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The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion

Author: John Hagel III, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison

Publisher: Basic Books

ISBN: Wally Bock

Summary:The companies of tomorrow will not seek efficiency and "push" their products - they will "pull" to attracting resources, ideas and people to drive learning and adaptation

The Power of Pull

ISBN 978 04650 19359

Book review courtesy of Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership


American inventor Charles Kettering said: "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." He would have loved The Power of Pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison.

Most business books are a collection of recipes. They outline the ingredients to gather and how to fix them up to get a specific result. If that's what you want, pass this book by. This is more like a book about molecular gastronomy. According to Wikipedia, "Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general."

As you might guess, that means you will have to spend some time with this book in order to get value from it. If you're not willing to put in the time for careful reading and re-reading, with lots of reflection mixed in, pass this book by. If you are willing to put in the effort, this book will pay big dividends. You will have a picture of what forces have created what everyone seems to call "unprecedented change" over the last couple of decades. And you will gain insight into how the future will play out and what it means for you and your business.

After all, as Charles Kettering also said, "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." In this case you will find that the situation is well-described and you are more than half way to the opportunities.

The Power of Pull is the result of a lot of focused research and reflection by some very knowledgeable people over a period of a decade and a half. Much of the work as been done by the authors and by the team at Deloitte's Center for the Edge.  Here are the key insights.

The companies of the Industrial Age start by forecasting and planning. Then they design systems to "push" the right resources to the right place at the right time. They are hierarchically structured. They concentrate on controlling resources and achieving efficiency through economies of scale.

The companies of whatever we want to call the next age will be different. They will concentrate on "pulling" (attracting) resources when needed and achieving maximum learning and adaptation. Instead of seeking efficient scaling of production, they will seek effective scaling of learning.

Here's how the book lays out.

I put the Introduction and first chapter, The Diminishing Power of Push, together because they combine to introduce the key ideas of the book. The authors trace infrastructure changes from the personal computer through social networks to show how they make many changes both possible and desirable and sometimes necessary or natural. The next three chapters describe the three most important aspects of pull.

Access in an Unpredictable World tells you how to find the right people and resources when you need them.

Attracting What We Need - Ignore the foo-foo language about "shaping serendipitous encounters." I'm pretty sure serendipity will still entail surprise in the future. But pay attention to ways to attract people with their talent, knowledge, and relationships from unexpected places. 

Achieving Our Potential – The Highest Level of Pull shares the promise that you will achieve your potential faster and more powerfully than ever. Probably more hype than substance. 

If you choose to read this book, read the Introduction and the first four chapters completely and in order. You will benefit from the logical progression of ideas and from the way the key ideas are connected. After that, you can pick and choose from the other chapters in the book. They are: The Individual's Path to Pull; Pulling from the Top of Institutions; Using Pull to Change the World; and, Epilogue: The Journey from Passion to Potential.

This is a well-reasoned and well-researched book. It benefits from a long gestation period.

There's too much academic/consultant language for my taste. If you find that rough going, you can turn that to you advantage, by stopping for more opportunities to reflect on what you've read.There is also a problem with the business examples. There aren't enough specific ones. For example, when the authors tell us that one misconception about pull is that it's only for large companies, it would have been helpful if they had offered a smaller company example right then. There are too many references to "companies" and not enough specific companies.

That's a minor flaw in a book like this, though. If you want to understand some of the changes of recent decades, this book will help. If you want an idea of some changes that lie ahead, this book has a framework you can use. If you want to exploit those changes for your own success, The Power of Pull will point you to tools and concepts.

Additional Resource

In June 2009, Deloitte's Center for the Edge published a report titled "The Shift Index: Uncovering the Emerging Logic of Deep Change." You'll find it a helpful companion to the Power of Pull.


Copyright 2010 Wally Bock