Book Review: 'Detonate: Why – and How – Corporations Must Blow Up Best Practices (and bring a beginner’s mind) to Survive' by Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach
Detonate: Why – and How – Corporations Must Blow Up Best Practices (and bring a beginner’s mind) to Survive Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach John Wiley & Sons (May 2018)
“If your horse is dead, get off.” Lakota tribal wisdom
Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach believe “we have entered an era in which continuing to blindly follow business playbooks may cause existential threat to the average business. Detonate is our solution.”
The custom at GE is that each outgoing CEO selects his successor. After Reginald Jones selected Jack Welch, he told him to “blow up GE.” That is only one of countless examples of what Joseph Schumpeter had in mind, what he characterizes as “creative destruction,” in his classic work, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942).
Tuff and Goldbach wrote Detonate in oreder to help prepare senior-level executives to achieve three separate but interdependent objectives. To determine
o Which best practices need to remain in place o Which need significant revision o Which need to be eliminated (“blown up”)
Keep in mind that this process must be both rigorous (some would say “ruthless”) and ongoing. In Leading Change, James O’Toole suggests that the strongest resistance to change initiatives is cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” More often than not, those defending the status quo were centrally involved in replacing the previous status quo.
A few comments about the concept of a “beginner’s mind.” First, this is a mindset that is receptive to whatever is new, unfamiliar, unexpected, unorthodox, different, etc. It is as helpful to someone who has just joined an organization as it can be to someone who has been in an organization for a long time. Some minds are so “open” that the brains fall out. When making decisions (e.g. what to keep, what to improve, what to eliminate) the beginner’s mind considers all plausible options. Also, this is a mindset that begins where certainty ends. Those who have this mindset agree with Robert Kriegel that “sacred cows make the best hamburgers” and with Voltaire who suggests, “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.” One other point: The beginner’s mind does not pre-judge — discriminate for or against — sources of information, insights, and counsel.
Tuff and Goldbach succeed brilliantly in their attempt to help each reader “see beyond the constraints of best practices and to start a conversation in [their] organization.” Where to begin? I suggest embracing this insight by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock (1984): “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” In a similar vein, Tuff and Goldbach suggest the challenge “is that most companies have lost sight of the fundamental subatomic element of business — changing human behavior…to do something different than what they’ve been doing today.”
In Detonate, Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach explain HOW to meet that challenge.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.