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Who Kidnapped Excellence - Book Review

1 July 2015

Dr. Moria Levy

"Who Kidnapped Excellence: What Prevents Us from Giving and Being Our Best" was co-authored in 2014 by renowned writers Harry Paul and John Britt in collaboration with Ed Jent. This book falls within the management literature genre and is presented as a fictional narrative. It begins with discovering a ransom letter within an organization, symbolizing the "kidnapping" of excellence. Through this engaging story and the introduction of fictional supporting characters, the authors lead readers through their perspective on the various components of excellence, why it's challenging to sustain over time, and how we often fail to notice its gradual erosion, replaced by mediocre behavior.

The book's content can be summarized into five primary components. Are these elements personified? Not at all. Over the years, numerous books, potentially numbering in the hundreds, have been written on this subject, each offering its unique insights. The authors contend that these five components serve as the core pillars, with other crucial aspects woven into the fabric of excellence.

The book covers the following topics:

Components of Excellence:

  1. Desire

  2. Competitive Value

  3. Flexibility

  4. Communication

  5. Taking Responsibility

The concept presented in the book is sound and offers a concise and easily digestible read. Its applicability extends beyond organizational contexts and can be readily incorporated into personal, interpersonal, familial, and couple dynamics, making it a versatile choice for many readers.


Positivity is crucial in nurturing enthusiasm and inspiring employees to go the extra mile, creating a workplace where smiles are abundant. Additionally, its importance extends to conveying to customers the profound passion employees hold for their work, highlighting their genuine care. The antithesis of this passion is the inclination to evade challenges and reduce engagement to encounter minimal resistance.

Here are some critical tips for cultivating and harnessing passion:

  • Embrace the belief that every opportunity is fresh and exhilarating; actively seek opportunities and allow yourself to be enthused each time.

  • Dedicate yourself to uncovering new opportunities every day.

Competitive Value

Its primary purpose is ensuring employees possess the necessary skills and competence in their respective roles. This training covers job-specific knowledge, technical skills, and interpersonal skills.

The opposite of competitive value is complacency.

Consider the following suggestions to enhance competitive value:

  • Pair each employee with a mentor or guide.

  • Avoid merely resting on your laurels; actively seek out new challenges.

  • Embrace a supplier-customer approach and treat each subsequent employee as your customer.


Flexibility safeguards the organization from becoming ensnared by inflexible procedures and processes, enabling it to respond effectively to changing realities, technological advancements, and evolving trends.

The foes of flexibility are firmly established procedures and the temptation to stick to them.

Here are some valuable tips for fostering flexibility:

  • Be prepared to relinquish adherence to established procedures when they no longer suit the current circumstances in which they were initially designed.

  • When introducing procedural changes, seek input from individuals involved in the process implementation, not just those responsible for the procedures themselves.


Effective communication strives to set clear expectations for all parties while skillfully balancing speaking and listening.

Communication's adversary lies in delivering mixed messages that lead to confusion and conveying messages without proper planning and consideration.

Here are some tips to promote effective communication:

  • Never assume that others already know; always communicate your intentions.

  • Practice active listening to understand and connect with the speaker genuinely.

Taking Responsibility

Assuming responsibility is a fundamental duty for every employee, irrespective of their seniority, encompassing areas beyond their official scope.

Those who feign accountability and endeavor to assert their superior value and influence over others are the adversaries of responsibility.

Here are some practical tips for embracing responsibility:

  • Demonstrate respect for every employee.

  • Tackle issues where you can have a positive influence.

  • Shift the focus from assigning blame to identifying areas where you can expand outcomes.

In conclusion:

Attaining excellence is a formidable undertaking because no single isolated component can secure it; a comprehensive approach is imperative.

Sustaining excellence presents challenges, as success may lead to the misperception that everyone depends on us, fostering complacency and a regression to average performance.

Consider these strategies for preserving excellence:

  1. Continuously gauge your performance against your potential rather than comparing yourself to competitors, facilitating ongoing improvement.

  2. Acknowledge that everyone has off days, but keep them from diverting you from your overarching goals.

Excellence is within reach through substantial commitment, courage, and hard work, commencing with a mindset and translating into action.

The rewards of excellence encompass performance and personal fulfillment, rendering it a highly desirable pursuit. What more could one aspire to achieve?

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