by Jerry Fletcher and Kelle Olwyler
Creativity experts often maintain that new ideas are simply combinations of existing elements. Co-authors Fletcher and Olwyler take that thinking a step further by suggesting that the secret to problem solving lies in using new combinations of our existing personality traits.
More simply, explain the authors, there are many, often contradictory personality traits in every person. When people perform at their best, they are working from combinations of these seemingly contradictory traits. For example, the secret of Bill Gates' success is his ability to be visionary and practical at the same time.
If you buy this argument, the authors would have you employ a five-step method to put the power of these contradictions to work. First, you must identify your "core personal paradox." This is the combination of contradictory personality traits that best defines a "central conflict or tension that you live with." The second step is to reframe this paradox in positive terms.
The core personal paradox can be used to solve problems and work more effectively, according to the authors. This is done in a series of three steps that should sound very familiar: Define the problem and set the goal, analyze the problem (or "rate yourself on Fletcher's pendulum") and determine action steps for solution.
Like Fletcher's first book, Patterns of High Performance, this is a strange combination of unproven assumptions, psycho-mystical jargon and common sense. Paradoxical Thinking (Berrett-Koehler, $24.95) may use contradictory personality traits to magically induce high performance, but it seems much more likely that a fresh perspective and clearly focused thinking is the real cause. Of course, they would not make as dramatic a presentation as core paradoxes and pendulums.
by Martin Kimeldorf
Noted British management writer Charles Handy advises businesspeople to stop thinking of their careers as a linear process because the traditional progression of a manager's career is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Rather, says Handy, a career in today's business environment is more like a "portfolio," which is comprised of a series of experiences and skills that make a person valuable to potential employers.
Martin Kimeldorf adds some how-tos to Handy's portfolio thinking in this career improvement book. He advises that the best way to present your career is with a portfolio -- a résumé format that has previously been most common among artists and photographers. Handy would almost certainly agree.
To think of a portfolio as simply a way to find a new job is shortsighted. In fact, it can serve many purposes: It is a learning tool that can help pinpoint missing skills, a presentation tool for use during appraisals and salary reviews, and a supplementary tool for career decision making.
After making some very convincing arguments for creating and maintaining a career portfolio, Kimeldorf gets down to brass tacks and shows the reader how to reframe accomplishments in portfolio terms, how to visually present a career and how to organize the results for maximum impact. Included is a step-by-step process for building your own portfolio, accompanied by a series of useful exercises.
Portfolio Power (Peterson's, $14.95) is a how-to text that offers true value to business professionals. In this increasingly project-based world, it makes good sense.