition to get them into our repertoire. Those who embrace these principles discover that much more is possible than most of us ever imagine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Art of Possibility 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Martothir More than 1 year ago
Don't mistake yourself and think this is a business philosophy book, or even a self help book. It's a life philosophy, pure and simple. I'm sure you could take all the practices mentioned by the Zanders and dryly go over them in a board meeting, but you'd miss the soul of the book. It's essentially about interacting with other human beings in a way that gives you fulfillment, and it that regard it is a wild success. It also is particularly poignant for the musicians. Benjamin Zander being a world renowned conductor and pedagogue, almost all of his lessons, taking the form of anecdotes and parables, are deeply moving and strongly relevant to an artist who seeks to move and audience and find the sublime form of his or her art. My only strong criticism of the book would be the distinctly different writing styles of Benjamin and Rosamund. I personally found the portions by Benjamin compelling, moving, tear jerking, and often unforgettable. And while the portions by Rosamund were often profound and effective, the distinct voice and writing style she used didn't always engage me as actively, and she often wrote in perpendiculars to how my mind thinks. That said, this is a must read for every introspective individual. I have no doubt it will be someday be a 'self help classic', as it were.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a certified life renewing coach who specializes in women going through transition, I found this book to be an exceptional tool for my clients. The author opens up a whole new world for women who are in search of their individual choices to the next chapter in their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'. . . The objective of this book is to provide . . . the means to lift off from . . . struggle and sail into a vast universe of possibility.' Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic and is well known for his orchestra's passionate performances. Rosamund Stone Zander is an executive coach, family therapist, and private practitioner who brings enormous psychological perspective to enhancing human behavior. They have written a fascinating book in which they alternate as voices in sharing principles and examples in the form of compelling stories. They have striven to make what they share ' . . . simple, not easy.' The idea is to help you create in yourself and in others 'transformational' improvements. They share a series of perspectives designed to improve your understanding of what and where the potential is. First, humans tend to focus on very few things, missing most of what is going on around them. By shifting focus, you will see many opportunities for the first time. Much of this book is designed to do that for you. You will visit our old friend the nine dot square and be reminded that connecting all of the dots in four lines without lifting your writing instrument from the paper requires you to go outside the box that we mentally draw at the circumference of the dots. Be careful about your assumptions! They can fence you in! Second, measurements can cause us to focus too narrowly on where we are today and encourage scarcity thinking -- the glass is half empty. The Zanders encourage thinking about the glass as half full, citing the well-known perspective of optimism as being empowering. This can help you 'step into a university of possibility.' I like to call this pursuing the ideal practice. Third, if you assume that people will do well and help them see how they can, they will. Mr. Zander gives every student an A in his class, and simply requests that the student write a paper to tell what they will do to deserve the A. This gets the students focused on excellence, and takes away the tension that harms accomplishment. Fourth, as a mindset, think of your role as 'being a contributor.' 'You are a gift to others.' How could that change what you do? As someone who thinks that way now, I find it a very useful perspective, and was glad to see it in the book. Fifth, lead from any chair. This is a reference to involving everyone. Mr. Zander asks his players to write down how he could improve practices and peformances, and pays attention to the suggestions. Sixth, follow rule number six. That rule is to 'lighten up.' Seventh, be present to the ways things are. Many of us are disconnected from reality. By re-touching it, we can see more possiblities. Eighth, give way to passion. Going with your strong feelings allows you to be more authentic, and to go to new heights of accomplishment. Ninth, light a spark. See you role as creating a spark of possibility to be lit that others can see. Tenth, be the board of the game you are playing. This makes it easier to see how you can make a difference. Eleventh, create a vision that generates 'frameworks of possibility' for others. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous 'I Have a Dream' speech is cited. Twelfth, tell the WE story. Focus on being inclusive and considering what is best for all. Move from I to We, as the Coda to the book encourages. Each section has exercises you can use to deepen your understanding of the principles and to help you practice, in order to create greater skill. The principles are similar to those in many other books about improving performance and creativity. What is different about the book are the unique ways that the principles are expressed, the exciting examples in beautiful stories from music and business that will be new to you (as they were to me), and the passion with which the Zanders write. I would love to hear them do this book on an audio cassette! Both do public speaking, so you may g
pjhogan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
More inspiration than practical tips about creativity. It did encourage me to appreciate all the constraints our mental models put on us. I particularly liked the idea of ¿Rule No. 6¿: (name comes from an anecdote) which is not to take yourself too seriously. Coda says book is interested in providing reader with ¿tools for your transformation.¿ Concepts are presented in chapters with anecdotes from authors, a husband-wife team. Ben, a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Rosamund, a family therapist.
Steve55 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I remember seeing Benjamin Zander at one of his lectures seven or eight years ago, and being inspired by his message. This book captures much of Benjamin¿s philosophy in the topic area of the subtitle, `Transforming Professional and Personal Life¿.The book is jointly written with Rosamund Stone Zander who is a family therapist. Drawing equally on Rosamund¿s experience and that of Benjamin¿s conducting the world¿s orchestras, including the Boston Philharmonic, the book takes the form of a `How to¿ which instead of providing strategies to overcome life¿s obstacles, invites the reader into a world of opportunities.With many references to his life in music in the form of analogy and experience, the book sets out a dozen practices which will bring the power of opportunity into your life. The practices are all simple. Each provides a story based explanation of its value drawn from the personal experience gained in the USA and UK by the two authors, and straightforward instruction on its use.As always with the best advice, there is no rocket science here, though the book is more powerful for this, not less. For example `Giving an A¿ simply suggests that by approaching everyone we meet prepared and ready to see their best, this very act has already created energy to improve outcomes and create new opportunities in what they achieve. The book¿s graphic examples bring these simple approaches to life and provide evidence of the power of apparently simple ideas.This is a powerful book. I read this book on a flight to Khartoum, and found some of the insights and examples quite moving. Occasionally the musical references left me struggling a little, but served to highlight a need to learn more and in no way diminished the value of the messages.I heartily recommend this book to everyone determined to improve their lives and in search of simple ways in which to begin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have to be mentally plugged in to read this book. Great ideas and perspectives. But you must committ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
BUT barnes and noble doesnt decide the price, the publishers do. Get upset with the publisher not the middle man that cannot make the change without inciting a lawsuit. Infact, barnes and noble as a publisher has been known to price books very cheap and a lot of times free on the nook. Having that said, the book is amazing. Worth whatever price it sits at.
Jana Tift More than 1 year ago
Brilliant and inspiring. Nook price almost double Kindle. Hmmm...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best inspirational books that I have read. The metaphors drawn from his musical experience are insightful, especially if you have some musical performance background of your own from which to draw comparisons. I had the opportunity to hear Maestro Zander speak and his book closely follows the concepts of his speaking engagement. Frankly, the enthusiasm of his presentation helps to bring the book more alive. However, the nook pricing for this book is ridiculously high.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoy books in this genre and i must say that this book is the best of the bunch. as a musician i enjoy the anecdotes and soties, as a business man i love the 'longline' of vision thats created and as a human i love the way it makes me feel after every time i open the pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Family therapist Rosamund Stone Zander and symphony conductor Benjamin Zander offer 12 practices for learning to take on an attitude of abundance and possibility. You will enjoy Benjamin Zander¿s charming anecdotes from his experiences as a distinguished orchestra conductor, as well as the philosophy of family therapist Rosamund Stone Zander whose professional background gives her a deeply insightful viewpoint. Indeed, some of the Zanders¿ stories are so striking that they will stay with you long after you put the book down. We recommend this book to people who like to explore self-development, story lovers, music aficionados, anyone who has taken on a big commitment and other creative types who will savor the authors¿ unusual frame of reference.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Possibility has always been a weak word in our society. Will this solution work? Possibly. Might I get a raise? Possibly. This amazing book looks at possibility in a wholly different way, as a vast universe of delightful surprise, waiting. Its overarching principles bestride all other self-help books out there like a colossus. I feel that I really only need this book. Absolutely neutral in doctrine, anyone can ignite his or her spiritual life with its principles, regardless of one's particular faith or creed. Once I overcame my own feelings of loss and regret at how much of my life has already been spent in the downward spiral, even the merest comprehension of what is truly possible now guides me, always glimmering, just beyond the next bend¿..