Praesidium

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vine: Go From Good to Great

Another in my infrequent series of reviews from Amazon Vine. Usually, I use them to draw attention to things I like, but this time a negative review.

How to Succeed with NLP: Go from Good to Great at Work

I've read a few self-help type books in the past, but was particularly attracted to this one because of the NLP angle (not that I'm a confirmed fan, just because I was curious). Unfortunately, I can't say that I'm really any the wiser about Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Of course, this isn't a psychology textbook - the author is upfront about the fact that this isn't an introduction to NLP but rather how to use it to 'go from good to great at work' and thus all you need to know about NLP is that it works (p. 2).

Nonetheless, I found this approach rather unsatisfying, since the reader doesn't get much insight into why particular techniques are supposed to be effective. Ultimately, the author simply reels off instruction after instruction, all justified simply because 'this is what NLP says to do.' Maybe NLP does give good advice, but all the reader gets here is some jargon, which isn't always explained. Moreover, without any insight into the fundamental principles, I have to say that I found the advice confusing at times. Sometimes, for example, you're told that it's not enough to do a great job, you must be seen to be doing so, so you should change your behaviour to stand out (e.g. p. 99), but at other times it seems to suggest that you try to fit in rather than stand out to built rapport with your team (e.g. p. 132).

Admittedly, it's difficult to give general advice in books like this, so there's always some tendency for authors to hedge their bets ('do X - a little, but not too much'), but I have to say that I didn't find the advice very useful. Often you're told what to do but not how to do it or told that you can achieve it through visualization techniques, which sound rather far-fetched to me (I didn't really try the exercises).

It's hard to give a verdict on whether the techniques work - no doubt they will for some people and not for others. The most damning indictment, in my view, though must be how badly written the book is, given the regular refrain about the importance of communication and clarity. The repetition I can forgive, since the reader is invited to pick and choose the chapters most relevant to them rather than working through the whole book, but the material didn't seem to have any coherent organization and chapters tended to jump around haphazardly.

Even at the micro-level, a number of sentences didn't clearly communicate what the author meant, for instance: "recognize what it is that you are not doing that could be holding you back" (p. 189) and, on the importance of being seen, "Picture how useful this will be when decisions are being made about redundancies, promotions, transfers and salary increases. If people don't know who you are, you will never be on the list" (p. 211).

I can't really comment on the merits of NLP, but there must be better books out there.

My review, first published here.

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