Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Raising the Bar synopsis (and how the book applies to you)

So I know June's book of the month is Raising the Bar, but I wanted to go ahead and give a good, brief synopsis of the book and how it can apply to you. I found this post from a reviewer (Graham Lawes) on and it's been edited for brevity:

He starts the history of Clif Bar with a personal story of going on a 100 mile bike ride that turned unexpectedly into a 175 mile ride. This was what he calls the first epiphany bike ride and was sustained by only 6 power bars and a banana. As the story goes, it was when he found that he couldn't force down the 6th bar that he decided to make his own. This was the epiphany. It's celebrated every year by a company-sponsored bike event that follows the same route.

Such epiphanies occur frequently, but we're not many of us built like Erickson, so we don't tend to turn our ideas into such a formidable reality as he has done...

There are many good reasons to read this book. It's full of great stories and metaphors. His management ideas are workable, and he's created one of the best mission statements I've seen. This is given in the form of five "aspirations:" Sustaining Our Brands; Sustaining Our Business; Sustaining Our People; Sustaining Our Community; Sustaining Our Planet...

Erickson clearly lived and promulgated these values for some years before formalizing them and writing them down on paper. He also works continuously to meet the company's aspirations. It seems obvious to measure and assess a company based on the achievement of its mission, but that's not what most companies do...

At the end of the book, Erickson sums up his achievements at Clif Bar by saying that Clif Bar's business model is like a jazz score, and that the people of Clif Bar are like jazz musicians. "The core is jazz: the freedom to improvise in the creation of beautiful things, products, and people." This is a nice idea and an appropriate metaphor for the whole book, a tale about the raising of Clif Bar improvised around the stories of his life.

The book is an entertaining -- and at some points dazzling -- composition, but it is also important as a model. Erickson does something valuable by giving us one more book that shows how to build a successful, socially responsible company...

Raising the Bar is a great read, but most of all it's important for its ideas and the example it provides. Erickson is an inspiring model for others. He doesn't believe that taking care of people is just a way to make them work harder. As Erickson puts it, "We believe that if we provide meaningful work as well as something beyond work, people will do their jobs well and lead healthier, more balanced lives."

Fortunately, Erickson's is not an isolated example, and more and more people are practicing the belief that stewardship and sustainability is more important than maximizing shareholder profit.

So if you haven't begun June's book of the month, or aren't still convinced to read it, I invite you to read a free excerpt of the book found here on the Clif Bar website. Happy readings!

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