28/02/2013

Your Signature Work (by Dianna Booher)

Apparently, Dianna Booher is an American expert in business practice, who has published 46 books. I had not heard of her before, and most likely would not have done so, but for one of her books appearing on one of my son's bookshelves. The cover looked interesting, and there was a quotation on the back relating to artists or performers and their autographs. So I thought I would try it.

Unfortunately, 'Your signature work'  uses an extended metaphor of a basketball game to portray principles in the workplace. The author claims at the beginning that no knowledge of basketball is needed to understand it, but that was not true: I got quite bogged down at times with odd words and phrases such as 'scrimmage', 'behind the arc',  or 'double dribbling'.  I could undoubtedly have looked them up, had I been remotely interested in basketall: I did actually attempt to look up 'scrimmage' in both my American and my British dictionary, since the entire chapter on that topic made no sense - but neither was of any use. I didn't bother with the other mystifying terms used.

Even stranger to me was the glorification of team sports.  I don't in the least mind how people choose to stay fit, and if they want to play sports - or if others want to watch them - then that's fine. But I rarely mix with people who watch sports, so the whole concept seems a little odd; I couldn't quite get my head around the idea that winning was taken so seriously in what is, essentially, just a game.  Nor did I like the implication that in business there must be winners and losers. Perhaps that happens, but in a book which is supposedly Christian in ethos, it seemed very dubious ethically.

Putting the annoying basketball metaphors aside, I could not really relate to the business examples either, and unfortunately that's what the majority of the book consists of. The comment about autographs appears to be the sole reference to creative types. There's a sort of theme about one's life and work style being one's 'autograph' but that also made no sense, since a real autograph is just a stylised squiggle, not something that says anything much about a person's life or character.

By the time I was about a third of the way through, I realised that I could skip the basketball references, and skim the business sections.  I kept reading because - to be fair - the structure is clear, the writing style is pretty good, and I kept thinking that eventually something new or inspiring would come up.  It's not as if I disagreed with the concluding advice of each chapter, it's just that they were all such very obvious maxims. For instance, it was mentioned that one should be honest, make peace where possible, eliminate the unnecessary, admit to faults. And so on.  I would be a little worried if I had reached adulthood without knowing the importance of these things.

There are - from time to time - Bible examples and passages in the book. However, rather than looking at them in any detail, the author seems to have selected ones that fit with her themes; not every chapter has one at all. They felt almost as if they were put in just to try to make a point, in a way that will irritate Christians and non-Christians alike.

I reached the end and still could not see the point. Even if I had been a fan of organised sport and had understood basketball, I cannot see how there was anything new or inspiring in this book... unless of course it's true (as was apparently implied) that most businesspeople in the US are naturally aggressive, dishonest and slow.

Really not recommended... I see it's out of print anyway, although there are inexpensive second-hand versions available (but remember that postage has to be added if you order from Amazon).

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th February 2013

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