Book Reviews: Unconventional Wisdom

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“It is a little known fact that tea has more caffeine than coffee.” Pound for pound that is true, yet by the brewed cup, coffee has twice the amount of caffeine as tea. So why has this saying been floating around for 30 years? Because it is fun to debunk conventional wisdom.

Three new books in the Ford Library challenge commonly held beliefs about business.

Colvin, Geoffrey. Talent is overrated : what really separates world-class performers from everybody else. Portfolio, 2010. – also in audiobook format

Most people believe that those who are exceptionally talented in fields such as music, chess, sports, public speaking or leadership, have an innate ability, something that they were born with. Yet author Geoff Colvin reports that expert performance is the result of deliberate practice – intense devoted effort for many years, often with a teacher’s help. With focus and concentration over many hours, ordinary people increase their mental capacity or skill level, becoming world class. Employees and organizations can apply the principles of deliberate practice to improve performance at work. This engrossing read was rated as “essential” by Daniel Pink in Drive.

Hess, Edward D. Smart growth : building an enduring business by managing the risks of growth. Columbia Business School Publishing, 2010.

Edward D. Hess, professor of Business Administration at UVA, challenges the commonly held belief that businesses must continuously grow or they will die. He argues that for both public and private companies, it is just as likely that growth could harm a company as it could enhance a business’s survivability. Pressure from Wall Street to grow continuously drives companies to create, manufacture and purchase noncore earnings. The best businesses continuously improve value to their customers and they use growth as a conscious business decision, not as an assumption.

Axson, David A. J. The management mythbuster. Wiley, 2010.

Curmudgeon Axson takes a cynical look at contemporary business strategy, finance and management. He describes current management practices as outdated and of no value in a globalized and technology based world economy. He recommends that executives in every industry rethink the conventional management wisdom that results in mediocrity in business. Designed to be amusing with many real and fictional stories, this book is long on anecdotes but short on antidotes to what ails management practice.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.


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