Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't forget the white space

My weekly book post on s+b's blogs is on the need for "white space" in idea generation:

Why I Get My Best Ideas in the Shower

I get a lot of good ideas in the shower, but I never thought too much about why until I read a new book by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack, The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success (Crown Business, 2013). It turns out that it’s not the water pelting my noggin or the shampoo that promotes healthy, silky smooth hair triggering my creativity. It’s the default mode network in my the rest here

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rita McGrath's career assessment

My book post on s+b blogs this week offers an assessment for business people who are seeking to bolster career security:

Can Your Career Survive Transient Competitive Advantage?

Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, has devoted her 20-year-long academic career to sussing out how companies can successfully respond to a global economy characterized by uncertainty, fast-paced change, and increasing competitive pressure. She wrote three books, with Wharton’s Ian MacMillan, which explored how to wring out growth in such an environment. In June, her latest book, The End of Competitive Advantage: How To Keep Your Strategy Moving As Fast As Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press), was released.

In it, McGrath steps squarely into the ring of strategy. “Strategy is stuck” is her first jab, and then she steps in with the body blows—arguing that sustainable competitive advantage, the holy grail of strategic concepts and frameworks put forth by such luminaries as Michael Porter and by Gary Hamel and the late C.K. Prahalad is no longer a realistic goal. Her knockout punch: Increasingly, across many markets, competitive advantage is transient and conventional business strategy isn’t prepared to handle it.

The End of Competitive Advantage explores the ramifications of this transience on corporate strategy, and how companies can manage it. At the risk of oversimplification, her core recommendation is to discover new businesses, milk them, and when the time is right, get out of them faster than everyone else. But toward the end, McGrath slipped in something that you rarely see in business strategy books—a chapter on the effect of transient competitive advantage on us, the toilers in the corporate fields, and our careers.

If our employers begin rejiggering their businesses’ portfolios at a faster pace, our jobs are going to get rejiggered more often too. And if that starts to happen, are you ready? McGrath offers the following 10 yes-or-no scenarios to help you figure that the rest here

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard said...

Elmore Leonard passed away today at age 87. I haven't read any of his westerns, but I read many of his crime novels and always got a lot of pleasure from them. He was a crisp, clear, no-BS writer. He also published a short how-to book on writing back in 2007 that was based on the following 10 rules:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" …he admonished gravely
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Robert Monks takes on the corporate drones

My weekly post on the s+b blog is about a new book from a guy I've long admired, Robert A.G. Monks:

In “Drone Corporations,” Self-Interest Prevails
In Citizens DisUnited: Passive Investors, Drone CEOs, and the Corporate Capture of the American Dream (Miniver Press, 2013), Robert A.G. Monks sets the tone right off the bat by recalling the time he stood up at an ExxonMobil annual meeting and addressed CEO Lee Raymond as “emperor.” Indeed, Monks has long been a highly vocal gadfly and leading activist when it comes to corporate governance. 
Here, he argues that corporate governance is more important than ever because of two relatively recent developments. First, corporations have ascended to levels of unprecedented power in the United States, thanks in large part to legal rulings. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, for example, removed virtually all limitations on corporate political spending—a “grotesque decision,” rightly judges Monks. Second, the leaders of the largest and most powerful corporations in the U.S. (ExxonMobil, IBM, and General Electric top the list) have never been less accountable to shareholders. This is because of weak boards and the movement of large ownership positions to passive institutional investors, among other things. The result is “drone corporations,” in which “manager kings” have free rein to pursue their own self-interest. Monks puts more than half of the Fortune 500 among their the rest here

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Quick tips for better mentorship

This week, my book post on s+b's blog offers quick tips on better mentoring from Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith:

How You Can Be a Great Mentor, and a Great Protégé 
Revised editions of books don’t often pique my interest, even when they are best-selling business books, such as Chip Bell’s Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning, which Berrett-Koehler originally published in 1996. But there is something unusual about the newly published third edition: Bell has taken on Marshall Goldsmith as a coauthor. When I asked Bell why he decided to share the author credit on such a well-regarded book, he said, “No one on the planet has more expertise and is better known in the coaching field than Marshall.” No argument here. 
Accordingly, there’s lots of new content in the book, such as interviews with a number of notable corporate leaders and a mentoring toolbox. The latter features, among other things, the following “quick tips” list for mentors and their protégés (reprinted with the authors’ permission) the rest here

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stephen King on opening lines

There's a very cool one-question interview with Stephen King in The Atlantic. Joe Fassler asked him about his favorite passages in a couple of his books and King mentioned two opening lines. That lead to King talking about the art and craft of a great opening line. Where are you gonna get better advice than that?

Stephen King: There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It's tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft -- I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.

But there's one thing I'm sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

How can a writer extend an appealing invitation -- one that's difficult, even, to refuse?... read the rest here