Delivering Happiness Book Discussion Guide


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This is a discussion guide for the book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh. Enjoy!

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Delivering Happiness Book Discussion Guide

  1. 1. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose A book by Tony Hsieh Discussion Guide (by Erin Albert) Fall, 2011This is a draft discussion guide written to supplement the first, hardcover edition of DeliveringHappiness by Tony Hsieh. While it was written primarily for discussion in a highereducation/academic setting, it could be tweaked and applied to any corporate, business, not forprofit or academic setting as a guide to discuss the book. Feel free to use, alter, add and deleteto it as you see fit. It is drafted for the most part in order of the book sequentially, and by topic.The red COMPANY can be substituted for your organization or company’s name. Yourcustomer audience might need to be tweaked as well. Enjoy!Questions to Ask & Discuss:failure and the worm farm:1. Tony opens the book up by talking about his first failed attempt at entrepreneurship:the worm farm. He talks a lot about failure in the book. How can we at our COMPANYencourage our employees to safely fail?2. How can we create an environment for our employees to WANT to fail?3. How can we get employees BETTER with failure?values:4. On page 8, Tony shared that his parents valued 1. academic accomplishments, accomplishments, and 3. musical instrument mastery. What do we as aCOMPANY value?5. On page 10, Tony talks about what he wanted vs. what his parents wanted for him: hewanted to be creative and, “eventually live life on my own terms.” Are we sponsoringcreativity? Are we encouraging employees/students to create a life on their ownterms? If so, how? If not, how could we?6. Tony realizes on page 76 that of Fromm’s two paths or types of people, he is an“experience” person rather than a person who loves “things.” Does our culture atCOMPANY support both, or one more than the other?7. On page 154, Tony strikes at the heart of Zappos’ 10 core values. (Re-read them.) Ifour COMPANY employees were to write down 10 core values, what would they be?entrepreneurship & planning:8. On page 15, Tony talks about bequeathing his button business to his youngerbrothers, but then the business closed, and he alleges they should have had a bettersuccession plan. What entrepreneurial endeavors are we encouraging across COMPANY,and how can we leverage them to be long-term, legacy projects, rather than just one timeonly?9. Tony talks obviously about entrepreneurship heavily in this book, and some in higher ©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.  
  2. 2. education have argued that entrepreneurship is the new LAS. (See: SHOULD EVERY employee at COMPANY beexposed to entrepreneurship?10. One of Tony’s most important decisions about being a CEO or entrepreneur is whatbusiness to be in. Are we in the right business? What about for the future?life long learning:11. On page 18, Tony discusses that he “tried to expose myself to as many interestingthings in high school as possible,” yet, when he went onto college, he tended to takecourses that he already knew, like Mandarin. How can we encourage ourstudents/employees to try new things? Better yet, how can we find students/employeeswho value learning a variety of courses during high school and college?12. Tony compared Poker to Business in many attributes, including “continual learning”on page 66. He suggests, “reading books, actual experience, surrounding yourself withtalented players,” not discounting luck, and asking for advice. What are we doing toencourage our students/employees to do these things at COMPANY? For example, manyin gen Y aren’t reading books.taking risk:13. On page 19, Tony shares an awesome story about a creative solution for assignmenton writing a poem in iambic pentameter, and learned that through that assignment,sometimes “it pays to take risks and think outside the box.” How can we encourage thisbehavior in the classroom or in the workplace?14. On page 62, Fred talks about growth happened at Zappos by, “throw[ing] ideasagainst the wall to see if they’d stick, improvise, and make it happen.” Are we allowingour students/employees to attempt this in the classroom/work--a potentially saferenvironment than the real world?presentation & communication:15. On page 20, Tony talks about his lunch card incident and learned through thatexperience that “presentation of the truth was just as important” as the truth itself. Whatare we doing to help our employees at COMPANY learn how to better communicate witheach other?work experience “in the real world”:16. Tony talks about his wide variety of experiences in college for the first time on page26 - like movie society, working on a friend’s farm, and working--like bartending andcatering, and worked with the Guardian Angels as “secret.” How can we encourageemployees and students to gain a variety of experiences?the college jackpot:17. On page 30, Tony talks about he felt that getting the first job out of college at Oraclewas winning the college jackpot: that is, go to a good school, graduate, and get a job thatpaid as much money as possible. What are our students’ and employees’ idea of the“jackpot” now?©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.  
  3. 3. sales:18. On page 33, Tony talks about making his first sales call. Selling is an importantskill. How and where in our COMPANY are we teaching our employees to sell?networking and tribes:19. Tony talks a lot about his friends from college turning out to be his partners in hisother businesses. At Dreamworks, all employees used to get together on Friday nights,have a cocktail hour, and pitch ideas for movies to each other—from the janitor to theCEO. What are we doing at the COMPANY to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration?20. Tony discusses the value of a tribe and never losing sight of the value of a tribe onpage 76. Do we have a culture of tribes at COMPANY?21. The raves are also mentioned by Tony on page 80, and the feeling he had of beingpart of something bigger--synchrony. How are we creating this cultural feeling atCOMPANY?22. On page 82, in the Ivanka Trump’s book, Tony talks about his dislike of businessnetworking events, but instead tries to give to the network and develop friendshipswithout expecting anything in return, and usually not seeing any benefit until 2-3 yearsof working on the relationship. How can we, or are we, encouraging our employees toget beyond the 4 walls of the COMPANY and network?build & grow:23. Tony put a list of all the things he would do with his money if he sold outLinkExchange on page 43 - the last item being, “I would start another company, becauseI really enjoyed the idea of building and growing something.” How, or are, we exposingour employees/students to the opportunity to build and grow something?dreading vs. loving24. Tony talks early in the book about 3 points when he couldn’t get himself out of bedin the morning: 1. in college and 2. at Oracle when he was bored and 3. whenLinkExchange officially became un-fun. He started to view this pattern as time formaking a change in his life. How can we help our students/employees recognize thesepatterns in their own lives in order to create positive, creative change andhappiness? How can we prepare our students/employees for the unknown--i.e. What’snext?25. In another example in the poker section of the book on page 68-69, Tony talks aboutthe fact that he wasn’t playing the correct game anymore and that he needed to changetables. Are we teaching our employees and students to know when it is the right time tochange tables?passion26. Tony realizes on page 54 that he needed to stop chasing the money and start chasingthe passion. How can we help our employees/students learn what they are eachindividually passionate about?©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.  
  4. 4. 27. The mystery party girl shared with Tony something prolific for him on page 85:“Envision, create, and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form aroundyou.” Later and earlier, he discusses being an “architect” of our lives, experiences andmemories. Are we teaching THIS to our employees? If not, how can we?survival28. Tony talks about the need for survival as paramount to Zappos on page 98. SteveJobs said in his Stanford commencement address, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” How canwe keep our students/employees hungry and somewhat foolish/curious about the world?appreciation/gratitude29. When climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tony realizes that he should appreciate thingsmore--simple things like a hot shower, eating, or an indoor toilet. At the summit on page114, he realized that anything is possible. Can we create environments like this for ouremployees at COMPANY?making hard choices30. On page 124-125, Tony discusses how he and Fred made tough choices in payingtheir employees and paying their vendors late. On page 131, Tony talks about the toughchoice of moving to Las Vegas. Making choices isn’t always popular or easy. How do we(or do we?) give our employees the ability to make tough choices and see theconsequences of their actions?31. Tony talks about the culture being tested by layoffs on page 195-196. If we have astrong culture at COMPANY and it is tested, would we weather the storm (i.e. is ourculture strong enough to endure hard changes)?never outsource your best32. On page 131, Tony reminds us to never outsource your core competency. Zappos isbest and wants to remain best at customer service, then shifted to make culture the #1priority. What is COMPANY’s core competency? What is COMPANY’s culture? What dowe WANT our core competency to be? What do we want our culture to be? What doesCOMPANY want to be BEST IN CLASS at?culture guide33. The Zappos Culture Book was born on page 134. If we elicited responses from ourCOMPANY on what COMPANY’s culture is and could be, what would we find? Shouldwe take this on as a campus-community-wide project? If you had to describeCOMPANY’s culture in 2-3 paragraphs, what would YOU say? Could we do it completelyunedited? Could we develop a culture guide and give it to everyone we touch?34. COMPANY’s mission is ___________________. -Are we still meeting this mission? -What do we want our mission to be in the future?©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.  
  5. 5. good customer service35. Tony talks a lot about good customer service (see page 147). How can we walk thefine line between good customer service for our employees and NOT create an enablingsituation? (i.e. employees must be responsible for their own learning, to some extent,but also the learning is co-owned by the company). How do we strike the proper balancebetween assistance and creating independent thought and inquiry?measuring strength of culture36. Tony talks about the “strength of culture” by benchmarking via employee surveys onthe statements on page 150. Has COMPANY benchmarked in the past? Why or whynot? What would we find if we did?37. On page 184, Tony reminds us about Good To Great, and how the best companies inthe industries they are in have a strong sense of corporate culture. Again, what is ourculture? Is it “strong”? Is it consistent?hiring right38. On page 172, Tony takes an example of how they integrate core values from theculture into questions they ask new candidates for hire. Are we doing this? What are ourvalues, and how are we asking the candidates of our COMPANY if they would be a fit interms of culture?pipeline39. On page 196, Tony discusses that each department not only hires great people whofit the culture, but also emphasizes creating a succession plan or pipeline in eachdepartment, in that every new hire should be ready to be a senior leader of the companyin 5-7 years. Are we doing this at COMPANY? If not, why not? If so, how?40. Paying employees to quit who don’t fit the culture is an interesting approach Zapposuses to hire the right people and retain the right people. What happens if COMPANYdoesn’t hire right?alignment42. Tony shares his epiphany on page 210 about alignment – that is a strong culture andcommittable set of core values was important because they created alignment amongemployees. Are our departments aligned?the future43. The quote on the top of page 227 is fantastic: “No matter what your past has been,you have a spotless future.” What do we want the future of COMPANY to be?©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.  
  6. 6. the right questions44. The right questions are found on page 240. Are you asking yourself these questions?Are you asking our employees these questions? Are you encouraging your employees tothink about their own answers to these questions?The 64K challenge: Could we at COMPANY dare to create a cultural guide ofour own? Would we like what we see?©2011,  Erin  Albert.    If  you’re  using  this  for  educational  purposes,  go  for  it  –  you’re  good  with   the  copyright  police  under  section  107  (Fair  use)  of  the  federal  copyright  act.