Welles: New book provides fresh take on many familiar business ideas

Let 'no' be a question and shape your personal brand, author advises

You are bound to find some truths that work for you in a new book, "Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self," by Alan  Webber. Some of the truths are simple common sense — and some are less common — but Webber gives all of them a context that keeps them current.

The author, co-founder and former editor of Fast Company magazine and the Harvard Business Review, compiled the management rules and truisms from his experiences and interviews with experts.

Some of the ideas will be familiar. For example, Rule No. 40 is: “Technology is about changing how we work.” In Webber’s commentary, the bland rule takes on new life: “Technological change at work [is] always going to be a moving target,” he writes. “The real stuff of technology is invisible: it’s the connections it creates, the speed and flexibility it enables, the changes in behavior it produces, and the possibilities for innovation it inspires. If you want to see the real power of technology, look at what you can’t see.”

In carrying out this rule, he also advises techies not to get too comfortable because their advantage in the workplace will be short-lived if they only know the technology side. ”Instead of coasting on your insider status, learn to translate techie-talk into business-talk,” he advises. “That way you’ll always have a job.”

Rule No. 31 is: “Everything communicates.” We each have a personal brand, Webber explains. Our values, choices, personal practices, appearance and words shape the way that our peers, managers and business contacts see us.

Are you the person who can be counted on to show up on time, or do you dash into meetings at the last second? Webber asks. Do you speak the truth under even difficult circumstances? Do you try to make peace between warring factions?

An organization’s Web site communicates through its design and navigation, which offer clues to the culture of an agency. Does it make visitors feel welcome? Is it organized with easy-to-understand information? What the Web site tells prospective recruits can make the difference in whether they decide to apply for a job.

Some of the rules are counterintuitive. For example, Rule No. 13 is: “Learn to Take No as a Question.”

Rule No. 42 advises: “The survival of the fittest is the business case for diversity.” Webber writes that survival of an organization depends on a group of people joined together to create a way of living and working that can continue into the future.

A diverse group gives an organization its best shot at survival, he writes. “When change is rapid and unpredictable, diversity offers a chance at adaptation…and the ticket to the future.”

Diversity is a way to tap new ideas by bringing together a variety of skills, background, gender, race and culture. For Webber, “Diversity isn’t a matter of ideology or morality. It’s a pragmatic survival strategy, a sensible response to dramatic change.”

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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