Creative Leadership – Essential Reading #2

A quick review of The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

Creative Leadership - Essential Reading

Following a quick peek at 101 Things to Learn in Art School, next up in this mini review series is the epic, The Year Without Pants, by Scott Berkun. This book was recommended to me by the very lovely Heather Bussing (here’s her excellent review of it here) and it’s without a doubt, one of my favourite, most useful and enjoyable reads of all time.

Why do I like it so much? Essentially – it’s just very well written. It has the human touch, lacking in a lot of ‘business’ books, and it’s shot through with some great humour too. It’s about the year(ish) Berkun spent working at, the experience he and others gained and the wonderful shared learning. Rather than offer tons of advice, the book asks great questions – and often encourages you the reader to add your own organisational context. My copy is full of little tabs and markers highlighting little snippets I can easily refer back to. In no particular order, I’ll share a few of those with you here:

On Friday August 24th…I had my first team meeting. It was the worst kind of meeting – the kind where no one knows why they are there.

The only good news was the meeting was short, which is never a mistake. Until the day you can end a meeting where someone other than you says, ‘Wait! Can we meet longer?’ it’s safe to assume the meeting was longer than necessary.

The realisation that everyone is different when you talk to them alone is a secret to success in life.

What assumptions do you have about your organisation that hurt you? And what experiments are you doing to discover them and find better ways to work?

We faithfully follow practices we can’t explain rationally. Why is it that work has to start at 9:00am, and end at 5:00pm? Why are you required to wear a tie of you are a man and a skirt if you are a woman? Why are meetings sixty minutes long by default, and not thirty? We have little evidence these habits produce better work.

I love that when he started his work – Berkun drew up a list of priorities. Here’s his list:

  • Trust is everything

Keeping it real, keeping it simple.

This book has accompanied me to and been photographed on tour in London, Louisiana, Latvia, I had an L thing going on at the time. It has become part of my memory and a truly memorable read. I enjoy it so much I have bought several copies for friends, and happily supported the Kickstarter campaign for Scott’s next book.

Have a great day – next up it’s the turn of Steal Like An Artist

Note to self – this is the 700th blog post on this site. I need to get out more!

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Creative Leadership – Essential Reading #2”

  1. I met Scott when he came to #truSeattle with Heather. He is brilliant because WordPress is the kind of company we all say companies are going to be like. My favourite is the section on interviewing and why it is a waste of time. Just give people some work and see how they get on. Great shout Doug

    1. Cheers Bill – the book is a great read, and I imagine I would find Scott similarly impressive, as you suggest.

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