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ISBN 9780345485922 Published Nov. 2005
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Posted Jan. 11, 2011 7:53 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
In another installment from the annual review of business books we produced last year, we have an article from friend and former president of the company, Todd Sattersten. In it, he discusses the meta-themes in business thought that he and Jack uncovered as they spent 18 months compiling, reading, choosing and writing The 100 Best Business Books of All Time.
The Five Universal Themes in Business BY TODD SATTERSTEN
What happens when you spend 18 months reading the best in business literature? In our case, two things happened—one expected, the other quite unexpected.
The expected was the creation of a list of the 100 best business books of all time, which led to a book by the same name. The unexpected came as we uncovered a number of meta-themes the books share that exist beyond any predictable grouping by subject matter. For example, Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment has surprising connections with as Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System and Gary Klein’s The Power of Intuition. Ultimately, we found five persistent meta-themes across our selection of the 100 best business books. Each meta-theme appears horizontally across traditional publishing categories, bridging such divisions as sales, management, narrative, and finance. Each meta-theme also scales in a vertical sense, applying to individuals, teams and organizations equally. So profound are these meta-themes, we argue, that these five universal insights act as the foundation for a leader dealing with any aspect of business, whether starting a new job or developing the next year’s corporate strategy.
1. Clarity of Purpose
Purpose provides direction and brings clarity to all work. For the individual in pursuit of purpose, author Po Bronson asks the ultimate question in his book, What Should I Do with My Life? Organizations struggle with the same kind of question when they craft their mission statements and massage their marketing slogans.
2. Wisdom in Decision Making
The process of making decisions is often overly deliberate or completely unconscious. In both cases, we base our decisions on past experience and judge the success of those decisions only on the success rate of the outcomes. In Influence, Robert Cialdini alerts us to how we use unconscious routine to make even the smallest decision, while in The Power of Intuition, Gary Klein provides a map to some of that scripting and shows how we can improve our gut instinct.
3. Bias for Action
Tom Peters and Bob Waterman pointed out in In Search of Excellence that a quality of excellent companies was “the bias for action.” This assertion that action trumps all appears in many great books, so what keeps us from taking action? Author David Allen (Getting Things Done) would say a person’s focus is misplaced on time and priority, rather than action. Authors Jeffery Pfeffer and Bob Sutton (The Knowing-Doing Gap) would say organizations suffer from a gap between knowing and doing.
4. Openness to Change
Understanding change is essential because change affects individuals and organizations constantly. Sales is about change. Marketing is about change. Corporate strategy about is about change. Lou Gerstner says it was changing IBM’s entitlement culture that was his biggest challenge. In The First 90 Days, new job guru Michael Watkins describes the waves of change that new managers must instigate. In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffery Moore shows how products are adopted and what different constituents need to accept change.
5. Giving and Getting
Feedback Imagine throwing a baseball in a dark room. You would miss seeing the trajectory the ball took or where it landed. Our success depends on feed-back. Did we make the right choice? Did the action have the intended effect? Are things changing? Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) says self-reflection is a form of feedback and an essential piece of emotional intelligence. Engineering professor Henry Petroski, author of To Engineer is Human, says failure is a critical part of learning. And in Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig Ziglar says listening is the most important part of selling.
These themes are likely to persist as business and business literature evolves further, because companies continually fail to absorb the simple lessons: Find a clear purpose. Be aware that past experience and a mass of information can interfere with wise decisions. Maintain a bias toward action. Be open to change. Seek feedback. These behaviors link together: Clarity of purpose provides wisdom in decision making, which informs action, which in turn, creates change, while feedback informs them all.
PREVIOUS POSTS FROM IN THE BOOKS
- I: Financial Markets: Their Promise and Failure (and Promise) BY DYLAN SCHLEICHER
- II: When Ecology and Economy Meet BY KATE MYTTY
- III: Why We Love Business Books More Than Ever BY ERIKA ANDERSEN
- IV: Odd Intersections: Fiction Captures the Complexities of Business BY REBECCA SCHLEI HARTMAN
- V: Explorations Into the Human Psyche BY ROBBIE HARTMAN
- VI: For Women Only? A Look at Trends in Business Books Written by Women BY SALLY HALDORSON
- VII: Real-World Lessons in Leadership BY ROBERT MORRIS
- VIII: We the Internet BY DYLAN SCHLEICHER
- IX: The Shifting Landscape of Moving Ideas: The Art of Publishing in a Socially Empowered World BY JON MUELLER
- X: The Information Age
- XI: Finding Opportunities: Re-examining Personal and Organizational Strength in Challenging Times BY JON MUELLER
Don't Quit Your Day Job
Posted Oct. 4, 2010 11:01 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
There are a great many (and many great) literary books about work. There are those that search for the deeper meaning of work by interviewing others about the work they do, such as Po Bronson's What Should I Do with My Life?, Studs Terkel's Working, and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alex De Botton. There are wonderful business novels, from Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener to Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full. There are humorous work memoirs such as Dan Kennedy's Rock On and Iain Levison's underappreciated A Working Stiff's Manifesto.There's even a great literary anthology about business in literature, called Minding the Store: Great Writing about Business, from Tolstoy to Now.
Don't Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit. You will probably recognize some of the contributors, like John Grisham (The Rainmaker and A Time to Kill), Winston Groom (Forrest Gump) and Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), and hopefully get to know some of the others—like Tom Franklin (if you don't already know him), the author of Hell at the Breach, Smonk, and the forthcoming Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.
I'm pretty sure that my blind headfirst leap into writing fiction occurred for the same reasons it occurred with my brethren: I had discovered some new types of music, I'd been scorned one too many times by a woman, and my summer job involved driving a garbage truck.
In "Tote Monkey," Josilyn Jackson writes:
I said, "Sure. I will be an office assistant. Why not?"
I know the answer to that now. The job should have been called Paper Tote Monkey. Because that's what I did. I toted paper. [...]
I learned quickly that since I had flunked out of school, gotten in a fight with God, moved away from all my friends, and was so ashamed that I was desperate to avoid my family, boredom was the worst thing for me. Being a Tote Monkey gave me way too much time to think, and I spent it dwelling on all the ways I'd failed.
Some people work to satisfy their creative urges outside of their day job; Their are poets in our factories, painters in our corn fields and short story writers in our used-car lots. Being a garbage man or an office assistant is honorable, and is fulfilling work if approached right. But Don't Quit Your Day Job reinforces that sometimes you have to (quit your day job), that there's also honor in pursuing your passion as your career. And, hey, sometimes it even works out.
"A fine commute accompaniment."
Posted May 3, 2010 4:51 a.m. by sally-haldorson
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
Every month, Penguin/Portfolio posts a new free podcast that you can download from iTunes or listen to on their site called The Business Beat. It was exciting news to hear that The Business Beat was featured in USA TODAY’s “Watch, Listen and Read” column today--it’s on 6B of the Money section, if you have a paper copy on hand--, not only because we love the work that Portfolio does with its business books, but because at the end of every program, Jack reviews a classic business book in his Just Jack! section.
The past month's episode...
answers the questions that many new business school graduates are asking themselves: How can we maintain our ethical standards while succeeded in our careers? How do we continue our business education after graduation? What do we do with the rest of our lives? And does an MBA even matter these days? To answer these questions, co-hosts Courtney Young and Laura Clark brought in a panel of experts. Portfolio president and publisher Adrian Zackheim talks about the significance of an MBA in today's business climate. Peter Escher, co-author of The MBA Oath, discusses the efforts of a group of Harvard Business School graduates to bring ethics back to business. 800-CEO-READ's Jack Covert, author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, explains why everyone needs to read Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life. And Michael O'Malley, author of The Wisdom of Bees, shares some business lessons from an unexpected source.
The next edition, available May 18th, will find Jack reviewing Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start.
USA Today writer, Michele Archer, describes The Business Beat as such: "Clocking in at about 25 minutes, The Business Beat makes a fine commute accompaniment." And we agree wholeheartedly.
Posted April 22, 2010 7:10 a.m. by jon
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
I've been thinking a lot today about "day jobs" and what that concept means to people. For some, it's what they do, it's what they're good at, and for lack of a better term, it's their lives. For others, it's something they use, to pay the bills while they wait for something better to come along, or to fund projects they're working on outside of work, that don't make enough money to survive on.
Actor/director Crispin Glover is in Milwaukee today, and is an interesting case study for the 'day job' concept. Most people recognize Glover from his quirky roles in big Hollywood films, but less are aware of what he does off camera. As a director, Glover's films will never get Hollywood support and distribution because of their subject matter, but that's ok with him. In fact, he has very specific criteria for how his films are presented: For one, he must be present any time one of his films are shown. At these events, Glover does a brief slideshow, screens his current film, holds a lengthy Q&A about the film, and then stands in the lobby and personally greets every attendee.
It doesn't take a ton of knowledge about the cost of film production to understand that this is a very expensive effort. For Glover, it's ok, because that's what he uses his day job for - to fund the production and screening of his own films, exactly the way he wants to.
While all of us don't have million dollar day jobs to fund our personal interests, it's perhaps more interesting to make note of those that accomplish great things on much smaller budgets. Here at 800-CEO-READ, there's a good amount of entrepreneurial spirit in the house, and whether we or our families or friends are using monetary resources to pay for projects, the important thing is to acknowledge the drive to produce those projects.
In ending, I feel it's appropriate to point out Jack Covert's recent recap of Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life? for Penguin's Business Beat. How we answer that question can give us a great deal of insight into what we do, and why we do it. It's OK to have a day job. It's OK to not do your "passion" full-time. If you think creatively, and plan accordingly, you can find all sorts of enjoyment, resources, and opportunities that lie within any number of things done during the day, or after business hours. The important thing is to not waste time, but take every chance you can to find something fulfilling within everything you do.
Posted April 16, 2010 9:35 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ Justin Fox, author of The Myth of the Rational Market, pondered Improving the Let's-Persuade-Business-to-Improve Movement in a recent Harvard Business Review post. There's a lot of folks out there writing about we can persuade business and those in it to behave more ethically, but Fox thinks its still a hard sell:
I don't think anyone has come up with an argument for or description of better business behavior that has anything like the elegance and power of the economists' "incentives matter."
He ends, understandably, on a slightly defeated note, writing: "Clearly, I'm stuck here. Can somebody help me out?" Umair Haque, his colleague at HBR tried to answer his call for help, making The Case for Being Disruptively Good, arguing for the forces of information, discipline, competition, disruption and rule-making. He writes:
So why don't more businesses see these forces? It's the wrong question. The right one is: because there will be some organizations that are quicker to get it than others, what do the forces above mean for the economy? Well, they suggest that businesses who can do more good will survive, thrive, and prosper — and those who do more bad will stumble, falter, and fall.
I think he's definitety right, but he is taking a pretty long view of history when he writes: "Yesterday, the global economy was built on debtors' prisons, usury, expropriation, colonialism, and slavery. Today, it isn't." and "Yet even two hundred years from now, I'm sure incumbents will ask—what, you want us to do more good? And then, as ever, from under their patrician noses, revolutionaries who can do better will disrupt them." And while Umair's language speaks to me, I don't know if it is as catchy as "incentives matter" to those marching off to Wall Street. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
➻ Richard Florida also takes a longer view in his works about the creative class—such as The Rise of the Creative Class—and he has a great new book coming out in May called The Great Reset. You can get a taste of the book in his March article in The Atlantic, How the Crash Will Reshape America, or by reading his recent interview with Conor Clarke for the same magazine.
➻ Portfolio has posted a new issue of The Business Beat. Featured this month are Peter Escher, author of The MBA Oath, Michael O'Malley, author of The Wisdom of Bees, and, as always, our own peerless leader Jack Covert in his Just Jack corner. Jack discusses Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life, one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and a close second (in my mind) to Studs Terkel's Working as the best book of interviews ever created about work.
Books 100 Best Business Books of All Time provides 100 units with a discussion of book selection of different problems. This book is like a "dictionary" of business books that point us in order to save time, money and energy before seeking appropriate books.
(Shakes fist at Google Translate.)
*This applies only to those of you that can actually read Indonesian.
➻ Peter Elkind's new book, Rough Justice: The Rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer, is embargoed until next Tuesday, but you can get a preview at Fortune, blessed as they were with an an exclusive excerpt. "'Is there a way to wire money where it's not evident that it's coming from me?' the governor asked."
➻ The Web Designer Depot posted a great overview of Scott Belsky's Making Ideas Happen by Cameron Chapman. He writes "Making Ideas Happen is an excellent resource for those of us who have no shortage of ideas but often have a hard time seeing those ideas through to completion." That is everyone I know, including me and probably you.
➻ Roger C. Parker has a novel idea: Learn to write a business book by studying 800-CEO-READ’s Top 25 Business Books.
➻ Following the Freakonomics trend, America's finest news source, The Onion, reported recently that "last month's quarter-inch drop in height among Mexican dead-lift competitors in the middle-heavyweight division could spell disaster for GE's aviation and software subsidiaries." "But, like anything else, a shrewd investor must always ask himself one thing: How many hot dogs did I eat last year?"
➻ I'll ask her someday.