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January 07, 2007

Alan Deutschman's New Book: Change or Die

Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (I think Jobs may have left and come back since then, but I haven't kept track), has a new book coming out called Change or Die. Sounds like he borrowed a page from the Po Bronson playbook. "If at first you don't succeed writing about Silicon Valley, write a self-help book."

The Deutsch is speaking at Microsoft on Thursday the 18th at 3:30. For those of you who don't work there (whenever I am about to write a sentence like that, the first version that pops into my head is something like "If you got turned down the last time you interviewed at Microsoft", but then a small voice points out that such a phrase might be considered obnoxious, so I take it out), he is also speaking at the Borders in Redmond Town Center that evening, at 7 pm. And no doubt coming soon to a bookstore near you.

The blurb for his talk at Microsoft says:

"Change or die. What if you were given that choice? What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life or death? What if a well informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, feel and act? Could you change when change really mattered?

While we all have the ability—and fundamental need—to change our behavior, we rarely do. Against all warnings heart patients and smokers continue to lead unhealthy lives and many doomed companies stick to the same archaic business practices that destine them for failure. Deutschman debunks five myths about change that most people believe, and has collected research from a wide selection of medical, science and business leaders about how to achieve lasting, revolutionary change."

The subtitle of the book is The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life. So is it five myths or three keys? Or maybe the first key is to ignore the five myths. Anyway that's all I know about the book (except there's a continuation of that blurb above on the flyer for his Borders signing: "These keys and the concepts in Change or Die won't just change your life, they'll actually save it." Yowza!). Let's see if I can guess the five myths...

  1. Only a certain type of person can change their lives without a crisis.
  2. But, if there is a crisis, most people will be able to change.
  3. Change always has to be a painful, disruptive tradeoff.
  4. If you fail the first time you attempt a change, there is little point in trying again.
  5. Most people's lives are reasonable and they do not need to change.

So how did I do?

Posted by AdamBa at January 7, 2007 10:45 PM

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I'm disappointed.

Wouldn't have had expected Redmond chauvinism from you.

For the record: There is a positive number of decent software developers _outside_ of Redmond, WA.

Some of them might even be buying MSDN subscriptions.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward at January 8, 2007 02:20 AM

Hi Adam.

Actually, the themes of my book aren't what you guessed: I contend that crisis does NOT motivate people to change. I began this project when I heard the dean of the Johns Hopkins medical school say that even after heart patients have gone through coronary bypass surgery and their doctors tell them they have to "change or die," 9 out of 10 fail to switch to healthier lifestyles.

The book argues that change is possible but that we have bad misconceptions about it, and you've repeated several of those misconceptions in your educated guess about what the book actually says.

Anyway, thanks for the funny blog entry and for calling attention to the book. I hope to see you at my talk at Microsoft next week!


Alan Deutschman

P.S. The book's subtitle was originally announced months ago as "Overcoming the Five Myths of Change," but we've actually published it as "The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life."

Posted by: Alan Deutschman at January 8, 2007 11:50 AM

AC: To paraphrase Roger Rabbit, I'm only a Redmond chauvinist when it's FUNNY...but if I offended you I apologize.

Alan: Thanks, I hope to see you there. I realize my post could have been taken as mocking the book (must have been in snark mode when I wrote it), so I appreciate you taking it the way it was meant. It does look quite interesting.

P.S. I was guessing at the five myths...so I was implying that the five things I wrote were in fact wrong. Which makes me realize a good reason to change the subtitle of the book, it's less confusing to talk about what's true (the keys) than what's not (the myths), otherwise you hit a double negative pretty quickly.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at January 8, 2007 06:40 PM

Oops, turns out I am flying out of town early Thursday evening so I can't make the talk.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at January 8, 2007 09:21 PM

Adam, the problem with being a Redmond chauvinist when it's funny is that you weren't funny. And even if you personally are usually funny there are plenty of Redmond chauvinists who aren't.

For the record, I interviewed at Microsoft, was offered the job and then turned it down, partly because of the arrogant attitude I encountered during the interview.

I'm not particularly offended by your alternative phrase, but it's inaccurate and certainly doesn't encourage me to apply to MS again. Losing potential employees for the sake of a not-terribly-funny joke seems like a bad strategy.

As was pointed out, there are decent software development companies outside Redmond, and I'm quite happily working for one of them now.

Posted by: Dave Williams at January 10, 2007 12:37 AM