Culture That Rocks: A Book Review (of sorts)

Jim Knight 3 Final small

Full disclosure: I know Jim Knight, and he’s one of my favorite people on Earth. The fact that he’s written a book—Culture That Rocks—and I think it kicks ass has not been persuaded by our bro hugs whenever we find ourselves in the same room in the same city.

However, there is a “Typography/Fonts” sub-section in one of the chapters of Culture That Rocks. That’s the written equivalent of cooking me dinner and serving bourbon as the appetizer, so I will make that admission.

As another matter of disclosure, I have no idea how to write a book review. Do I dissect it chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph? Do I write it like a grade school book report? Do I offer my own, perhaps different, opinion of the author’s ideas?

I’m going with “no” on all three of those questions.

That’s because for me—and maybe for you—the truly great books are the ones that make me think beyond what the title suggests. That’s what Culture That Rocks did to me. Based on the cover alone, Jim’s book might have you believe it’s generally for leaders of organizations, and specifically for HR and Training departments. While this is all certainly true, this book strikes me as something else.

This is a book for anyone who is, has been, or will be an employee. This book is for anyone who is, has been, or will play a role in life.

It had me looking at jobs past and considering why or why not those places worked for me. It has me now considering what I can do better for my own team. And, most interesting to me, it has me considering my personal life.

There’s one paragraph in particular that made me pause in my reading, and shaped everything I read before and after:

“Earlier, I generalized the amazingly unique people I’ve met and worked with during my career as the crazy ones. I suggested that they were perhaps ‘broken’ in some way. I do not see this as negative; I just think we are all a little broken on the inside and are just looking for a place that accepts us for the way we are …”

It’s that kind of honesty and realization that had me involuntarily nodding my head in agreement, page after page, as I switched from applying it to both professional and personal experiences.

It’s that kind of active application that makes us better in everything we touch … or, in Jim Knight’s words, everything we rock.

Now, excuse me while I forward that “Typography/Fonts” section to a few people I know.

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Says Who

Coming from a marketing and branding background, I’ve been conditioned—mostly by myself—to immediately judge what I like and don’t like, what constitutes a job done well, what could’ve used a little more time on the grill.

I try to keep those things in mind when the tables are turned. The problem with that approach, however, is that it’s still singularly focused. It’s like trying on clothes in a dressing room with whacked-out mirrors and bad lighting. We see what we want to see, creating faulty versions of ourselves … our products … our services.

Which brings me to the subject of product creation and development. Who says what you should be offering to the world, if you’re in the business of offering things?

A couple of years ago, I was an instructor at a social media marketing/branding workshop in Dallas. Also at the time, I was firmly entrenched in the development of my personal brand. I had a good idea of what I wanted my online presence to be, the look and the feel, but I was struggling with how to differentiate.

That’s when it happened.

During the workshop, we were going to give prizes to attendees and, as one of my fellow instructors was explaining the concept to the class and mentioning the prizes up for grabs, he casually added to the list, “Breakfast with Chris Reed.”

A product was born.

Please understand: this is something I NEVER would have suggested. I’m fairly confident in my cooking abilities—breakfast and otherwise—but this was a bit outside my comfort zone.

The thing is, people liked it. Quickly. Demand was high and supply was low. Co-ed arm wrestling for the prize happened (yes, really). A Twitter hashtag, #breakfastwithchrisreed, was even spotted and, on occasion, still is.

It’s all been in good fun (I think … I mean, the arm wrestling was intense), but the lesson learned has been a valuable one. Now, whenever I’m challenged with something to create, develop or offer, I listen to what the audience might want and see if it works with the brand. They’re the ones who say. Not me.

Besides, breakfast is more fun when it’s made for two.

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