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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Kim Scott (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2017)

Kim Scott is an experienced entrepreneur and executive who started several of her own companies and held executive positions at Google, Facebook, and Apple. In Radical Candor, she shares the management style she has developed over her career, an approach based on two core principles: "Care Personally" and "Challenge Directly." Scott argues that the current business environment has become too focused on "being nice," to the point that even constructive disagreements are discouraged and candid feedback is never offered; the insistence on niceness, she asserts, keeps people and company performance from being its best. Instead of generic niceness, Scott advocates for providing candid feedback, based on caring relationships, to those you manage.

To support this argument, Scott relies primarily on anecdotes from her career, with stories ranging from her experiences in first-line management to her interactions with senior executives. The book is an easy and engaging read; the practical examples drive home the message in a way that any R&D manager can likely relate to from his or her own experience. A real strength of this anecdotal approach is the way Scott contrasts her experiences with several different company cultures and leadership philosophies. Ultimately, she builds from these stories a series of lessons that she develops into concepts that support a step-by-step approach to put the method into practice.

Most of the author's career has been spent in Silicon Valley, and hence the book's perspectives tend to be, at least in some cases, limited to that environment. Specifically, the notion that employer demand exceeds the supply of talent and that talent is highly portable is emphasized several times in the book; that particular circumstance is not likely to apply for many R&D managers, especially those in specialty disciplines with limited options--the range of options software developers and marketing professionals in Silicon Valley have simply isn't available to a material scientist working in the US Midwest. There is also little consideration of deeper cultural differences in Scott's discussion. The level and type of candor that may work for (and be appreciated by) a lifelong resident of the United States is quite likely to be interpreted very differently--and less favorably--by a recent graduate of an American university who grew up in the Far East.

Finally, I struggled with Scott's use of the word radical. Most R&D environments thrive on differences in perspective and technical disagreements. Hence research managers may not find the principles to be as radical as the name (and its usage throughout the book) imply.

Still, Radical Candor has real value for R&D managers, many of whom could gain much from considering how the book's concepts and methods will apply in their own workplaces.

The concepts can help managers consider how their own practices use candid feedback to achieve performance improvements, and they can generate helpful conversations as managers and their staff consider how to best apply the book's ideas in their own situations and environments.

Louis Gritzo is Vice President of Research at FM Global. louis.gritzo@

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Author:Gritzo, Louis
Publication:Research-Technology Management
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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