Summer Book Section: Lie Low, Lean Back, and Read
For those of our readers still in the midst of summer vacation — and looking for a way to ease the pain of relaxation — we offer a business book reading section that has a little of everything: economic history, global politics, consumer power, boardroom conflict, innovation, career advice and consumerism, to mention a few of the themes.
Included in the section are reviews of four books — John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, by Richard Parker; Making Sense of Chindia: Reflections on China and India, by Jairam Ramesh; Pilot Your Life: How to Create the Career You Want, by Ron Shaw; and The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business, by Guy Garcia — and excerpts from four others. These are: The Design of Things to Come: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products, by Jonathan Cagan, Craig Vogel and Peter Boatwright; Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, by Michael Roberto; Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance & Leadership Success, by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel; and Don’t Just Relate – Advocate! A Blueprint for Profit in the Era of Customer Power, by Glen Urban.
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If one individual could be singled out as the “economist of the American Century,” John Kenneth Galbraith would certainly be a prime candidate. During the course of his long life, which spans most of the 20th century to the present day, Galbraith has filled many roles: economic thinker, government official, diplomat, writer and star of his own “Age of Uncertainty” television series on PBS. Richard Parker’s compelling and thoughtful biography of Galbraith — John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics — offers its readers a balanced appraisal of a major economic and social thinker and the clash of great economic theories in which he played such a notable part.
In the 20th century, China and India were largely seen as demographic behemoths but economic weaklings. Now, in the rapidly unfolding 21st century, the question is not whether, but how soon, China and India will come to be economically dominant players on the global stage. Already, China is commonly referred to as “the world’s manufacturing platform” while India has become a hot spot for high tech outsourcing. One of the primary points Jairam Ramesh emphasizes in his new collection of previously published columns, Making Sense of Chindia: Reflections on China and India (India Research Press) is that the “rise” of these countries, in many ways, should be understood less as a new development and more as a re-emergence.
To be an entrepreneur has always required a significant element of showmanship. If customers are to be interested in a product, it helps immeasurably if they are first entranced by the person who represents that product, whether the salesperson, the spokesperson or the company CEO. Ron Shaw, president and CEO of Pilot Pen Corp. of America, started his business career in sales, pushing pens to Mom-and-Pop stationary stores. After he moved into the executive suite, he also sometimes acted as the public face of his brand, in both paid and unpaid media. But he really started out in show business, first as a child musician, then as a stand-up comic. In Pilot Your Life: How to Create the Career You Want, he argues that it was this early training in “working the room” that has been crucial to his success in business. The book is written with Richard Krevolin and Phil Ehrenkranz.
Americans love freedom of choice. In his provocative book, The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business, Guy Garcia presents a powerful case that the ability of Americans to pick and choose for themselves is creating a new economic and social matrix in the U.S. as the country evolves from the mythical “melting pot” to a “salad bowl” of ethnic, religious and gender diversity. The growing influence of ethnic diversity in the marketplace is not a matter of a fickle change in taste, however: The “New Mainstream,” as Garcia calls the emerging multi-ethnic power block, is gaining clout because of a confluence of factors — some of which are as old as the American nation, while others are radical departures from the past.
Many successful products today signify a revolution in product design that is driven by customer emotion, self-image and fantasy, not just function. In The Design of Things to Come: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products, authors Jonathan Cagan, Craig Vogel and Peter Boatwright present a new generation of products that transform consumer lifestyles. The authors also profile a new generation of innovators, looking at how they inspire people around them and turn their visions into reality.
In Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, author Michael Roberto shows how leaders can stimulate dissent and debate within their organization, and also keep such interaction constructive. Too often, he suggests, leaders don’t hear bad news until it’s too late, eventually becoming so isolated that even high-risk or illegal actions go unquestioned. Using the Columbia space shuttle disaster, an ill-fated climb to Mount Everest and other examples from history, Roberto explores how organizations make decisions, how executives gain commitment from their colleagues and how true leaders encourage open debate but also build long-term consensus.
In Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance & Leadership Success, Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel look at the connection between strong moral principles and business success. Using original research, the authors show how the best performing companies have leaders who are able to promote moral intelligence throughout their organizations, despite the fact that the business world all too often rewards bad behavior, at least in the short run. Included in their book is what the authors call their Moral Competency Inventory, a metric that can help leaders assess where they and their organization currently stand.
According to author Glen Urban, traditional “push/pull” marketing no longer works, and even highly-touted customer relationship initiatives are failing. In this environment, the smart companies are those that are pioneering a new route to higher margins and sustainable competitive advantage: customer advocacy. In his book entitled, Don’t Just Relate – Advocate! A Blueprint for Profit in the Era of Customer Power, Urban explains why advocacy strategies work, and suggests ways to improve on what he describes as customer advocacy’s eight elements, ranging from transparency to partnership. With the help of new case studies, Urban shows how to align culture, metrics and incentives.