by: Bill Tancer
© 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
© 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.

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

by: Dan Roam
Portfolio (The Penguin Group)
© 2008
It may look like a “child’s book,” but it’s a very serious treatment. If you’ve ever read anything by Edward Tufte on graphical presentations, you were probably frustrated because most of the books by Tufte don’t discuss anything about how to approach visual thinking. Roam fills that void in a highly enjoyable and readable way. This book is not about innovation- it is innovation!