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Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization
Edward D. Hess

Retail Price: $29.95
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Format: Hardcover, 280pp.
ISBN: 9780231170246
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

To compete with today's increasing globalization and rapidly evolving technologies, individuals and organizations must take their ability to learn — the foundation for continuous improvement, operational excellence, and innovation — to a much higher level. In Learn or Die, Edward D. Hess combines recent advances in neuroscience, psychology, behavioral economics, and education with key research on high-performance businesses to create an actionable blueprint for becoming a leading-edge learning organization.

Learn or Die examines the process of learning from an individual and an organizational standpoint. From an individual perspective, the book discusses the cognitive, emotional, motivational, attitudinal, and behavioral factors that promote better learning. Organizationally, Learn or Die focuses on the kinds of structures, culture, leadership, employee learning behaviors, and human resource policies that are necessary to create an environment that enables critical and innovative thinking, learning conversations, and collaboration. The volume also provides strategies to mitigate the reality that humans can be reflexive, lazy thinkers who seek confirmation of what they believe to be true and affirmation of their self-image. Exemplar learning organizations discussed include the secretive Bridgewater Associates, LP; Intuit, Inc.; United Parcel Service (UPS); W. L. Gore & Associates; and IDEO.


As digital technologies race ahead there is a growing need for creativity and innovation. But how can we build organizations that foster the highest levels of creativity and innovation? Learn or Die is a blueprint for creating such organizations.
—Erik Brynjolffson, Co-author, The Second Machine Age

In Learn or Die Ed Hess knits an impressive fabric of insights from widely disparate strands of thought, experience, research, and real cases. Hess harnesses new evidence to challenge old nostrums. Practical and provocative, this book ranges across vital issues such as learning, innovation, team-building, and leadership. Read this book and prosper; read it before your competitor gets to it.
—Robert Bruner, Dean, Darden School of Business

This book does a beautiful job bringing together the most important ideas in organizational learning, established by academics and practitioners over the past thirty years or more, into one place.
—Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

An excellent book. In Learn or Die, Edward D. Hess captures a central element to enhancing and sustaining success as a business organization or as one of its leaders -- being a high-performance learning organization. This book is a thought-provoking study of the technological advances making this need ever more relevant and provides a comprehensive roadmap of the culture, leadership, employee learning behaviors, HR policies and other organizational processes necessary to build and lead such an organization.
—Roger Carlile, Executive Vice President and CFO, FTI Consulting

Learn or Die is a thoughtful and easy-to-read synthesis of the leading thinking on organizational and individual learning. Not only does Hess neatly summarizes what a savvy business person needs to know, but he also provides practical suggestions that will allow the reader to take action. This book contains essential lessons on an important topic -- I highly recommend it.
—Joe Timko, chief strategy officer, ADP

Learn or Die is a tremendous look into the requirements of high performance individual and team learning. Ed Hess does a masterful job of conveying that learning happens best in a humanistic work environment, enabled by leaders who in reality are great coaches striving to serve others. Learn or Die will help anyone who wants to improve themselves -- it changes the game.
—Sam Presti, executive vice president and general manager of Oklahoma City Thunder

The smart money is on innovation, which depends on personal and group learning. Ed Hess combines a tour d'horizon of what is known about individual learning and about conducive environments for organizational learning with fascinating case studies of companies who use learning to win. Any leader who needs to encourage innovation will find information and reflections that will be both humbling and inspiring.
—Michael Balay, head of global strategy, Cargill, Inc.

Learn or Die in a masterful manner makes it clear that consistent business growth can only be achieved through learning -- there is no other way -- and that the pace of business change today requires a scientific approach to building a high performance learning organization. For those responsible for leading, Learn or Die should be mandatory reading.
—Terry S. Brown, chairman and chief executive officer, Edens Investment Trust

"Learn or Die" allows the reader to not only to visualize the future, but also, and more importantly, to create the future by unleashing the power and potential of building a learning organization. It has been demonstrated that strategies, systems and processes can be copied by others, yet a company's people, and the way they learn, are true differentiators. Ed Hess captures the essence of a high performing organization and shares his "secret sauce" through an actionable blueprint for becoming a leading-edge learner and creating a high performing organization.
—Jeffrey S. Shuman, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Quest Diagnostics

Ed Hess is doing some of the most interesting and important work in management today and his newest book, Learn or Die, is already my personal favorite. This book is characteristic of all of Ed's work -- providing wise but straight-forward and pragmatic advice on finding the right people, creating the right environment and installing the right processes to embed learning. In a globalizing world, where adapting to and learning from difference is likely to be the most critical source of competitive advantage,Learn or Die is a must read for any manager interested in solid, research-based advice on how to survive the increasingly unpredictable, chaotic world we live in.
—Jeanne Liedtka, coauthor of Solving Problems with Design Thinking

To achieve and sustain real business success in the 21st century -- individual and organizational -- you need to understand and leverage the new science of learning. Fortunately, there's "Learn or Die" by Ed Hess, who explains the "why" and "how" better than anybody. This deeply informed, yet practical book provides the new road map for a better "you" and a better company. Read or miss out.
—Andy Fleming, CEO, Way to Grow, Inc.

Learn or Die makes a compelling case for the need to create high-performance, human-oriented learning organizations -- and for the remarkable degree to which we are all capable of succeeding as leaders by following a path of ongoing, integrative learning. Combining fascinating behavioral research, actionable advice, and superb analysis of real-world business examples, Ed Hess has crafted essential reading for those seeking to prepare their organizations -- and themselves -- to thrive in a global marketplace characterized by rapid change, fierce competition, and a desperate need for leadership based on principles that are smart, sustainable, and, above all, humane.
—Ming-Jer Chen, former president, Academy of Management

I read Learn or Die and found myself intrigued and frankly, a littleuncomfortable. So I read it a second time and found that it made merethink many aspects of my own management style and the guidance I provideour portfolio companies. What hit me like a ton of bricks from Ed's research was the realizationthat the current approach based on traditional management techniques andperformance metrics was unlikely to be both effective and sustainable inthe rapidly changing, Darwinian world of venture capital investing andtechnology innovation. His vision of the learning systems and culturalcommitments that define a truly high performance organization is a mustread for any business that wants to prepare itself to meet the challengesand succeed in todays business environment -- before its too late.
—Frank H. Foster, managing partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Frontier and theGideon Hixon Fund

This is by far the best book I've read on the subject of learning.
—Shane Parrish Farnam Street Weekly

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About the Author

Edward D. Hess is professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business. He is the author of eleven books, including Smart Growth: Building an Enduring Business by Managing the Risks of Growth, which was named a Top 25 business book for business owners by Inc. Magazine and was awarded the Wachovia Award for Research Excellence. His current research focuses on innovation systems and organizational learning cultures, behaviors, and processes.

Table of Contents

Part I: The Science of Learning
1Learn or Die: Building a High-Performance Learning Organization
2Learning: How Our Mind Works
3Emotions: The Myth of Rationality
4Learning: The Right People
5Creating a Learning Environment
6Learning Conversations
7Critical Thinking Tools
8A Conversation with Dr. Gary Klein
Part II: Building a Learning Organization
9Bridgewater Associates, LP: Building a Learning "Machine"
10Intuit, Inc.: "It's Time to Bury Caesar"
11United Parcel Services, Inc.: Being "Constructively Dissatisfied"

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