Archive for May, 2008

Book Review: The Opposable Mind

Friday, May 30th, 2008

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Martin, Roger L. The opposable mind : how successful leaders win through integrative thinking. Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Author, and Dean of the Rotman School of Business, at the University of Toronto, Roger Martin studied fifty superior business leaders to discern a shared theme — what makes these people successful? He found that these successful business leaders had a special way of thinking. When faced with problems, they all were predisposed to construct solutions using diametrically opposing ideas, those that seem, on the surface, to be mutually exclusive. Successful leaders avoided settling for one alternative or another, but instead they produced a synthesis that was superior to either of the opposing ideas. Martin calls this thinking process Integrative thinking.

One example that Martin uses is a local company, Red Hat in Research Triangle Park. In the mid 1990’s the software industry was dominated by two business models. In the proprietary software model, companies invested heavily in research and development, guarded their intellectual property and charged high prices. These companies had high profit margins. The alternative model was the free software model where suppliers sold CD-ROMs that included both software and the source code. Prices were low but volume was high. These seemed to be the only two alternatives.

Book Review: New Titles on Peter Drucker

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

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Cohen, William A. A Class with Drucker: The lost lessons of the world’s greatest management teacher. AMACOM, 2007.

Edersheim, Elizabeth Haas. The Definitive Drucker. McGraw-Hill, 2007.

Peter Drucker is widely respected as one of the great thinkers on management. Throughout his career as teacher, writer, and philosopher he inspired students and business leaders alike with countless books and articles, lectures in the classroom, and informal conversations with friends and colleagues. Since his death in November 2005, several new books have been published, highlighting his wisdom, creativity and humor.

In A Class with Drucker, William Cohen shares stories and insights into Peter Drucker’s teaching methods, his inspiring ideas and his life experiences. He also relates personal anecdotes about Drucker and his life. As a PhD student at Claremont University, Cohen studied under Drucker, who was a gifted and passionate teacher. Cohen maintained a lifelong friendship with his mentor and created a personal tribute to the man who changed his life.


Book Review: Microtrends

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

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Penn, Mark J. Microtrends : the small forces behind tomorrow

Political adviser Mark Penn identifies more than 70 trends in work, politics, lifestyles and relationships that are changing the way we live. Some of the trends are obvious. Older Americans are continuing to work after retirement age. Middle income people are buying second homes and having elective surgery in greater numbers. Americans are pampering their pets.

The fun begins when Penn presents trends that are contrary to popular belief. Penn refutes the conventional wisdom that Americans’ attention spans are shrinking in the internet age. He presents evidence that a sizable number of Americans want substance and depth in communication. (Note: this chapter is 4 pages long, as is typical for this book.)

Surprising trend in career aspirations — Sniper. When young men were asked in a poll, “What do you think you will most likely be doing in ten years,” a small but significant number gave the open-ended answer “Sniper.”

Book Review: Karma Queens, Geek Gods, & Innerpreneurs

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

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Rentel, Ron. Karma queens, geek gods, & innerpreneurs : meet the 9 consumer types shaping today’s marketplace. Twelve, 2007.

This guide to nine influential consumer groups is an entertaining analysis of what people are buying, what activities they enjoy and what attitudes they express. Using a system the author calls C-Types, consumers are grouped into portraits derived from key attitudes and behaviors, their social status, and demographic factors.

This reviewer’s personal favorite is named “Middlemen” and is primarily composed of a segment of the 21 to 35-year-old male demographic. The average MiddleMan is an unmarried college graduate, who refuses to grow up. The MiddleMan often makes a good salary, but lives with his parents, and if not them, he lives communally with other young people, sharing expenses. He has ample disposable income to spend on gaming at home. A MiddleMan owns an Xbox, Playstation, and/or Nintendo Wii. He participates in fantasy sports leagues. He still buys his clothes at American Eagle, just as he did in high school. He never cooks at home but primarily eats fast food, often late at night.

For marketers, this all adds up to products that appeal to immediate gratification, expensive products with cheap thrills and products with a strong brand identification. Eight other portraits in the book are similarly entertaining.

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

Just Java. No Jive.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

image courtesy markus schoepke via

Four Cups of Starbucks

Fuqua’s Start-up Cafe proudly serves Starbucks coffee. MBA’s crowd the counter, getting their fixes of caffeine at $4 a pop. Outside of Fuqua, Starbucks seem to be everywhere. Stores can be found around the globe and in the US, they are located surprisingly close to other stores. Two of the top Starbucks are within fifteen yards of each other. What it is about the product and the company that is irresistible to more than forty million customers?

Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture explores the rise of the Starbucks Corporation and the caffeine-crazy culture that fueled it success. This is a story of how a small Seattle coffeehouse took a standard commodity, shaped it into a luxury product and made it synonymous with a cultural experience. The book includes anecdotes about familiar products and stores, and covers free trade and global issues related to coffee production.

It’s not about the Coffee: Leadership experiences from a life at Starbucks. The founding director of Starbucks International describes the strategies he used to build Starbucks into the success it is today. Behar helped establish the Starbucks culture, which stresses people over profits. He shares his ideas and skills that transported the company from a regional outlet to global brand. The voice of experience and in-house examples from a popular company provide a foundation for a discussion of leadership skills.


Book Review: Forces for Good

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

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Crutchfield, Leslie R. and Heather McLeod Grant. Forces for good : the six practices of high-impact nonprofits. Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Each day, my mother’s mailbox contains a dozen or so letters from nonprofits, soliciting financial support. She selects one or two to support and for the rest, she writes the date on the envelopes and files them chronologically in a box. In her basement, boxes of these letters date back to the 1970’s. She intends to support those organizations eventually — once she determines those that do the greatest good. But how to know which nonprofits have the greatest impact?

Forces for Good provides a rigorous and analytical look into extraordinary nonprofits and how they create large-scale social change. The authors surveyed thousands of nonprofit CEO’s and conducted more than 75 interviews to identify six practices that are essential for achieving significant results. For any non-profit, the secret to success is to mobilize outside groups, such as government and business, to be a force for good. Greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations.

See PBS Videos Online

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Access over 250 PBS videos online through the NC Live Video Collection. See many of Ken Burns’ films (Jazz, Baseball, Inside Hamas, The West, etc.) as well as several Frontline and American Experience documentaries.

Some business titles of interest include Buffett and Gates Go Back to School, Feeding and Fueling the World: Healthier Alternatives for Planet Earth, and The Persuaders (a Frontline special on how the culture of marketing and advertising influences not only American’s buying but also the world around them).

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Book Review: All the money in the world

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

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Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan, Editors. All the Money in the World: How the Forbes 400 make — and spend — their fortunes. Knopf, 2007.

Prominent editors and business writers provide an entertaining view into the lives of the wealthiest Americans of the past quarter century. After discussing the personal qualities necessary to become a multimillionaire, the book describes how fortunes are made, how the superrich spend their money, and how heirs enhance or squander their fortunes.

Many individual stories are included, such as profiles of Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett, as well as the philanthropy of Ted Turner and Bill Gates. Lavish descriptions of how the rich live and lurid details about family feuds within the dynasties make for entertaining reading.

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