Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //


By Scott Sonenshein

HarperCollins, 283 pages, $35.99

Story continues below advertisement

Why do some people and organizations succeed with so little while others fail with so much?

That's an important question, not normally discussed in management literature, which Scott Sonenshein, a professor of management at Rice University, poses at the start of his new book. The answer begins with understanding we have bought into a false premise: Having more resources equals getting better results. That's not necessarily true. Some people keep chasing resources. They always want more, to achieve more. But they fail to use their existing resources fully and can be overtaken by others with fewer resources but the ability to employ those more effectively.

You may have met such individuals, or corporations. You will see an example next time you or a friend have a Yuengling beer in hand. A small brewer in a world of giants, it chose not to chase greater resources by selling to a competitor or trying to grow by acquisitions. Instead, it used existing resources – people, plants and money – shrewdly, and has been extremely successful on the bottom line. Stroh's, on the other hand, with a similar pedigree, sought massive growth, becoming the third-largest U.S. beer producer. But it went belly up.

Prof. Sonenshein calls Stroh's approach "chasing" – focusing on acquiring resources and overlooking how to expand what's on hand. Yuengling's approach is summed up by the title of his book: Stretch. People and organizations that routinely stretch ask what more they can do with what they have rather than obsessing about what's missing. If you were a fan of the television show MacGyver, you were watching a master stretcher, who used what was at hand to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Chasing flows from a "grass is always greener" mentality. That's literal in California, where billionaires spend enormous sums to truck in water to keep their lawns green when water restrictions are in place. "When chasing, it's easy to get caught up in pursuing things because others have or want them. As resources get scarcer, chasing becomes more difficult, expensive, stressful, and even impractical," he notes.

Social media accentuates chasing. Research has shown the more time people spent on Facebook the worse they felt, and that seems to be a result of making social comparisons. Chasing also degrades our ability to stretch. It blinds us from seeing the possibilities that lies in the resources at hand.

He illuminates four critical elements of a stretching mindset. The first is psychological ownership, believing that we control our resources and then working with them in expansive and inventive – MacGyver – ways.

Story continues below advertisement

Second, the constraints we encounter can liberate us to find new opportunities. Frugality can be helpful as well, nudging us toward better results. William Oberton is CEO of a company that excels at stretching, Fastenal, the world's leading supplier of industrial supplies – where second-hand furniture is used in the executive offices. He says, "We're not afraid to spend. We're afraid to waste money on something that won't improve the business." Finally, stretchers appreciate and see potential in resources that others overlook.

It helps to ensure diversity of experiences on your team, since that will lead to multiple ways of viewing problems. Be aware that modern division of labour, with increased specialization, can narrow our outlook, so you must step outside your own world and embrace diverse notions. Stretch your mind to stretch your possibilities.

Careful planning is considered a prerequisite to action these days, but he suggests it can prevent learning by doing. "When we plan, we're not acting but delaying our actions and speculating about a future that may or may not exist," he writes.

He tells of Hungarian soldiers, lost in the Alps, who navigated back to safety when one of them found a map in his pocket. The map was of a different set of mountains, the Pyrenees, but it worked. Academic Karl Wieck says that story shows when our bearings are lost "any map will do."

This book is a map of the terrain for stretching. It nicely mixes anecdotes, research and Prof. Sonenshein's advice to answer the question he asks at the beginning and help you to substitute stretching for chasing.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter.

‘It is really incumbent on senior managers to be explicit in thinking about strategy and thinking about how that trickles down into behaviours throughout the organization’ Special to Globe and Mail Update

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies