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Follow your personal compass to find your career path (iStockPhoto/iStockPhoto)
Follow your personal compass to find your career path (iStockPhoto/iStockPhoto)

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Follow your personal compass to find your career path Add to ...

The Decision Book

By Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler

(Norton, 173 pages, $19)

*****

Are you at a crossroads in your career?

If so, you might want to try the “crossover model,” one of 50 models for strategic thinking compiled in The Decision Book, by freelance journalist Mikael Krogerus and communications consultant Roman Tschappeler.

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It’s inspired by the “personal compass” (developed by the Grove, a San Francisco consulting firm), and aims to help you to find your direction in life. You begin by answering five central questions:

Where have you come from? What shaped you? What decisions, events, influences, and obstacles have played a role?

What is really important to you? Write down the first three answers that come to mind. What are the values that drive your behaviour?

Which people are important to you? Whose opinions do you value, who influences you, and who is affected by your decisions? Think about people you like – and people you fear.

What is hindering you? What keeps you from thinking about the really important things?

What are you afraid of? List the things, people and circumstances that rob you of strength.

Consider the issues that have arisen in answering those questions – and also what’s missing. Now the authors ask you to think of the future, and six possible paths:

The road that beckons: What have you always wanted to try?

The road you imagine in your wildest dreams: What do you fantasize about, whether achievable or not?

The road that seems most sensible: What would people whose opinion you value suggest to you?

The road not travelled: What might you try that you have never considered before?

The road already travelled: What you have done before.

The backward road: The path that takes you back to a place where you felt safe.

The authors note that models are practical tools; they simplify complex interrelationships, offer a visual interpretation of concepts, and provide structure.

“They do not provide answers, they ask questions; answers emerge once you have used the models,” they write. “Models help us to reduce the complexity of a situation by enabling us to suppress most of it and concentrate on what is important.”

The book’s inside cover offers a model of the models. It places the 50 models on a grid based on four factors: doing; thinking, me, and others. The result is four categories: How to improve myself, how to improve others, how to understand myself better, and how to understand others better.

Many of the models might be familiar, such as the classic Boston Consulting Group grid for categorizing companies from cash cows to dogs, the Maslow pyramid, and the Hersey-Blanchard model of situational leadership. Others are less widely known, or variations of familiar notions.

The rubber-band model, for example, is used to handle a dilemma. Imagine an elastic band, pulling you in two directions. Ponder what is holding you where you are, and what is pulling you away. This model has some similarities to a pro-con division. But the authors note that “What is holding me?” and “What is pulling me?” are each positive questions, and reflect a situation with two attractive alternatives.(Their book is sprinkled with quotations, and the one accompanying this idea may be as helpful as the model itself, courtesy of author Rita Mae Brown: “A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.”)

The team model helps you to judge your team. On the X axis are the skills, expertise and resources that are important to carry out your project. On the Y axis, a scoring system, from low to high. For each attribute, you define where the critical boundaries are. For example, if French is required to carry out the project, perhaps 5 is the acceptable rating on a scale of zero to 10. You rate each team member for each attribute, making sure the team meets the standards you have set.

The book also has a few models aimed at fun, such as the “music matrix,” which reveals what your music says about you, by charting your favourites according to category. A similar fashion model clarifies what your clothes say about you, while a “political compass” model shows where your favourite political parties rate on four criteria.

The Decision Book is a very quick read, probably 90 minutes, but it’s thought-provoking and undoubtedly offers some useful new models for you to experiment with.

*****

Postscript

Bill Veeck was baseball’s most innovative owner and its most brilliant marketer. Freelance writer Paul Dickson’s biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick (Walker, 434 pages, $30), has some lessons in leadership from a guy who sat in the bleachers with the common folk, listening attentively to the advice his customers gave him, and was always genuinely attentive to his players’ needs, drawing immense loyalty.

Sadly, it also reminds us that if you thumb your nose at powerful people, as Mr. Veeck did by racially integrating his team when other American League owners were recalcitrant, and regularly taking potshots at other owners, you will pay for it, even if you can hold your head up.

Mr. Veeck’s 1962 autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, is one of the best marketing books every written, and I had high hopes for this new biography but, although it is a compelling chronicle, it lacks the panache and some of the marketing insights of the earlier work.

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