Recent business books reviewed
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Rich Karlgaard says statistics and analytical analysis are not enough for business success. “Soft stuff”—trust, smarts, teams, taste, and story—matters. Others have written more insightfully about trust (Covey or Blanchard), smarts (Collins or Drucker), and teams (see McChrystal below), but this book excels in its discussion of taste, which highlights the importance of design. Karlgaard helps us understand that design is really the recovery of beauty in the workplace. He also stresses the importance of story: He makes that case didactically but models it throughout with compelling stories that make this book a pleasure to read.
It’s My Pleasure
Chick-fil-A has gone from a single restaurant in Atlanta to one of the largest fast-food chains in America. The story of how Chick-fil-A did that while maintaining passionate, even fanatical customers would make a blockbuster book. Alas, this is not that book. The vice president of corporate talent for Chick-fil-A has turned her PowerPoint presentations into complete sentences, and this barely 100-page book, which releases in November, is the result. Save your money, skip this book, and treat yourself to some waffle fries and a peach milkshake.
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s last assignment before retiring from the U.S. Army was to command all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. When he took over the assignment he asked tough questions: “Why were we unable to defeat an under-resourced insurgency? Why were we losing?” McChrystal realized his forces had to learn to be nimble, and this book tells how he and his commanders developed that new approach in Afghanistan—and how to apply those lessons to modern business. This insightful, elegantly written business book reads like an adventure story.
Former Catalyst leader Brad Lomenick categorizes and describes 20 leadership habits, then adds sound bites and one-liners. Every second or third page has a box with recommended tweets, such as: “Those who’ve failed much don’t fear failure like those who’ve only tasted success.” Ironically, the two appendices in this book are titled “20-Day Leadership Makeover” and “The Hard Work of Leadership.” If one of these titles is true, the other is almost certainly false. This book is designed to fly off the merchandise table at a Catalyst conference, but it will have limited value once you get it home.
Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk has created breakthrough companies in multiple industries: electric cars, space travel, and solar energy. Author Ashlee Vance had unprecedented access to Musk when writing Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ecco, 2015).
Although Vance clearly admires his subject, the book is no hagiography. Vance interviewed Musk’s ex-wife and others he crushed in his rise to the top, including some who wouldn’t talk on the record for fear of retribution from Musk. But enough did talk to make this a multidimensional portrait with a limited exploration of Musk’s worldview. Vance says Musk does not have the typical Ayn Rand “hyperlogical” worldview of other tech entrepreneurs, but then spends the next 400 pages proving that, well, actually, he does. —W.C.S.
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