Book Reviews by Allison Constantino

Continuous and Embedded Learning for Organizations

In today’s competitive corporate environment, if you’re standing still, you’re losing ground! Success today does not guarantee success tomorrow.

How does any organization stay ahead of the competition? What steps can ensure an organization’s bright, long, prosperous future?

This book is like being thrown a floatation device when you’re drowning!

The authors identify complex learning topics that can be turned into behaviors embedded into daily work habits.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, states, “Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience. In a sense, a habit is just a memory of the steps you previously followed to solve a problem in the past.” “The primary reason the brain remembers the past is to better predict what will work in the future.”

“For an organization to be an effective global competitor, it will require constant learning by the individual team members that enable the organization to become increasingly competent and efficient and able to discover new opportunities and effectively take advantage of these. This ultimately requires more than the individual to learn, but team learning, and learning that spreads through the organization.”

“A learning organization neither waits for an issue to implement change nor wastes an opportunity for change even during a change itself.” “…the cycle of learning and action is consistent and part of the organization’s structure itself.”

The authors state, “This book provides an overview of the many systems, both social and technical, required to create a learning organization, as well as ways to capture and propagate learning throughout the organization. The longevity of the organization depends upon the ability of that organization to learn and propagate that learning throughout the organization.”

“This book also explores the difference between learning and knowledge and how these two different mindsets are commonly misunderstood. This approach is instrumental in knowing what, when, where, why, and how to plan and execute a plan for motivating your personnel, developing your organization, and using your project to obtain both.”

“Learning is how we gain knowledge, and that knowledge is the logical application of what we have learned.” “While most organizations understand that in today’s environment, change is inevitable, they do not relate this change to what is being learned or the need for learning, but to what new technology is available. Technology is not necessarily the savior of the organization. Organizational development is a manner to bring about planned change.”

Tools are not the savior of the organization; it is the talent.”

“While we know from years of experience working as team members and team leaders, one size does not fit all and must be tailored to not only the people but the organization and the project, that is why the approach is to show opportunities and allow you to determine the when and how of the application.”

Organizations pride themselves on their mission or vision statements, but are they relevant?

 “We have all been part of organizations that have a mission or vision statement that says its people or innovation, or some other catchphrase, are key to their success, but when you delve into how these actually stack up in what and how the organizations run they are but curtains on a broken window: look nice but have little to do with how the organization operates.”

The authors state, “We are believers that embedding development: personnel and organizational, into everyday processes, in project plans and aligning this development with the mission or vision statement of the organization will reduce the chance of these items being reduced or even stopped during times of need.”

“To remain relevant, the organization must constantly work to understand and adapt to the external environment as well as improve the internal environment.”

The authors reference one of my favorite TV series, Airplane Disasters, broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel.

The relevancy of Airplane Disasters to organizational disasters is the same. When airplanes or organizations crash, the reasons are complex. There is usually more than one thing that brings down the plane or organization!

We tend to jump to conclusions about the failures. “It is seldom the first thing we think is in fact, the problem. There is also a significant chance that the root cause is not, in fact, a single thing, and very likely not the single thing we may immediately believe to the problem often based upon biases and experiences.”

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”

“Learning provides the mechanism for improvement. We learn what does not work; we explore to find what may work and experiment to ascertain what will work. We work to understand those things that limit our performance, hindering us from the objectives we wish to achieve, and then work with our team members to devise potential solutions to overcome these limitations, then experiment with potential solutions, learning along the way.”

“Most organizations fail to exploit their lessons learned because their focus is on the now instead of the long term.”

“Each failure, each success provides us with an opportunity to learn. If we take and maximize that opportunity (spread throughout the organization), we become stronger as an organization. We learn more as a group about what works and what does not work. This is helpful for the product and for the project, but we must pay attention to what is going on and listen to those that have learned lessons that we have not yet learned, as well as teach lessons to those who have not learned. Student and teacher are one and the same.”

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

“Many people may consider change as something that occurs only when something happens to cause it or when a new plan or process is enacted. However, change is always occurring even when there is no visible cause (issue or accident) or even a plan for it.”

The authors state, “…plan for an opportunity rather than react to a situation.”

“In 1948, 3M introduced a unique program that quickly became one of the signature elements of the company’s reputation for innovation. The 15% program, which continues today, allows employees to dedicate up to six hours a week to their own projects, to range beyond the responsibilities of their job, hatch their own ideas, and see what can become of them. The program is a perk that delivers benefits both to the individual and the company. Among other innovations, the company attributes the invention of Post-it Brand notes to 15% time.

“Understanding what works well or the strength of the company is like discovering gold nuggets. These are the areas that can propel the organization to truly new heights. When we see what works, we can work to move these things that work in one location for consideration to other parts of the organization.”

This book provides organizations with a step-by-step embedded learning plan tailored to their specific needs for their immediate and long-term success.

During a recent team-building event at work, I had the opportunity to share some of the book’s examples of how teams can be made stronger. The stories popped into my mind because they were relevant to the situation.

Isn’t that the litmus test of any book? Can you use what you know?

Yes! I was able to use some of my new-found knowledge and share these nuggets of relevant information with my team of co-workers!

Quantum Physics for Hippies

By Dr. Lukas Neumeier & Dr. James Douglas

A book review by Allison Constantino

ISBN –9781091891166

Published April 2019

Are you a truth-seeker? Are you always looking at things and wondering, “Why?” then this book is for you!

Dr. Neumeier and Dr. Douglas have created a fun dialogue between Alice, the scientist nerd and Bob, the spiritual hippie that attempts to explain the possibly unexplainable – the strange theory that describes the behavior of atoms and light – quantum physics.

“The common denominator …. each hippie and each nerd – is simply looking for the truth.” “The truth about who we are and how we fit into the universe. This search unites us all, regardless of social conventions.”

 I’m an artist, not a mathematician or scientist. However, being an artist means that I’m always amazed and puzzled at what I see and that means everything I see around me. I want to know “why” things are like they are! I demand answers!

That’s why quantum physics has always intrigued me. In this book, I love the clever dialogue between Bob and Alice and their attempts to present simple answers to complex questions – and according to Occam’s Razor Theory, “The simpler the theory is, the more likely it is to be true.”

I love trees so I was pleasantly surprised to learn from Bob and Alice,  “The atoms in our bodies are exactly the same as those in any tree, plant, animal, rock or star – and for some reason – those atoms organize themselves into a human.”

So, we’re all atoms, some of us are tree atoms and some of us are human atoms!

More mind-blowing information Bob and Alice share with us in their idle banter:

  • In each single electron is the whole pattern.
  • Information can’t be created or destroyed – just passed on.

I’ve always loved films about parallel universes and how they manifest, so I was totally intrigued by this thought, “It’s the parallel existence of infinite beings having all possible experiences at the same time. You’re never reborn – you’ve always existed.”

I didn’t quite grasp that, so fortunately Bob provided this insight. “There is just one everlasting unbreakable quantum wave. Inside that wave there are multiple Bobs occupying multiple universes, having different experiences, leading different lives, but the different universes can’t communicate with each other. So, each Bob thinks he is living in the only universe and each Bob is convinced he is the only Bob.”

I was really intrigued to discover “connected possibilities,” or “entanglement” that two possibilities exist simultaneously. Schrodinger’s Equation shows how a cat can be dead and alive – simultaneously.

More insights shared by Bob and Alice include “There are many of you. You are a multi-dimensional being living in many universes at once.”

“Conscious experience in a body which is dead or in a deep sleep – stops. But, globally, conscious experience goes on and if you are really consciousness itself, and there is only one consciousness as you say, your next possible experience must be an experience. You can’t experience not experiencing. You would experience the process of dying, but then you would instantly have another experience. Maybe you’d find yourself looking through another configuration of atoms. A new body. But that new body only remembers being that body, because it comes with its own memory, and for you, it feels like you have always been with that body.

“So, consciousness would experience dying, but would never remember it.”

Bob and Alice offered some parting take-away thoughts, “The Holy Grail is to see yourself as nothing and everything at the same time. Then you feel unshakable stability, complete freedom of any experience. While at the same time, feeling love and compassion for whatever appears inside of consciousness.”

 An ending and beginning insight from Bob, “I believe that gaining full awareness of the mind is the next step to human evolution.”

Where will our minds take us tomorrow?

Dr. Lukas Neumeier currently works at the Darrick Chang Group, ICFO Institute of Photonic Sciences, with a focus on atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed matter physics and quantum physics. The group’s most recent research publication is “Reaching the optomechanical strong coupling regime with a single atom in a cavity.”

 Dr. James Douglas is a physicist with a research focus on ultracold quantum gases.

 Jun Matsuura is an artist specializing in pencil drawings.

Count Down by Matt Phillips

ISBN # -13: 978-1-948-235-84-6

If you like crime-fiction, this one’s for you! A deep dive into the “legal” marijuana business where cash is more readily available than an ATM and two gutsy war vets are determined to get a piece-of-the-pie!

“With the legalization of marijuana in California and the federal illegality of the drug, there’s a teeny weeny money problem. You can grow weed. You can sell it. You can smoke it and you can eat it. You can do just about whatever you want with it. You can’t put it in a bank because the IRS will start asking important questions. So, what do you do with it?”

Ten thousand a day. Every day. In cash! You can MAKE it, but where can you PUT it?

Set in San Diego, this book reads like a really low-life “American Greed!” Two war vets back from Iraq (a.k.a. EYE-RACK) are looking for their next gig. One-half of the dynamic duo starts his own marijuana “security” company! He’s got the guts and the firepower!

All these marijuana “dispensaries” need a place to store their cash while it’s being “laundered.” That takes time and in the mean time, the cash, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of cash – just sits there for the taking! Somebody has to pick up the cash every day and “store” it!

“Storing” thousands of dollars every day in duffel bags in a storage unit is a recipe for disaster! With those kind of high stakes, everybody is looking for an angle to get rid of their competition. This is a dog-eat-dog world! Every guy is in it for himself!

So, who better to rob the dispensaries than the guy(s) set up to “secure” them. Enter the other half of the duo. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and these two hard-luck soldiers lead you down every seedy back street and dive in San Diego.

Our war vets for one reason or another, one-by-one end up with the short end of the stick! So much for the best-laid plans. Guts will only get you so far, and in this case, our heroes are picked off one-by-one.

Three Hours Past Midnight by Tony Knighton

Reviewed by Allison Constantino for Crime Wave Press

Published by Crime Wave Press December 2017

ISBN -10 9881493854

ISBN-13 978-9881493859

If you enjoy a 50’s style, no-nonsense crime read, you’ll enjoy this fast-ride connecting-the-dots in Three Hours Past Midnight.

You’re in for the ride of your life, as you go from one low-life place in the seedy under-belly of Philadelphia, to the next, with a veteran violent thief as he tries to track down his money lost in a job with his partner, a retired cop, who ends up dead!

This book gives new meaning to the phrase, “all-in-a-days-work,” as our thief looks all over Philly trying to find his loot and meets up with every unsavory character imaginable, including corrupt politicians, every low-life thug in the neighborhood and even illegal immigrants.

I ended up knowing a lot more than I wanted to know about how to be a good thief, honor amongst thieves, and how crime really does pay!

I loved the author’s quotes:

“His eyes told the truth. They were dark, and hard, and they never stopped moving. He looked at my face, my hands, around me, through me, frisking me with those eyes and coming back to me again. Raco would make a point of remembering everything.”

“What do I always say? If you want someone to believe your story, they have to tell it to themselves.”

“…He was right. This business was all a matter of attitude.”

From a reader’s perspective, I knew nothing about Philadelphia and even less about the every-day life of a veteran, violent thief, so it was an education for me on all levels. At every turn there seems to be a judge or politician on-the-take, a cop that “went bad” and a job that went south.

It’s a tough way to make a living, but that’s the way things are when you’ve chosen to be a career thief.

Taking the life of another person is just the cost of doing business, nothing more, nothing less. You do what you need to do to get what you need to get!

Tony Knighton is a 30-year Philadelphia Fire Department veteran and has lived in Philly since his early childhood. He definitely has his fingers on the pulse of Philly and passes that knowledge on to his readers.

Tony also played music semi-professionally for years and I personally enjoyed the way Tony weaved his love and knowledge of music into the plot seamlessly!

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