This is a unique business book. Sure, it deals with specific values and how those values apply to business. The catch is that MWA approaches the subject from a distinct cultural perspective. Because of this, your first instinct might be to dismiss the book as relevant only to a handful of people in the business world. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truch. MWA does a very good job of both describing a variety of traditional Hawaiian values and translating them into language that is accessible to mainstream businesspeople. Just like a good cross-cultural training session, MWA shows us that we’ve got more commonalities than differences, while simultaneously celebrating the differences we do have.
The remarkable thing about author Rosa Say is that her unique point of view overlooks both the Hawaiian and mainland ways of doing business. She grew up in Hawaii and is fully accustomed to the pace and temperament of doing business island-style and, at the same time, her background as an executive in large corporations has given her insight into what most of us on the mainland would call "traditional" business values. Because of this unique perspective, Rosa is perfectly positioned to reconcile the two, via Managing with Aloha. Though the book often seems written for Hawaiian readers due to to its focus on Hawaiian values and use of Hawaiian language, in the true spirit of Ho’okipa (hospitality of giving) Rosa goes to great lengths in order to be inclusive to her non-Hawaiian readers as well.
Managing with Aloha contains 18 chapters, not including several excellent corollary sections such as the Recommended Reading and the Introduction. Every chapter focuses upon a single value, and it’s because of this focus that the book really shines. Each chapter takes essentially the same appropach to describing and interpreting its’ value–at the beginning, we’re presented with the Hawaiian name of that chapter’s value and a brief definition. Following the definition is a colored textbox that expands the definition, often pulling in values from previous chapters to add additional context and provide some sense-making. The meat of each chapter begins following this expanded definition.
The first value addressed is Aloha. This isn’t surprising, since most of us mainlanders associate Hawaii with the "aloha spirit" and, as it turns out, we don’t know how right we are. The real value of Aloha is skillfully woven throughout the remainder of this remarkable book as the author gives us a peek behind the curtain of island hospitality.
In order to illustrate her points about specific values, Rosa taps into her considerable experience in resort management. Her anecdotes are entertaining and always germane to the discussion at hand. She notes early in the book that management as a profession was a conscious choice for her, and that choice is validated time and again as she notes how she or others have applied various values to the workplace. A good example of this can be found in chapter three, which is about ‘Imi ola, or seeking life in its highest form. She draws upon her work with the Alaka’i Nalu, or "leaders of the waves." As a surfer, I was particularly interested in the Alaka’i Nalu stories, since I’ve got the utmost respect for Hawaiian watermen. Rosa sprinkles Alaka’i Nalu references throughout the book and it’s clear that she also has tremendous respect for not only their skills in the water, but also their willingness to transform themselves from a group of enthusiasts into a high performance team that provides leadership and value for their organization.
Managing with Aloha has many stories similar to the Alaka’i Nalu. Though her stories often seem far from buttoned-down boardrooms, Rosa’s experiences communicating authentic values and coaching teams to achieve ever greater successes isn’t really so far from what many of us do every day.