Listening to the Future: Why It’s Everybody’s Business

by: Dan Rasmus with Rob Salkowitz
Wiley; Microsoft Executive Leadership Series
© 2009
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

This is a worthwhile read because it covers a number of important issues about strategic planning and frameworks for thinking about future trends. It’s an interesting read to learn about the future scenarios Microsoft has envisioned for itself about “the future of work.”

The author(s) can be forgiven for some choppy spots, given the breadth of the subject. There were spots when it appeared as though the target reader had changed, but there was not clear transition. Despite this, it contains some useful concepts and brief case studies that should provoke good discussion within an organization.

Hard Facts-Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense (Profiting from Evidence-Based Management)

by: Jeffrey Pfeffer  &  Robert I. Sutton
Harvard Business School Press
© 2006
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

What a treat to have two well-respected business school scholars and faculty members expose the hypocriscy that most folks working in business today have known for years. One of my favorite exposés is how the Harvard Business Review’s editorial policies prohibit citations, therefore leaving the distinct impression that most (everything?) published in the magazine is a new and breakthrough idea. The authors point out several specific instances where previous HBR arcticles could not even be referenced to demonstrate that the ideas were not even new to the publication. (And we wonder why these venerable institutions produce unethical business leaders!)

Perhaps the most significant take-away from this important read is that there’s no substitute for creating data-driven organizations, especially since we’re now swimming in data thanks to the Internet. We think this is a must-read for association managers.

The Future of Work

by: Thomas W. Malone
Harvard Business School Press
© 2004
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

Malone is well respected as an academic and researcher; this book is not so much about his own research, but a very accessible presentation of important findings in his area of research and his own observations about how work is changing and will continue to change.

His chapter on “From Command-and-Control to Coordinate-and-Cultivate” is especially useful in today’s knowledge work environment — particularly applicable to association environments.

The Future of Management

by: Gary Hamel
       with Bill Breen
Harvard Business School Press
© 2008
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

This ranks up there with some of Peter Drucker’s books in terms of capturing the big picture issues of how management has evolved over the 20th century- where it probably should go, and more importantly, why.

The author goes beyond soup du jour treatments of managementl to examine management innovations. For example, he cites a handful of case studies that pre-date the Internet to demonstrate that the fundamentals at play have been at play for a long time. The Internet has certainly increased the velocity of change, but it’s not the cause.

The Dumbest Generation

by: Mark Bauerlein
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
© 2007
Reviewed by: Michael Majdalany

Based on exhaustive research poring over numerous reports from government agencies, foundations, survey firms, and scholarly institutions in addition to historical and social analysis, Mark Bauerlein draws an alarming portrait of the young American mind. The technology that was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and improve their minds has had the opposite effect. The author decries that most young people in the US do NOT read literature, work reliably, nor visit cultural institutions of any sort. They cannot explain basic scientific methods nor recount fundamental facts of American history, and do not feel the need to. Instead, they spend unbelievable amounts of time exchanging electronically stories and pictures (mostly of themselves), tunes and texts, dwelling in a world of puerile banter and self-absorbed pursuits.

Well-written (the author is a professor of English at Emory University), the book is a quick read and in spite of some pontification, suggests how we might address these deficiencies.

Democracy in America

by: Alexix de Tocqueville
(Translated by: George Lawrence)
Harper Perenial Modern Classics
© 2006
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

The book, in any translation, is required reading for any professional manager of a trade association or professional society in the United States!

de Tocqueville’s observations of the American culture are as relevant today as when he made them more than 160 years ago. His observations are important to understanding the nuances of what might appear to be conflicting characteristics. For example, he observed that Americans were very critical of their politicians, other citizens and perhaps even “American traits,” but they were utterly intolerant of criticism from non-Americans.

This is an especially important read for anyone familiar with associations in the United States wanting to “export” the American model abroad. Associations in America are a unique private response to a public issue/need. Rather than requiring the permission of government to form, our laws are crafted to make such private responses easy and inexpensive to undertake.

We Americans may have borrowed the European model for associations, but we put such a unique twist on that model, making it dangerous to assume that associations elsewhere are the same. It’s not necessarily better, but it is uniquely American.

For those interested in just a taste of what de Tocqueville observed about associations in a America, here is his chapter (it’s short) “On the Use Which The Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life.”

Click

by: Bill Tancer
Hyperion
© 2008
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

Tancer exposes one of the important new tools for understanding what’s important to people – online search data!

While Tancer, and his colleagues, have access to data sets of search traffic that are not available to mere mortals, he was very candid in his descriptions of how he goes about answering questions about trends and consumer preferences. In his final couple of chapters he also reveals some characteristics about how products and services move from alpha/beta stages to fully embraced market phenomenons.

This book is very readable and drove me to rediscover Google analytical tools to run some search-data analysis of interest to me. This is an important read for anyone really interested in creating a “data-driven” organization.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

by: Robert D. Putnam
Simon & Schuster
© 2000
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

Along with Democracy in America, Bowling Alone is one of a small handful of must reads for anyone serious about association management in the U.S. It is a deep study of social capital-how it appears in American society, and more importantly, how and why it has changed over the last half of the 20th century.

Putnam maintains a level of detachment that brings real power to his research and this account of what he’s learned. He is clearly raising a warning about the changes, but he’s not waxing for a return to the “good ‘ol days.”

Putnam also approaches his subject in a way that makes it very accessible to just about any reader. He divides the book into two parts. In Part One, he defines his subject and very meticulously presents a normative description of the state of social capital over the last half of the 20th century and how it’s changed. In Part Two, he approaches those changes like a prosecuting attorney-systematically presenting evidence that explains why the changes happened – something of a “whodunit.”

13 Things That Don’t Make Sense

by: Michael Brooks
Vintage
© 2008
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

A book about science might not seem relevant to management, but this one is germane in at least two respects. First, it underscores that some of the “truths” that we hold as absolute, are only considered “truths” because we haven’t explored all the possible conditions of their use. This is a critical notion for all managers to keep in mind, lest we hold our assumptions to be absolute truths.

Second, the manner in which Brooks explores his topics- using what knowledge we do have in a ping-pong like fashion to determine the truth of a matter- is highly instructive for a manager. It’s a wonderful view into the thought processes of a scientist who has devoted his professional life to understanding some of nature’s most complex phenomenon.

Are Results of Surplus – Deficit Study Valid?

Michael LoBue writes: As the study results comparing the impact of the start of the recession on standalone and AMC-managed organizations gains attention, there seems to be a general criticism of the study by executives of standalone organizations. The criticism is that the results are not valid because the study samples were not randomly selected. This post responds to that criticism, pointing out how the criticism itself is both short-sighted and (intentionally?) misleading.

Here’s the punch line —true the samples were not randomly drawn, but it’s just as likely the stellar results produced by the AMC-model vs. the standalone model would be even greater (as opposed to less — as implied by the critics) if the study is repeated on randomly drawn groups.

Select the following link to read the entire response to that criticism.

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