06 April 2012

An MBA Book Club, Part 1

Now, Discover Your Strengths
Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton


We are well-versed in weakness, both our own individual shortcomings and the common failings and flaws around us.  In stark contrast, then, is the limited focus on and vocabulary of strength.  In childhood we develop and discard a superhighway of neural pathways; as a result, we are each physiologically built with certain strengths.  Discovering and cultivating these talents is critical in creating a career at which one can excel.   

Favorite Quotes

·         Two assumptions behind great management:
1.      Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
2.      Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength (p 8).
·         Strength: consistent near perfect performance in an activity (p 25).
·         When people change, “they do not change their basic nature, or talents.  They simply redirect their talents toward very different and more positive ends” (p 44).
·         Three ways to continue learning as an adult:
1.      Continue to strengthen your existing synaptic connections (perfect talents)
2.      Keep losing more of your extraneous connections (focusing on strengths)
3.      Develop a few more synaptic connections (the least efficient method)
·         My Strengths (Top 5): Futuristic, Inclusiveness, Learner, Positivity, Strategic
(Additional): Adaptability, Ideation, Self-Assurance
·         “Irrelevant nontalents can mutate into real weaknesses under one condition: as soon as you find yourself in a role that requires you to play to one of your nontalents—or area of low skills or knowledge—a weakness is born” (p 149).


One of my best friends and I have been have an ongoing debate about the nature of perfection: me espousing the Platonic belief of the one true form, her taking the Aristotelian view of the plurality of perfection.  After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion on pasta sauces (of all things!) my perspective had begun to change, but this book sealed the matter once and for all.  I really identify with the concept that we each have inherent talents or strengths that we need to develop; that perfection is not uniformity; and that a full synthesis of perfections is to be achieved in the aggregate.

I also really appreciated the authors’ discussion on the need for a vocabulary of strength—and how well they executed on that need with their specific, detailed 34 strengths.  The Strengths Finder test was able to give voice to things that I recognized in myself, but had never been able to describe.  It also helped me to draw a strong connection between what I enjoyed in my previous employment as a high school administrator and my future job as a product manager at Amazon—the Futuristic aspect of both roles.

If what Buckingham states in First, Break All the Rules, that “self-discovery is the driving, guiding force for a healthy career” is true, then I certainly advanced my career in reading this book.  

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