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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
Our 2010 Retrospective
Posted Dec. 30, 2010 10:15 a.m. by sally-haldorson
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
2010 was, for 800-CEO-READ, a year of stability, growth and redesign. Not everyone nor every company is so lucky as to say the same about the past year, but after the chaos, both internally and externally, of 2008-09, we count ourselves lucky that we close the year in a celebratory mood.
Some highlights and happenings from 2010:
January: We celebrated the winners of the annual 800-CEO-READ business book awards and other industry folks at a party in NYC. The first issue of the second-coming of The Keen Thinker newsletter is released.
February: After a printer error, our annual review of business books, In the Books, finally became available. We resurrected inBubbleWrap, our free book giveaway site, from a long slumber. The sixth PechaKucha event held in Milwaukee was outstanding and overstuffed. We began our move into our new space after years of being cramped in a small but charming warehouse space.
March: Jack received a request to supply copies of books chosen for The 100 Best Business Books of All Time for a military base library in Afghanistan and through the generosity of authors and publishers, we were able to supply 5 libraries worth of books by September. Marshall Goldsmith brought his MOJO to Milwaukee for our LeaveSmarter series.
April: Shawn and Nancy said goodbye to Mack (who many of us remember puppy-sitting here at the office when he was just a little lab) after 11 years of friendship, and Dylan dedicated this Juniper Tar song (Aaron's band that toured a lot this year) to them on our blog.
May: We began our partnership with Inc.com in creating a business book bestseller list. Dylan installed a quote on our office wall, a quote that links us to, and reaffirms, our company’s culture and past. We presented Pecha Kucha #7. Adam Hartung talked at the 800ceoread LeaveSmarter series.
June: We launched our first digital book over at ChangeThis.com, Tough Love by John Moore, a business-inspired screenplay. 800-CEO-READ’s ChangeThis was one of the co-sponsors for the Seth Godin-inspired Linchpin Meetup event in Milwaukee.
July: We celebrated the 1 year anniversary of our Big Brain Business Club. Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten’s book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, And How They Can Help You became available as an audio book through Audible.com.
August: The business book world lit up when author Seth Godin announced recently that he would no longer be publishing through a “traditional way.” We held Milwaukee’s 8th PechaKucha Night. Jon went country.
September: We were thrilled to have Jonathan L. S. Byrnes, author of Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink, in Milwaukee to speak at our latest LeaveSmarter event.
October: Zach and Kristen welcomed Virginia into the world and we welcomed her into the 800-CEO-READ family. Jack is featured on Cave Henricks Communications' new blog feature: Five Quick Questions with Publishing's Top Leaders. The company sponsored the David Byrne film, Ride, Rise, Roar, at the Milwaukee Film Festival and then went on a field trip to see it. We held the 9th Milwaukee Pecha Kucha night. Roy grew up bought a condo.
December: We held our annual Business Author Pow Wow event here in Milwaukee (and had our first party in our new offices!) The category winners of our annual 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards were announced. We released the our 2010 best seller list.
Our 2011 Resolution
When I wrote a company-wide email asking for help on compiling the best or most notable moments of 2010, here is a sample of the responses I received. (Keep in mind that our company motto is: We tease because we love.)
Aaron: We didn't fire anyone!!
Jack: Not yet, there are a couple days left.
Jon: Zach had a baby.
Sally: That should be the name of a sitcom.
Roy: Jack stopped hitting me this year... Oh, wait, nevermind...
Meg: Jon scored 244 at Wii bowling today. Does that count?
Aaron: That counts to get him FIRED!!
Jon: Aaron, you're fired. Again.
Sally: You people are useless.
Carol: I love this company!
The reason I inserted that banter above is to give you a brief (hopefully humorous) taste of what it's like to work here. Relationships are important to us and we are much like a family with our own shorthand, our inside jokes, our combined history. It's what makes this place work.
We also put a premium on getting to know our customers and our contacts, our co-conspirators in this world of business books. If we had to pick one event out of 2010 as emblematic of 800-CEO-READ, it would be the Author Pow Wow, where we got a chance to meet so many of you and share what and who we know with you.
Our resolution for 2011 is to focus even more intently on getting to know you. All of you. Our customers (whether you are author, publisher or book buyer) are our company.
Jack Covert Selects – All the Devils are Here
Posted Dec. 10, 2010 10:23 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera, Portfolio, 380 pages, $32.95, Hardcover, November 2010, ISBN 9781591843634
I know you might be thinking, “Another book on the financial crisis… really?” But this is the one that many have been waiting for, and after reading it for myself, I can safely say that Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera have delivered the most comprehensive documentation to-date of the many pieces that built the puzzle of our financial system over the decades. And from CEOs to politicians, government officials to mortgage lenders, borrowers, ratings agencies and traders, all the devils are truly in there.
The authors are a dream-team of reportage. A contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Bethany McLean may be most well known for coauthoring The Smartest Guys in the Room, which is the definitive work on the Enron scandal and an easy choice for us when picking The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. And Joe Nocera, a columnist for The New York Times, ranks with Michael Lewis as one of the best pure writers on business working today. His 2008 book, Good Guys and Bad Guys, is one of the best collections of business journalism—and study of American business personalities—ever put together.
Their new effort, All the Devils is Here, is a complex tale, almost dizzying in scope, but is handled with such skill and so chock-full of magnificent and memorable stories that you’ll know the full story inside-out by the time you put the book down. The tale of John Breit in the book’s prologue will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
Breit had once been the head of market risk management at Merrill Lynch, with easy access to the company’s directors. But, over the past decade, Breit and all other significant risk management was basically relegated to a broom closet—which is why it was a surprise when Merrill CEO Stan O’Neal asked to see him in September of 2007 to get his calculations of Merrill’s exposure to risk. McLean and Nocera recount the end of that meeting beautifully:
Listening to him, Breit realized that O’Neal seemed to have no idea that Merrill’s risk management function had been sidelined.
The meeting finally came to an end; Breit shook O’Neal’s hand and wished him luck. “I hope we talk again,” he said.
“I don’t know,” replied O’Neal. “I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be around.”
O’Neal went back to his desk to contemplate the disaster he now knew was unavoidable—not just for Merrill Lynch but for all of Wall Street. John Briet walked back to his office with a strange realization that he—a midlevel employee utterly out of the loop—had just informed one of the most powerful men on Wall Street that the party was over.
I would never use the words “if you’re going to read one book on the financial crisis,” because there are just too many must-reads in the category. And because its attention is so all encompassing, this book requires a good deal more patience than others. But McLean and Nocera have done something important, special and singular in All the Devils are Here, and I really hope you all read it.
Posted Oct. 22, 2010 11:29 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ Vanity Fair has an excerpt up about The Blundering Herd at Merrill Lynch from one of this year's most anticipated books, All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis. From that excerpt:
In the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, there was no more infectious disease on Wall Street than Goldman envy. Goldman Sachs, perhaps the most storied name in all of American finance, had gone public only in 1999, the last of the big firms to do so. After the I.P.O., Goldman’s mind-boggling profits were on full display. Starting in 2003, Goldman went on a run the likes of which had rarely been seen in American business. In just three years, its revenues more than doubled, to $38 billion, as its profits skyrocketed. In 2007, C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein received a bonus of more than $68 million. Even junior traders made millions. Who wouldn’t be jealous of numbers like those? UBS, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank—they were all stricken, to varying degrees, with Goldman envy.
No firm, though, had it worse than Merrill Lynch. And once the crisis struck, there was no firm for whom the disease would prove to be more fatal.
The authors of the book are Bethany McLean, a writer for Vanity Fair and the coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time), and Joe Nocera, a business columnist for The New York Times and author of Good Guys and Bad Guys: Behind the Scenes with the Saints and Scoundrels of American Business (and Everything in Between). It is due to be released next month.
➻ Scott Belsky (author of Making Ideas Happen), Daniel Pink (author of Drive and many other fine books), and Laura Vanderkam (author of 168 Hours) were chosen for GOOD magazine's GOOD Guide to Making Work Better about "productivity, procrastination, and getting off your butt and back to work." Here are each of their productivity mantras:
Scott Belsky: "Less ideas, more action."
Dan Pink: "Get to work."
Laura Vanderkam: "Do more of what matters. Do less of what doesn’t."
To get more tips from each of them and find out what each of them has to say about technology's effects on productivity, head on over to the GOOD slide show. (hat tip to the good people of Portfolio.)
➻ The New Yorker's Jenny Hendrix wrote a great review of a book I've been looking forward to for some time—Marcus Boon's In Praise of Copying.
In Praise of Copying is not an investigation of the ethical dilemmas of copying but a Stein-like affirmation of the mimesis that happens everywhere and everyday. Boon sees copying as fundamental to existence, part of "how the universe functions and manifests." Even on a molecular level, he writes on his blog, "all objects are made up of other objects." We cannot learn without mimicking (whether it’s learning to write a paper or learning how to catch a football)—but the way copying is defined in legal terms obscures this fact. Boon encourages us to rethink terms like "subject," "object," "different," and "the other," in order to "account for our fear of and fascination with copying."
If this book is anywhere near as illuminating as David Kord Murray's Borrowing Brilliance, it's worth picking up. And if you're interested in the topic from a purely business perspective, you may want to check out Oded Shenkar's Copycats.
➻ Richard Florida, author of The Great Reset and a slew of other books on the creative class—the man who, in fact, coined the term creative class—posted a gallery of the 20 Most Innovative States on The Daily Beast. He tells us in the introduction to the gallery how he defined them:
Though some argue that the rate of American innovation has declined recently, our economic recovery depends on a renewed investment in and commitment to innovation. The rate of innovation is likely to accelerate in coming years, as capital shifts back to invention and entrepreneurship in the real economy.
Our ranking of the most innovative states is based on two metrics: (1) the number of patented innovations per capita, and (2) the share of high-tech companies.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin did not make the cut. Apparently cheese curds aren't innovative.
➻ Stewart Quealy recently interviewed Aaron Goldman, author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google about, well... Marketing Lessons From Google. From that interview:
SQ: When it comes to consumer mindshare, you claim it's a zero sum game. What does that mean for the Facebook vs. Google rivalry as these two giants cross into each others' domains?
AG: It means all-out war. There are only so many hours in the day and attention span in the hours. The company that can help people make better, faster decisions will win. To be sure, those decisions can be related to information, commerce, and/or entertainment. Help me find quick answers, buy stuff I want, and connect with cool people and content, and I'll give you the lion's share of my time and attention.
So the central issue we must now face is this: what happens when the complexity of the problems we need to solve exceed the cognitive capabilities we have evolved to this point?
Read on to find the answer.
➻ With a thousand kisses...
The Leadership and Influence Summit - A FREE Online Event
Posted Oct. 21, 2010 8:29 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
We've talked a lot in these offices about how the high cost of author events and business conferences makes it difficult for burgeoning leaders, business owners and bootsrappers—those that could really benefit from the ideas, information and insights that are exchanged there—to attend. And, though we've tried, we haven't figured out how to crack that problem.
But Daniel Decker and the good folks putting on The Leadership and Influence Summit have, and we are excited to support them in their gargantuan efforts. So, what is The Leadership and Influence Summit?
It’s a free online event taking place on November 3rd & 4th, featuring video messages from up to 30 leading authorities on how to maximize leadership and influence effectiveness. Each presenters video will be between 6-20 minute in length and will equip you with knowledge and insight that you can use to become a better leader and influencer. If you can’t make the main 2 day event, sign up anyways and we’ll send you a link to watch the replay!
And, to boot, they’ll provide you with free leadership resources as downloadable tools to help you apply what you’ve learned.
The presenters list is impressive, bordering on the completely insane: Robert Cialdini, Keith Ferrazzi, Jon Gordon, Mark Sanborn, Tim Sanders, Adrian Gostick, Bob Sutton, Jim Kouzes, Susan Scott, Kevin Carroll, Nancy Duarte, Charlene Li, Marshall Goldsmith, Scott Klososky, Chris Brogan, Erwin McManus, Steve Farber, David McNally, Jeremie Kubicek, Tom Ziglar (son of Zig Ziglar), Dr. Tim Irwin, Tony Alessandra, Dr. Tim Elmore, Stan Slap, Scott Eblin, Joe Tye, Kevin Eikenberry and more.
And, just to reiterate... this is free. Quite a few of the presenters are authors of one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, and many of them have published on ChangeThis. I've gathered some of those resources below to get you started, but nothing can compare to seeing this concentration of intelligence live, so sign up for The Leadership and Influence Summit today.
➻ ChangeThis Issue 58.04 | Who’s Got Your Back: Why You Need the “Lifeline Relationships” that Create Success and Won’t Let You Fail by Keith Ferrazzi | May 2009
➻ ChangeThis Issue 52.02 | The Positive Business Manifesto by Jon Gordon | November 2008
➻ ChangeThis Issue 71.03 | The Four-Letter Word That Makes You and Your Work Irresistible by Mark Sanborn | June 2010
➻ ChangeThis Issue 57.05 | The Recognition Microscope: Fuel for Human Acceleration by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton | April 2009
➻ ChangeThis Issue 23.03 | Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? by Bob Sutton | May 2006
➻ ChangeThis Issue 32.01 | The Upside of Assholes: Is there Virtue in Bad Workplace Behavior? by Bob Sutton | March 2007
➻ ChangeThis Issue 63.06 | Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott | October 2009
➻ ChangeThis Issue 70.05 | Being Open Without Giving Away the Store: The Secret Is a Sandbox Covenant by Charlene Li | May 2010
➻ ChangeThis Issue 44.04 | Trust Economies: Investigation into the New ROI of the Web by Julien Smith and Chris Brogan | March 2008
➻ ChangeThis Issue 74.01 | Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: Emotional Commitment at Work by Stan Slap | September 2010
➻ ChangeThis Issue 21 | True Team Building: More than a Recreational Retreat by Kevin Eikenberry | March 2006