Book review: The Power of Pull

In an era still pretty much dominated by push – managers push tasks onto employees, brands push messages and products onto consumers… – John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison invite us to change our perspectives and embrace the power of pull in their recent book “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things Into Motion“. They define pull as “the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges…” .

And why should we rethink the push paradigm that governs our businesses and institutions? Well, because in case we’ve failed to notice, the World has dramatically changed in the last few years: recesssion, failure of/lack of trust in traditional institutions and organizations, financial crisis, new technology advances… The authors call this the “Big Shift – a fundamental reordering in the way we live, learn, socialize, play and work… driven by a new technology infrastructure and public policy changes”.

The Big Shift: A world in which citizens gain political power relative to political institutions. A world in which talented employees capture economic value relative to the firm. A world in which consumers have increased market power relative to vendors. A world in which corporate performance is in decline.

These changes (the magnitude of which I believe we have not yet fully grasped) have consistently been cited in the works of Don Tapscott, Clay Shirky and many others (including my all time favourite The Cluetrain Manifesto).

So how can we – institutions, organizations and individuals – navigate the sea of uncertainty and change surrounding us? We need to understand and master the art of:

  • (finding &) accessing: people and resources when needed
  • attracting: relevant and valuable people
  • achieving: our potential by pulling from within ourselves the insight and performance required

The authors exemplify and detail each of these three key pilars, illustrating their points with examples that go from a group of brave surfers to the SAP Developer Network, proving the wide application and validity of the pull concept.

My favourite chapter has to be #3: Attracting What We Need. There, Hagel, Seely-Brown and Davison explore the concept of serendipity as a key element when it comes to attracting people and resources:

Serendipity can be shaped: We can make choices that will increase our ability to attract people and resources to us that we never knew existed, leading to serendipitous encounters that prove enourmously valuable to us

Overall, The Power of Pull is definitely worth your time and attention, especially if you want to work on your preparedness for succeeding in this new normal which is characterized by a fast pace of change and network-style of organizing and attracting resources, both on a professional and personal (think side-projects) level!

PS – I’ll try to dedicate some more posts to this book as there are some ideas that really resonate with myself… hint: disrupting organizations from the inside 🙂


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