The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

Book reviews

Written by: Ellen Young


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Upstream was published in March 2020, in what would ultimately be a year where many of us may feel as though life has been moving against stream, perhaps even rather slowly! This timing remains important as leaders, managers, and CEOs are constantly—and at times, forcibly—adapting and problem-solving.  

Dan Heath provides small and large-scale examples of productions, movements, and workplaces as both good and bad models of problem solving. Whichever angle you come at this book with, you’re sure to find real-life examples of productivity, including “grading” your work-meetings and developing your own grading system in order to repeat the positive and negate the negative. I found this grading system to be conducive in many arenas, not just work. After all, one affects the other.  

While reading, Upstream, I was reminded of a George Patton motto I was taught in sixth grade. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” This idea and the contents of this book remind us all how important it is to not surround yourself with the classic, “Yes People.” Whenever you feel your team stops raising questions or concerns, or if those in your inner circle rarely offer differing opinions, it’s time to open up Upstream.  

One of the very first examples of asking the right questions may be found in chapter one with the Expedia example. Asking “Why?” and digging a little into data rather than giving in to, “That’s just how it is.” There really is no problem too big or too small. 

If I could describe this book in one word, that word would be, “necessary.” •