Game Changer, by Solomon and Blumberg

Sunday November 8, 2020

I picked this up because of the subtitle, "How to be 10x in the talent economy." I'm interested in human differences in productivity. The book had little to say on the technical side, but emphasized balancing "hard" and "soft" skills, with a big focus on continual improvement via feedback and coaching. The book is largely an advertisement for the authors' businesses (10x management / ascend) and I think fairly effective as such.

I've worked in a couple companies with variations on the theme of having a "career manager" and a "project manager," sometimes the same person, which can engender conflicts of interest. Solomon and Blumberg's talent management model essentially outsources your career management to an independent firm, which is interesting. It could be viewed as a kind of matrixing that extends beyond company borders.

Another way of viewing it is as starting your own consultancy but outsourcing lead generation (and some other functions, like contracts) to Solomon and Blumberg. That removes a major difficulty of going it alone, if it works well. There are still trade-offs associated with working 1099 vs. W-2 jobs; better health insurance options etc. would still help more people make the leap toward greater independence from corporations.


The authors give a quantitative example early on to make "10x" real:

"Two weeks later, Nicole returned to our office with the news that she had let go of no less than thirty-three of her thirty-six-person team. More than 90 percent. She was sorry to lay off that many fine workers and was quick to mention that they were well taken care of, but there was no way around this one simple fact: Our three recommended 10xers could deliver a better, stronger, more sustainable product than thirty-three or even a hundred engineers who were just "very good."" (page xiv)

There's some interesting conversation to be had about labor relations, the future of work, and what direction we really want to move in, I think.

"In the new talent economy, everybody you deal with better be 10x, or at least striving to be." (page xiv)

"Great talent becomes 10x when it develops the quality of manageability–the ability to seek out and internalize powerful outside guidance, built on an insatiable desire for growth and improvement." (page xx)

"... they do it because they love the doing of it–it's the most important thing you can know about 10xers." (page 6)

"... the future will see work and learning blend into one." (page 14, quoting The Key To Solving Future Skills Challenges)

On page 16 they reference The two-pizza rule and the secret of Amazon's success.

They speak positively about Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)... Maybe I should try those?

They have a neat Lifestyle Calculator for considering 24 different priorities in considering a job.

"When you see a door, what do you do? Do you break it down, kick it open? Or do you go under it, over it? I need people who consider every possibility, who can't just look at a thing for what it usually is. They find strategic solutions from every angle. If you can't do that, then you're the kind of person that gets stuck, and I don't have time to help you when you do." (page 34, quoting Jesse Lee)

"Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue, and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life that we are offered." (page 43, quoting Charles Eisenstein)

Chapter 3, "Success and Sabotage–The Manageability Continuum," is largely about growth via feedback, and hiring for people who can do that.

"The cost of a bad hire is incalculable, and not just from a financial perspective." (page 57)

""I don't think you can fix a temper. For the bottom 10 percent, sabotage is just so ingrained in their personality. And I'm not a big fan of performance improvement plans. Ninety-five percent of the time, they're not going to make it, and if they do make it, you're just excusing the fact that they're not really the right person for the job because you don't want HR to be upset. It's very unusual for someone from that lower 10 percent or 15 percent to suddenly become a top 10 percent. At best you can move them into the middle group where they can contribute without getting in the way."

"Goldsmith is far more optimistic about the 80 percent in the middle, those with mixed impulses. "They can change. I've seen examples when great leaders have been put in place that inspire previously unsuccessful teams and individuals."" (pages 58-59, quoting Scott Goldsmith)

""The biggest change was...the leader worked hard to help the individuals on that team to change their mindset."" (page 59, quoting Scott Goldsmith)

""I ask potential new hires one question: 'On a scale of one to ten, how weird are you?' And I never hire lower than a seven."" (page 59, quoting Scott Goldsmith)

On pages 62-63, they highlight three interview questions:

  1. How well did the potential 10xer handle a significant mistake of their own making?
  2. How does the potential 10xer handle a situation where a boss or client wants something he or she thinks is a bad idea?
  3. What does the potential 10xer identify as their biggest professional weaknesses?

On page 70 they talk about the Johari window.

""In fact, I believe that in the future we're going to look back and say that what we did before genetic engineering was barbaric and like playing a genetic lottery on our children."" (page 125, quoting Bryan Bishop)

The book doesn't say much of anything about genetic contributions to being "10x" and this quote isn't intended to be related to that topic, but the concept is sort of uncomfortably in the background somehow...

"... once you lose the talent war, you completely limit a company's ability to compete and excel." (page 140)

"After all, the difference between management and leadership is huge." (page 142)

"I am humbly and strongly requesting your feedback. We have a lot of contact on an ongoing basis and I am really focused on learning more about my weaknesses, blind spots, or other areas that need meaningful improvement." (page 164)

(Part of some recommended language for soliciting feedback.)

""Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see."" (page 187, quoting Arthur Schopenhauer)

On page 200, they talk about what they call a "L.E.A.P. doc" which is an employment List of Expectations and Priorities, which they suggest sending as a kind of first move in negotiating employment. An interesting idea.