The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World

by: Amar Bhidé
Princeton University Press
© 2008
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue
While the major theme of this book is about national policy issues- relating how to best to stimulate innovation to drive productivity- it contains equally valuable lessons for executives and managers relating to concerns of the firm.
Professor Bhidé bases his analysis on an extremely robust 3-level model of innovation. This model deserves more attention as it clearly expands the dimensions of innovation beyond the typical models, which focus attention, resources and research only on basic R&D where the number of patents filed is the primary metric of measurement.
If there’s one book on innovation to read — this is the one!

Uniting the Virtual Workforce – Transforming Leadership and Innovation in the Globally Integrated Enterprise

by: Karen Sobel-Lojeski

       Richard R. Reilly
       Wiley; Microsoft Executive Leadership Series
       © 2008
       Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

The topics and discoveries authors Sobel-Lojeski and Reilly discuss in this book are valuable, if not essential, for any enterprise during any economic climate.

I found their work particularly poignent in two important ways. First, that distance is not just a physical condition, but a psychological condition that often exists between workers. And, that these psychological gulfs can have a more significant impact on the results than physical distances.

Second, they present a framework for understanding and measuring these psychological distances in their construct of the Virtual Distance Model.
The Virtual Distance Model is comprehensive and comprised of three major parts: physical distance; operational distance; and affinity distance.

Their writing style is easy on the reader and as much for line managers as it is for C-suite executives. For that matter, it also contains useful concepts and practical lessons for entrepreneurs and professional sole-practitioners looking to improve their effectiveness working in teams, working in teams within an office, or worlds and cultures spanning wide time-zones.

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

by: Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass (A Wiley Imprint)
© 2006
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

This is one of Lencioni’s “management fables,” illustrating just how insidiously silos grow within organizations. But there’s good news. There are effective techniques for dealing with the “silo-problem,” and Lencioni shares his techniques at the end of the book, which are almost better than his fable.

The story line he uses is clever — a young professional, Jude Cousins, is beginning to build a consulting practice and realizes that he needs a more stable offering upon which to build a business out of consulting. In the course of searching for a focus, he interviews prospective clients around their problems and discovers a common theme across a very diverse set of organizations, including a small manufacturing firm, a hospital, a hotel and a church.

This is an easy and quick read, but this should not be confused with light or without value.

This book does not apply directly to AMC-managed associations, but it’s not a large leap to recognize the same phenomenon and risks caused by “internal silos” being constructed that separate organizations from the professions or markets they were formed to serve. We can think of this as the “inside – outside silo”.

Simple take-away: “silos are bad for things other than agricultural products – especially organizations!”

[Guide to] Management Ideas and Gurus

by: Tim Hindle
The Economist in association with Profile Books Ltd.
© 2008
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue

This is more of a readable reference book than a guidebook, containing 105 major management ideas, theories, fads and influential organziations in the 20th century. And that’s just Part 1. Part 2 is an equally concise and rich profile of the leading management “gurus” of the same era — 56 in all!

This is not the type of book that you’d want to read for an extended period of time. I found that I could handle only a few “ideas” at a time because each description is self-contained and dodn’t necessarily connect with each of the other descriptions. Each description is written in a classic Economist’s style: Concise, powerful structure and packed full of useful information! Hindle follows his formula well; two pages for each idea and for each guru! (unclear-two pages for each guru and two for each idea? Or two pages total for both?)

For example, if one has wondered about Six Sigma, the author tells us that it grew out of the work of Joseph Juran (then provides the pages this “guru” is featured in Part 2. This structure illustratesthe simple essence of the idea- how it was originally applied, and how it might be applied today. Each description contains a list of further reading on the topic.

Maybe it is a “guide” after all? A “guide” or a “reference” matters not. Whether management is your interest or profession, this book belongs on your bookshelf and will be dog-eared soon after it arrives.

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.”