Tuesday, November 27, 2012

s+b's Best Business Books 2012

The annual Best Business Books special section is now online at strategy+business. We've got a great team of expert essayists, who chose and reviewed a terrific stack of books...in my not-so-humble opinion. Here's my intro to the section and the best of the best lineup. Read the rest here...
New and improved! This promise gets slapped on business books as often as on household cleansers. Many books are new each year, but those with genuine insight and value are very rare indeed.
We take the time to find them. In strategy+business’s Best Business Books 2012, our team of distinguished experts — some veterans of this annual special section, namely James O’Toole, Sally Helgesen, Phil Rosenzweig, and “Z” Holly, and some newcomers, Alice Schroeder, J. Philip Lathrop, and Shaun Holliday — review 21 tomes published between the autumn of 2011 and the autumn of 2012 that fulfill their promise.
Be sure to take a close look at our Top Shelf selections — our reviewers’ picks as the best of this year’s best business books. They include a new appraisal of Dwight David Eisenhower that will prompt you to consider your own effectiveness as a leader, a realistic plan for improving healthcare that eschews political rhetoric for practical solutions, an exploration of cloud computing that gets beyond the surface technological story to look more deeply at how it will change business practices, and four more books that merit your time and attention.

Here's the Top Shelf selections (lifted off the s+b website). Congrats to the authors! 

Eisenhower in War and Peace
by Jean Edward Smith
(Random House, 2012)
The New Emerging Market Multinationals: Four Strategies forDisrupting Markets and Building Brands
by Amitava Chattopadhyay and Rajeev Batra, with Aysegul Ozsomer
(McGraw-Hill, 2012)
Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies
by Jim Stengel
(Crown Business, 2011)
Cloud Surfing: A New Way to Think about Risk, Innovation, Scale, and Success
by Thomas M. Koulopoulos
(Bibliomotion, 2012)
Healthcare Beyond Reform: Doing It Right for Half the Cost
by Joe Flower
(Productivity Press, 2012)
Organizational Culture
Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century: 25th Anniversary Edition
by Marvin R. Weisbord
(Jossey-Bass, 2012)
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
(Pantheon, 2012)


Monday, November 19, 2012

Killer quotes #2



"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject"

--attributed to Winston Churchill 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Journalistic objectivity?

I started browsing an advance copy of a new book - Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012 - that collects all of the coverage of Warren Buffett in Fortune magazine over the past six decades. It was put together by Carol Loomis, whose first paragraph in the book's preface struck me as odd. Here it is:
Because I have long been the chief writer about Warren Buffett at Fortune, which for decades has covered him more closely than any other business publication, I have often been asked whether I'm not going to branch out and write a Buffett biography. I have always said no, sure beyond a doubt that a writer who is a good friend of the subject does not make a good biographer. And I have indeed been a close friend of Warren's for more than forty years, a shareholder in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, for almost that long, and the pro bono editor of his annual letter to shareholders for thirty-five. All of those facts can be accommodated in my Fortune articles about Buffett, simply by my informing the reader that they exist. But they are not a firm base for a wide-ranging personal and professional biography, in which there should be considerable distance between writer and subject. Its absence in this case settled the question.
I don't quite follow the logic here. Being a close friend of Buffett precludes Loomis from writing a bio about him, but not writing about him in Fortune?

The other interesting thing is how adroitly Buffett and a few other businesspeople - Jack Welch and the late Steve Jobs come to mind - handle the press by picking out a favored few, who they then treat as friends and grant insider access. I wonder how much that has contributed to their reputations and whether there's a lesson in that for CEOs?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Dalai Lama came to town

I was lucky to get a chance to see the 14th Dalai Lama just down the street at the College of William & Mary yesterday. He gave a terrific talk -- informal, humorous, and inspiring -- on the need to practice compassion and its power to change the world and our lives. You can hear it here.

I particularly liked what he said about the importance of making thoughtful and independent decisions of our own:

"We must study reality. The mind must be calm, then it can carry investigation or research more objectively. If there’s too much anger, suspicion, the mind is already one-sided and cannot see objectively."
"Investigate, experiment, do not easily accept."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring training tips

In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals hired Jason Selk as its first Director of Mental Training. The team had pitching, batting, and fielding coaches, but the players also needed to learn how to set goals, focus on their priorities, stay positive, be disciplined, and win. They went on to win their first World Series in 20 years.

Since then Selk has written a couple of books detailing his approach to high personal performance: 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins
and Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance. And publicist Cathy Lewis just sent along his five timely tips for execs who want to up their games:

Watch your swing, forget the home run. If you focus on your target, such as finishing the report, making the sale, or acquiring the new client, you may never get there. Pay attention to your process instead. Identify those daily goals that have the greatest influence on your performance and, therefore, your success. If your aim is to double your client load in one year, then figure out three specific tasks, or process goals, you need to complete each day that will help you reach that ultimate target. Then be relentless and consistent about completing your three process goals every day.

Don't take your eye off the ball. Many high-performing businesspeople believe they can multitask and still maintain focus. The American Psychological Association cites a study showing that multitasking leads to as much as a 40 percent drop in productivity. Recent research from Stanford University found that multitaskers are less productive than their single-minded counterparts, and also suffer from weaker self-control. Regain control of your performance. While completing the three essential tasks you identified above, turn off your cell phone and shut down your email.

Be your own ref. If you want to be more productive, you need to establish your own limits--your "not to-do" list. This might include counterproductive tasks such as responding to company emails during family time, talking to clients after 3:30 p.m., or not saying yes right away to a new project, but giving your answer the next day, after you've slept on it. Be sure that you are scheduling your calendar rather than allowing your calendar to schedule you.

Get R&R between workouts. Nearly 4 out of 10 workers are regularly fatigued, according to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Lack of sleep causes fatigue, and that's a productivity killer. In fact, the rate of lost productivity for workers with fatigue was 66 percent, compared with 26 percent for workers without fatigue. Fatigued workers lost an average of 5.6 hours per week of production time. Make rest, rejuvenation, and 7-9 hours of sleep a priority.

Listen to your body. When professional athletes try to push through the pain, they end up on the DL. In the workplace, this is known as "extreme working," and it results in lower performance. New research found that 69 percent of extreme workers--super high achievers who regularly work 60-80 hours a week--admit that their extreme working habits undermine their health. Most of these workers can't sustain this level of performance, and end up burning out, just like promising athletes who have to sit on the bench all season or retire early because of injuries.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Approaching thought leadership

One of the major benefits of working as a senior editor for Booz & Company's strategy+business is the opportunity to work with its editor-in-chief, Art Kleiner. Art is a leading business writer and editor - he's worked with business thinkers like Peter Senge, Arie de Geus,and Noel Tichy.

When I first started working with Art, he told me about his simple, but hardly simplistic, approach to analyzing thought leadership, which uses four questions, or orientations:

  • What is your purpose?
  • What research is the work based on, and how credible is it?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the story?

The other day, Art elaborated on this analytical framework in a webinar for Leading News, an online leadership community created by Patricia Wheeler and Marshall Goldsmith. If you're associated with creating thought leadership or aspire to become a thought leader, the audio replay is well worth your time (listen here: http://ow.ly/8U4cp). Art was also kind enough to provide a great deck on thought leadership, which accompanied the talk (see http://slidesha.re/zAuu3v).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Isaacson's Jobs

Everybody has reviewed Walter Isaacson's bio Steve Jobs and rightly so - it's a terrific book about a highly successful businessman and a highly flawed person. Unsurprisingly, one of the best reviews was Malcolm Gladwell's for The New Yorker. He pegged Jobs as tweaker rather than a inventor.

The book is full of great stories, but the one that I can't get out of my mind isn't about Jobs. It's about a guy named Ron Wayne, an engineer at Atari, to whom Jobs and Wozniak gave 10% of Apple when they formed it on April 1, 1976. Here goes...

Wayne then got cold feet. As Jobs started planning to borrow and spend more money, he recalled the failure of his own company. He didn't want to go through that again. Jobs and Wozniak had no personal assets, but Wayne (who worried about a global financial Armageddon) kept gold coins hidden in his mattress. Because they had structured Apple as a simple parnership rather than a corporation, the partners would be personally liable for the debts, and Wayne was afraid potential creditors would go after him. So he returned to the Santa Clara County office just eleven days later with a "statement of withdrawal" and an amendment to the partnership agreement. "By virtue of a re-assessment of understandings by and between all parties," it began, "Wayne shall hereinafter cease to function in the status of Partner." It noted that in payment for his 10% of the company, he received $800, and shortly afterward $1,500 more.

Had he stayed on and kept his 10% stake, at the end of 2010 it would have been worth approximately $2.6 billion.