Book Review: Edge

  |   Books Print Friendly and PDF

Many people are writing about implicit bias in the world and in the workplace these days. Unfortunately, most of the stuff that I’ve read is either shrill or impractical or both. Laura Huang’s book, Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage, is both reasoned and practical.

Dr. Huang draws on her personal experience and professional research to tell you how to deal with implicit bias. She recognizes that other people will form their own preconceptions about you.

Often, they’ll form preconceptions based on race or religion. They can also be based on what you were wearing the first time the other person saw you or the college you attended or the region of the country or the world you hail from. Sometimes, those preconceptions are based on a splinter of their experience with someone they think was like you.

When that happens to you, and it will, Dr. Huang offers you a strategy to gain an edge. Here’s what she says about the book in the introduction:

“Having an edge is about gaining an advantage, but it goes beyond just advantage. It’s about recognizing that others will have their own perceptions about us, right or wrong. When you recognize the power in those perceptions and learn to use them in your favor, you create an edge.”

Her approach revolves around two concepts. “Enrich” is your ability to provide value to other people. This is the foundation of everything. No linguistic tricks or carefully-cultivated strategy will help you if you can’t deliver value – enrich.

She calls the other concept “Delight.” This isn’t about being charming or entertaining. Instead, it’s about acting in ways so people to give you an opportunity to enrich.

You may have some trouble understanding this until you’re a significant way into the book. That’s because the material on Enrich comes before the material on Delight. That’s necessary for understanding, but it’s the reverse of the way you will use these concepts in real life. There, you delight first to get the opportunity to enrich. Then, you deliver value.

Dr. Huang structures her book around 13 principles. She devotes a chapter to each one. Here they are:

Principle 1: Hard work should speak for itself. (But it doesn’t.)

Principle 2: It’s not about giving it your all. Your basic goods help you get it all.

Principle 3: To use your basic goods in distinct ways, go where others don’t. “Basic goods” are the few things that make you singular. They’re what make it possible for you to enrich when you get the opportunity. You need to know and be conscious of your weaknesses as well as your strengths so you know specifically what you can do to enrich.

Principle 4: Embrace constraints. Constraints provide opportunities. This is a valuable chapter. Dr. Huang covers the same ground as many writers on creativity. Constraints help us be more creative. But she goes beyond the usual and describes how we often constrain ourselves because we don’t spend enough time on figuring out what the problem is before we jump to solving it.

Principle 5: Your powers of discernment come from trusting your intuition and your experiences.

Principle 6: Before people will let you in, they need to be delighted.

Principle 7: Don’t over plan. Instead, aim for flexibility and opportunities to delight.

Principle 8: Stay authentic and embrace how delight occurs in situ.

Principle 9: “Being yourself” entails guiding others to all the glorious versions of yourself.

Principle 10: Know how others see you so you can redirect them to how they should see you.

Principle 11: Guide others to what is within you by recognizing what is around you.

Principle 12: It’s not where you’ve been; it’s where you’re going. Guide how others see your trajectory. We’re used to presenting the facts of our life as if they’re a series of static events. Dr. Huang suggests we make that presentation about trajectory–where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It’s a powerful way to guide other people’s perceptions to a place we like.

Principle 13: Turn adversity into your edge. Dr. Huang brings us full circle, by describing how hard work fits into her scheme. Here are a couple of explanatory paragraphs from the end of the book.

“I would never say that telling someone to work hard and put in effort is bad advice. But it just seems so obvious and basic. It doesn’t seem very helpful, particularly when it’s presented as the panacea for getting a job or receiving some accolade or reward. And yet, I keep hearing people giving this advice and explaining that hard work was the key to their own achievements. /Just keep working hard. Just keep chasing your dreams. The rewards will follow.’

We all know there’s actually a multitude of reasons why someone gets the desired outcome. Luck is one. Systemic privilege is another. And an edge is yet another. Enrich, Delight, Guide, and Effort—these are the components to creating your own edge.”

In a Nutshell

Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage by Laura Huang is an excellent book about how to defeat others’ harmful preconceptions about you and gain an edge.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet, why not be the first to leave a comment?