Never Chase, Always Stretch

Never Chase, Always Stretch

Bestseller Scott Sonenshein teaches you how to stretch yourself to become more efficient, perceptive and creative.

In this Wall Street Journal bestseller, Scott Sonenshein – a management professor at Rice University and co-author of Joy at Work with renowned tidying-up guru Marie Kondo – explains how people and companies can stretch their reach and resources to attain their goals. He offers useful lessons and describes them in fresh, insightful ways. Sonenshein backs up his advice with anecdotes and stories. In a direct, conversational voice, he offers guidance about finding new, creative ways of doing business.

Once you learn how to embrace and expand on the untapped value right in front of you, you’ll unlock exciting possibilities to achieve more than you ever imagined.Scott Sonenshein

Sonenshein has an instinctive feel for how self-deceiving “spendthrift” companies go under. As a young man, he worked in a well-funded Silicon Valley dot-com that squandered its venture capital on lavish parties, vacations and promotions. When the money ran dry and the dot-com crisis exploded, the company – which in Sonenshein’s argot was a “chaser,” not a “stretcher” – went under.

The Positive Organization

The author emphasizes the concept of the positive organization – a company that channels people’s capacities by addressing and nurturing their sense of themselves. He suggested in 2017 – as does pretty much every other business author does today – that companies can enhance their success by focusing on their larger mission or purpose.

People who routinely stretch…ask what more they can do with what they have, instead of asking what’s missing. Scott Sonenshein

Stretch garnered many positive reviews and back-cover blurbs. Always reliable blurbist Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, said, “Sonenshein’s surprising and entertaining book inspires and instructs us to make the most out of what we already have.” Ann Doerr, chair of Khan Academy, wrote, “Sonenshein explains how to turn limitations into valuable assets, helping us achieve our goals both at work and at home.”

Use What You’ve Got

Sonenshein urges you to use what you already have and already know. He explains that working within your framework, rather than shooting for the stars, may seem conservative, but that recognizing your parameters can push you to find creative, innovative solutions. Stretchers find new ways to utilize what they have at hand.

I questioned how I was spending my time and what I really wanted to achieve. I was ready for a change.Scott Sonenshein

Stretching yourself to be around outsiders, Sonenshein argues, helps you immerse in a wider cultural perspective – the very perspective you must embrace to stretch. He says you can succeed by acquiring experience in a specific set of tasks until you are an expert or by accumulating a palette of varied experiences that help you stretch. He warns that experts must avoid becoming “cognitively entrenched” in conventional thinking and advises that outsiders can help you avoid or escape that creative rut.

Frugal or Cheap

Sonenshein offers a basic moral universe that may surprise you at first, given his connection to Marie Kondo. But, as you dive deeper, you will likely see how much Sonenshein’s moral universe aligns with hers.

How we think about and use resources has a tremendous influence on professional success, personal satisfaction and organizational performance.Scott Sonenshein

If you like to save, you’re frugal; if you hate to spend, you’re cheap. Spendthrifts, he posits, seldom consider the future consequences of using up their resources today and, thus, they’re chasers who pursue – often compulsively – the pleasure of consumption. But stretchers control what they have and retain today’s resources for wise use tomorrow. By extension, savers protect the planet as chasers devour it.


To stretch yourself, Sonenshein pushes you to read a new book, online publication or magazine; attend a seminar or convention outside your industry or market; work with a new collaborator; or dine with someone who specializes in a different field than yours but holds similar responsibilities.

Sonenshein believes in the stretching power of daily walks. He urges you to get out of your chair, your house, your office or of your car. He cites a study claiming walks improve your ability to come up with unusual solutions by 81%. That number seems fanciful, but it does underscore his point. Other ways to boost your creativity include imposing a rigorous work schedule, setting and sticking to a daily work start and stop time, and taking specific breaks for thinking and daydreaming.

We routinely overestimate the importance of acquiring resources, but even more significantly underestimate our ability to make more out of those we have.Scott Sonenshein

You might assume that his advocacy of stretching and putting yourself into uncomfortable situations to help you learn suggests a certain anarchy of approach. Quite the opposite: Sonenshein, like Kondo, advocates discipline, routine and rigor as the means that enable your escape into greater, more liberated creativity.

All this rigor underscores Sonenshein’s urging to avoid what he calls overstretching injuries, which he lists as turning into a cheapskate, putting too much faith in your intuition, becoming close-minded or following conventional strategies.

Small but Appealing

Sonenshein offers a relatively small idea in an appealing package. His anecdotes are amusing and memorable, and his direct address to the reader builds a companionable relationship as you move through the book. His most appreciative audience is likely to be older than generations X, Y or Z, whose cohorts assimilated ideas about stretching, taking breaks, applying a relaxed self-awareness to the world and seeking new input to spur creativity some time around eighth grade.

Older businesspeople and those running more entrenched, command-and-control organization will find valuable lessons about protecting their precious mental health and creative energy. This might have been an even stronger manual if Sonenshein had more sharply emphasized his valuable take-away lessons and detailed how to apply them in real-world, real-work situations. But you’ll enjoy his business war stories, which, of course, carry teaching lessons as well. This straightforward, conversational text will suit those locked into no-longer-productive methods or mind-sets who seek insight into fresh, creative ways of doing business and of living life.

Career success and profits are critical – but so, too, are living a satisfying and meaningful life and building sustainable companies that make a difference.Scott Sonenshein

Other works on finding more efficient work models and improving your self-understanding include Burnout by Emily Nagoski, PhD, The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown and The Rise by Sarah Lewis.

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