Now, let me challenge you to show me a book on conflict resolution that deals more comprehensively with the topic than Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury from the Harvard Project on Negotiation. The only books I've found that truly add anything to the discussion are their own sequels: Getting Together (Fisher & Brown - 1988). The core concepts of "BATNA” (best alternative to a negotiated solution) and focusing on common interests rather than intractable positions (Getting Past No Ury - 1988) have only been recycled throughout the years.
And for general management theory and practice, is there anything better than grand management guru Peter Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973). In this book you can learn most of what you need to manage in one volume (saves shelf space) from the man who coined the term “knowledge worker” and made the following comments that are now considered conventional management wisdom:
- Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
- The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
- The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
- Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.
- Do not simply cling to your past successes, be willing to change, adopt new ideas and continually review all the different segments of business.
I could make this same point for a variety of other areas. While it may seem like bad news that we haven't learned very much that's new in the last 30 years, it’s actually very good news. The same basic techniques still work very well (thank you very much) and you only have to read one or two books to get them.
This revelation has cured me of my need to feel bad because I can't read everything out there. When you realize that the fundamental facts of life still apply, it frees you up to do other things. When I see the same old topics on the content page of a new book, I save myself 8 hours and 20 dollars by not reading it.
So I've created the following principals of learning:
- When you want to learn a new skill go to the basic text in that area
- Ask someone who would know what that is
- Read it carefully and choose a few of the techniques
- Learn them yourself and teach them to others
- Practice them carefully. Pick a few more techniques when you (and your employees if you're a manager) have mastered the first ones
Recycling the same old stuff is good for authors and publishers; it's a waste of time for you and me. So go back to the basics. Once you've mastered them, don't be afraid that you're missing a critical technique in the latest best seller.
Following these principals will help save you time and money. That's a good start.