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Read of the Week: Principles by Ray Dalio

Written by The Reader, 12th September 2018

Ray Dalio has become a household name here at Reader HQ as we ponder the inner workings of our organisation. Sue, our Head of People, discusses his book, Principles as our latest Read of the Week.

An Organisation is a machine consisting of two major parts: Culture and People. Each influences the other because the people who make up an organisation determine the kind of culture it has, and the culture of the organisation determines the kinds of people who fit in.

Great cultures bring problems and disagreements to the surface and solve them well, and they love imagining and building great things that haven’t been built before. Doing that sustains their evolution.

Jane Davis recommended this book to me, when she asked me to work with her on developing our organisational culture and learning. It’s fair to say that I was slightly reluctant to read what I initially thought was a book on management theory. However, I discovered it is much more than that and after a few chapters I did get over my reservations about the word ‘machine’.

It is essentially the story of Ray Dalio, ‘an ordinary kid in an ordinary house and a worse-than-ordinary student’, who over the course of 40 years has discovered a set of both Life and Work Principles that he believes are the reason for his success as founder of a top Hedge Fund investment company.

Ray shares his story by giving a very honest account of his personal weaknesses, detailing the painful mistakes he has made and the severe consequences that have followed from these, which affected him personally as well as professionally. It is the learning he has taken from these mistakes which have resulted in the development of his Principles. This is what for me, makes the book real, interesting and challenging and sets it apart from management books I have read in the past.

It’s not a book that provides all the answers but it most definitely challenged and expanded my thinking particularly around personal improvement (Life Principles) and organisational culture and learning (Work Principles). Ray ends the chapter on Life Principles with ‘I hope these principles will help you struggle well and get all the joy you can out of life.’ This sums it up for me in that the reality of life and work can sometimes feel like a struggle but having some well thought out principles not only helps you deal with them but will also help you to evolve.


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