How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything
“The author’s meditation on right behavior is presented not as an instruction manual but as a way of looking at the world. He pointedly informs his readers that his book is a journey, not a collection of checklists or maxims, thereby effectively instructing them to read and reflect on his message, rather than to look for a quick action list of do’s and don’ts. The stories, supporting research, and personal perspectives have an accretive effect, rewarding those readers who accompany him on his journey to HOW with a way of viewing the world that offers a more sustainable path forward.”
How to reconcile the demise of rules and the universality of local accountability? In How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything, Dov Seidman argues that principle-centered behavior is the answer.
His book was motivated in part by the perception that “people lacked a deep understanding of why they should be principled, and why they should dedicate new energy and emphasis to how they pursue their goals and interests.” His message is so important today because the reputational consequences of misjudgment or misrepresentation are magnified, multiplied, and preserved, for “The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by.”
Since embracing HOW follows from recognizing that WHAT is no longer good enough, Mr. Seidman eloquently and evocatively builds his case, tracing the path from “how we have been, how we have changed,” to “how we think,” to “how we behave,” and finally to “how we govern.” His opening two chapters, exploring the transition ‘from land to information’ and assessing the consequences of “technology’s trespass,” effectively catalogues the change forces that have elevated HOW to the preeminence he advocates.
The author claims that we are in an era of behavior, in which the winners shall be those that out behave the competition. Competing on behavior represents meaningful differentiation, more readily and likely to be achieved and sustained, than emphasizing WHAT, harder to create, produce, and protect.
Rather than selling the WHAT of your offer, you succeed in the 21st century by inviting people to enlist in your values, which are manifested by HOW.
In this era of behavior, the world has changed from the attributes of yesterday, listed below, in the left column, to the authority of How shown in the right column:
Trust is risky/Trust, risk, innovation, progress
Managing reputation/Earning reputation
Culture happens/Mastering culture
Informed acquiescence/Self governance
In this era of behavior, expectations have evolved from service as a monologue based on set standards, to hospitality involving a dialogue of listening to and meeting the needs of those you are hosting.
Dov Seidman advances the proposition of a journey of value-based governance, in which leaders are urged to trust their customers, and trust their people. In one illuminating story, he relates observing a street vendor, operating a coffee and donuts stand, whose customers make their own change, from the coins on the countertop.
Fascinatingly, this trusting coffee man outsells a couple of other coffee carts, whose proprietors make the change for each transaction, by two to one. He achieves this positive, superior outcome because not taking the time to make change enables him to serve more customers faster, thereby saving his customers’ time, which makes them more loyal, thereby increasing his repeat business.
At a time when sustainability is prominent in contemporary consciousness, he asserts the need for sustainable values—good today and good tomorrow—to guide society. He highlights such important values as honesty, integrity, truth, trust, and hope. Interestingly, the core values that his own firm, LRN, which facilitates legal research and provides training and resources around the HOW philosophy, embrace the values of integrity, humility, truth, and passion.
In tangiblizing an inherently intangible subject, he employs numerous tangible place metaphors and vocabulary, including landscape and geography. He writes of a “stone fortress” being replaced by an “organic ecosystem;” the “neat, tidy company-as-city-state” now resembling a “Central American rainforest;” and employs the analogy of the interactions of fans in a football stadium as a metaphoric model of the brain.
Mr. Seidman offers a formula for success in an interconnected and interdependent world: technology plus passion multiplied by the product of ideas and values equals global stability and prosperity, when the ideas are true and the values good.
But false ideas and bad values, which are all too prevalent, lead to extremism and global dysfunction, descriptive of affairs today. The author comments that technology advances and passion for progress and a better life are constants. The variables are ideas and values. His conviction is that with true ideas and good values,” you get the things we all want.”
The author’s meditation on right behavior is presented not as an instruction manual but as a way of looking at the world. He pointedly informs his readers that his book is a journey, not a collection of checklists or maxims, thereby effectively instructing them to read and reflect on his message, rather than to look for a quick action list of do’s and don’ts. The stories, supporting research, and personal perspectives have an accretive effect, rewarding those readers who accompany him on his journey to HOW with a way of viewing the world that offers a more sustainable path forward.