Which titles should you be loading onto your Kindle or filling your baggage with as you head off on vacation? We select the best of this year’s business reading so far.
What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation, Gary Hamel (Jossey-Bass)
About the only thing a leader can be sure of is that what worked yesterday is unlikely to work today, let alone tomorrow. If ever there was a need for fundamentally new thinking about capitalism, management, leadership, and innovation, and how these things are directly tied to competitive success, it is now.
“What matters now, more than ever, is that managers expand their sense of stewardship and embrace timeless values such as truth, prudence and fairness,” Hamel writes. “Unfortunately, these virtues have been notably scarce in recent years -- particularly in the citadels of capitalism. What’s needed is a values revolution in business – and everyone who has a stake in the future of capitalism will have to do their part.”
So, what matters now? Hamel identifies five issues that are central to success in an age of head-snapping change - values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology.
Who’s In The Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them, Bob Frisch (Jossey-Bass)
Do you know who really makes the big decisions at your organisation? If you think the organisation chart will tell you, think again.
The truth is that it ’s rarely the formal senior management team who’s in the room with the leader when big decisions get made, but instead a kitchen cabinet—an ad hoc, unofficial, and flexible inner circle of advisers that doesn’t even have a name.
“It’s time to send the psychologists packing,” writes Frisch. “Time to stop hamstringing yourself and selling the members of your executive team short. And time to free decision making and decision makers throughout your organisation from the tyranny of the organisation chart.”
Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works, Adam Lashinsky (Business Plus) and The Apple Experience: Enrich Lives, Build Loyalty, and Reimagine Customer Service, Carmine Gallo, (McGraw-Hill)
Analysis of Apple is now a light industry. Inside Apple reveals what Apple executives call the “secret sauce,” namely the systems, tactics and management strategies that allowed Steve Jobs and his company to churn out hit after hit and to inspire a cult-like following.
“This book is an attempt to hack into Apple’s closed world and to decode its secret systems so that aspiring entrepreneurs, curious middle managers, envious rival CEOs, and creatives who dream of turning insights into inventions can understand the company’s processes and customs,” writes Lashinsky.
Meanwhile, The Apple Experience looks at Apple’s take on retailing. This is worth considering as the Apple Store is the most profitable retailer on the planet. It boasts the highest revenue per square foot of any retail store including famous luxury brands such as Tiffany or Coach. The average Apple Store attracts 18,000 visitors a week and consistently earns accolades for its customer service. Apple accomplished all of this success in the span of a decade despite a flurry of critics who all but guaranteed its failure.
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler (Free Press)
As the world’s population expands past seven billion, pessimists paint an ever bleaker picture of a resource scarce future where the gap between rich and poor will grow increasingly large.
Arguing that quite the opposite is true, Abundance is boldly contrarian and optimistic. Tech entrepreneur turned philanthropist, Peter H. Diamandis and science writer Steven Kotler argue that three current forces are leading our world toward abundance: A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) revolution of backyard tinkerers who are often outdoing governments with high-impact innovations in neuroscience, biology, genetics and robotics.
The second force is new sources of money from wealthy techno-philanthropists who are dedicating their fortunes to solving grand, abundance-related challenges. Lastly, there are the poorest of the poor, the so-called “bottom billion,” who have finally been plugged into the global economy by the internet, micro-finance, and wireless communication.
The Wide Lens: A New Strategy For Innovation, Ron Adner (Portfolio)
Why did it take decades for the lifesaving innovation of electronic health records to finally take off? Why are GM’s Volt and Nissan’s Leaf both doomed to failure? How did sales of Amazon’s Kindle skyrocket past Sony’s e-reader, even though Sony was first to market and reviewers agreed it had a superior device?
For your innovation’s value proposition to succeed, everyone must win, suggest Ron Adner. He believes innovators fall prey to two critical blind spots: Co-innovation risk -- How does the commercialisation of your innovation depend on the commercialisation of other innovations?; and adoption chain risk -- Which other partners need to adopt your innovation before end consumers have a chance to assess the full value proposition?
Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble (Harvard Business Review Press)
Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble reveal a bold discovery with far-reaching implications: that innovation flows uphill and its future lies in emerging markets. Today’s poor countries are being tapped for breakthrough innovations that can unlock new markets in the rich world, and can even help solve its societal problems such as the high cost — and poor access to — healthcare.
The book originated in 2008, when Govindarajan was chosen by CEO Jeffrey Immelt to advise GE on innovation as their first Professor-in-Residence and Chief Innovation Consultant. The resulting book offers an inside account of how reverse innovation is transforming GE’s strategy.
The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, Cynthia Montgomery, (HarperBusiness)
Harvard’s Cynthia Montgomery offers a bold redefinition of what strategy is, why it’s important, and how it depends on you, the leader -- the person who must set the course of the organisation and guide and evolve it every day. Inspired by her highly regarded class, the book is a personal call to action for leaders to continuously ask themselves why their organisation matters today and why it will matter tomorrow.
How did strategy separate from leadership? Fifty years ago strategy was identified as the most important duty of the president, but over the next few decades, strategy has become less about implementation by leaders and more about the formulas devised by specialists — legions of MBAs and strategy consultants, armed with frameworks, techniques, and data. “With all good intentions, we had backed strategy into a narrow corner and reduced it to left-brain exercise. In doing so, we lost much of its vitality and much of its connection to the day-to-day life of a company, and we lost sight of what it takes to lead the effort,” writes Montgomery.
Macroeconomics: Understanding the World Economy, David Miles, Francis Breedon and Andrew Scott (John Wiley)
Serious reading for the beach, we admit, but it makes a compelling case for the all-embracing power of macroeconomics. Indeed, macroeconomists are popular as never before as individuals, corporations and nations try to figure a way out of economic malaise.
This is the third edition and it is geared to helping anyone understand the contemporary and past economic events that shape the world we live in. But it does so without focusing on mathematical techniques and models for their own sake.
What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism And China's Modern Consume, Tom Doctoroff (Palgrave Macmillan)
As China races toward becoming the world’s largest economy and a formidable superpower, we need to better understand the ways their people are changing and the ways they’re staying Chinese. What Chinese Want attempts to set the record straight about the worldview, consumer desires, and values of a people who are rapidly modernising but not becoming more like us.
Tom Doctoroff, Greater China CEO for J. Walter Thompson, explains why China continues to resist Western ideals even as it modernises, and instead remains driven by a profound sense of nationality, a complex morality, a deep connection to history, and an embrace of the family over the individual.