Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Two Books on Business Improv

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Comedic actor Bob Kulhan, founder and CEO of Business Inprov, explains that if people know anything at all about improv, it is the basic technique – the use of two words: Yes, and… “Yes” shows that an idea has been heard; “and” builds on that idea. Yes, and there are two books about improvisation in business that employ those words: Yes, And by two Second City executives; and the book, Getting to “Yes And” by Kulhan himself.
 
book cover imageKulhan, Bob and Chuck Crisafulli. Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv. Stanford Business Books, 2017.

Bob Kulhan is the instructor of Fuqua’s week-long MBA Workshop on Managerial Improvisation that begins at Fuqua on Jan. 8. He begins his book Getting to “Yes And” by demonstrating how the art of improvisation is used in business. When faced with rapidly changing circumstances, managers use their knowledge and experience to explore possibilities, synthesize information and create a quick response. While performing in the moment, these managers react rapidly yet deliberately, drawing on intellect, focus and training to make swift decisions about what actions to take.

Most of Kulhan’s book reveals what he teaches in his course, including fundamental communication skills: how to use improv to listen, influence and inspire others; how to develop a personal brand; how to improve business meetings. He also shows how to ramp up physical and mental energy; how to use improv to guide a team; and how to break down silos within a company. Near the end of his book, Kulhan thanks several Fuqua faculty members and congratulates the Fuqua School for being ahead of the curve in using improv for business.

book cover imageLeonard, Kelly and Tom Yorton. Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration… HarperBusiness, 2015.

“Business is one big act of improvisation,” according to two executives of Second City, Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. Their book describes how improv training increases innovation, creativity and confidence, while reducing judgment. Yes, And covers some of the same topics as Kulhan’s book, but the many stories from Second City make for lighter fare and more amusing reading. Descriptions of exercises used in improv theater, such as One-Word Story, Follow the Follower and Silent Organization, are included.

Leonard and Yorton admit, “We don’t believe that any one book holds the whole truth, and there are a variety of interesting and worthwhile paths one can take when reaching for goals.” Agreed. These two books are complementary and both are recommended for readers interested in business improv.

Yes, And is also available as an eBook on OverDrive and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

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

Book Review: The Richest Man Who Ever Lived

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Steinmetz, Greg. The richest man who ever lived : the life and times of Jacob Fugger. Simon & Schuster, 2015.

book cover imageThe November issue of Money magazine features “The 10 Richest People of All Time.” Bill Gates is #9, the only living super-rich person on the list, his net worth totaling $87 billion. Two other Americans are on the list — Andrew Carnegie, #6 with an inflation-adjusted net worth of $404 billion, and John Rockefeller #7 with $385 billion. Several names on the list are unfamiliar, including Money’s #1 richest man of all time, Mansa Musa, the king of Timbuktu, a West African kingdom.

Nowhere on Money’s list is Jacob Fugger who, according to journalist Greg Steinmetz’s calculations, was truly the richest man who ever lived. Fugger lived in the dawning days of international trade, banking and capitalism, of mining and industry. It was the time of Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand; of Machiavelli, Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. Fugger financed Magellan’s iconic voyage around the globe. He financed the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I and the Habsburgs’ rise to power. As “God’s Banker,” he financed the Vatican. His shady deals provoked Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses, triggering the Protestant Reformation.

Jacob Fugger is the subject of Steinmetz’s book, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived. Fugger started life in 15th century Germany as a commoner and ended up the preeminent financier in Europe. His family lived in Augsburg (now in Austria) and were prosperous textile traders. When he was a teenager, Fugger’s mother arranged an apprenticeship in Venice, at the time the most commercial city in Europe, where banking and accounting were new inventions. He returned to Austria to expand into the profitable new industry of the era – mining – and he developed into an aggressive businessman with a talent for managing customers, a tolerance for risk and a genius for negotiation.

Fugger’s approach to business was modern. He understood monopoly power and tried to corner the market in precious metals. Investing in research and development, he pioneered new technology. He knew the power of market-sensitive information and created a news service, couriers who raced between cities with market tips and political updates. He maintained special relationships with kings and emperors and bought political favors. He surrounded himself with lawyers and accountants. By monitoring his accounts closely, he understood his financial exposure at every moment.

Greg Steinmetz is a gifted storyteller. Characters and events in the book come alive. His Jacob Fugger is a champion of private property and unfettered markets, the first modern businessman to pursue wealth for its own sake. But he also shows Fugger as a ruthless capitalist, who squeezes his workers and bullies his family. Fugger’s life illustrates the founding of today’s world economy.

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

Wall St. Journal Best Bets

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Each week, the Wall Street Journal publishes a list of Business Best Sellers. Some books, such as the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team or Emotional Intelligence 2.0, stay on the list for years. Others are new works by CEO’s, journalists, academics and other thought leaders.  These four new books are on this week’s WSJ Business Best Sellers list and the Ford Library just loaded them onto our Notable Business Books Kindles. As you head out on Thanksgiving break, take home a Kindle collection.
 

book cover imageKim, W. Chan and Renee Mauborgne. Blue ocean shift : beyond competing. Hachette Books, 2017.

In this follow-up to their 2005 bestseller, Blue Ocean Strategy, two faculty members at INSEAD draw on 30 years of their own research into strategy in large and small organizations to reveal how to move beyond competing in existing crowded markets to creating new market opportunities. Using just 5 steps, they show that success is not about dividing up an existing pie, but about creating a larger economic pie for all.

Also available on Notable Business Books Kindles.

 

book cover imageDalio, Ray. Principles. Simon and Schuster, 2017.
 
Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio shares his personal journey from commodity trader to hedge fund titan, including his reflections on lessons learned from his investment and management mistakes.  He shares his process for making choices and achieving his goals, explaining concepts such as Radical Truth and Radical Transparency. He advises readers to be clear about what they want in life and to design a plan to attain it. Radical Truth: disappointing.

Also available on Notable Business Books Kindles and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

book cover imageGalloway, Scott. The Four : the hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.

In this rambling monologue interrupted by napkin sketches, entrepreneur and NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway analyzes Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — their strengths and strategies, their economic models, their ambition, innovations and risks, and their social consequences. In the second half of the book, he dispenses career and business advice based on his experience with start-ups.

Also available on Notable Business Books Kindles and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

book cover imageBurchard, Brendon. High Performance Habits. Hay House Inc., 2016.

Using research on individual and team performance, author-coach Brendon Burchard identifies six habits that when practiced consistently lead to exceptional long-term results across multiple domains of life. Perhaps most salient are the first and last habits. The first is to seek clarity — know yourself and what you want. And the last is to demonstrate courage — stand up for yourself, your ideas and others.
 

Also available on Notable Business Books Kindles.

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

Book Review: Sharing the Work

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Strober, Myra. Sharing the work: what my family and career taught me about breaking through (and holding the door open for others). MIT Press, 2016.

book cover imageWelcome participants in the Duke MBA Weekend for Women! You are already on the road to achieving power and purpose in your life, a road that was not always open to women. Those who came before you struggled to open the gates at work and at the university. While there are challenges ahead, you must achieve your dreams and break through the remaining barriers for others who will walk your road in the future.

Myra Strober is one woman who opened the gates in academia. In her 2016 memoir Sharing the Work, Strober completes a PhD in economics from the “quintessentially male” MIT in the 1969 and accepts a teaching position at the Univ. of MD. She follows her husband to Palo Alto, where he has a medical residency and assistant professorship at Stanford. Strober is offered a teaching position at Berkeley in 1970, but as a lecturer not assistant professor, because she is a woman. Soon after, the U.S. Labor Dept. begins investigating discrimination against women at universities and she is offered assistant professorships at both UC Berkeley (Economics) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, although at a low salary.

When Strober joins the all-male faculty at Stanford GSB, she finds her colleagues to be polite, but they exclude her from their informal networks. When she presents her research on the economics of the childcare market, they pronounce her arguments as outrageous. They take umbrage at having to move the annual faculty retreat away from a male-only club. She teaches macroeconomics to MBA students but the men who make up 98% of the class behave in a hostile manner.

Strober’s research on gender and employment is published in A-list journals and books. She develops an interdisciplinary course on women and work, which she teaches for 40 years. She launches and leads the successful Center for Research on Women at Stanford. She organizes conferences. But when she comes up for tenure, she is denied. Not long after, Strober accepts an offer from the Stanford School of Education as a tenured faculty member.

When this reviewer earned a BA in economics and an MBA in the 1970’s, all of my instructors in economics and business were men. Since that time, opportunities for women in academia and in the corporate world have improved, but more change is needed. Women need to open the remaining gates for themselves and for those who will follow.

Also available as an eBook.

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

Book Review: Popular

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

book cover imagePrinstein, Mitch. Popular: the power of likability in a status-obsessed world. Viking, 2017.

There are many likeable people on the Ford Library staff, and this summer one of the most likeable of all heard an interview on NPR featuring the author of a new book titled Popularity. Our librarian was sure that the book would become a runaway best seller but that has yet to happen. No matter, this engaging book shows how popularity profoundly effects people every day and offers insights on how to experience a happier life.

UNC chaired psychology professor Mitch Prinstein begins his book by explaining that there are two types of popularity, status and likeability, but only one of them is valuable. Status involves being well-known and influential. In high school, cheerleaders and athletes have status. In adult life, this group includes CEO’s and celebrities, but also ordinary people who strive for prestige, wealth and beauty. Sadly in later life, status-seeking individuals tend to be troubled by discontent, anxiety and depression.

Prinstein explains that the other type of popularity – likeability — confers lifelong benefits. More than intellect, ambition, or socioeconomic status, likeability is associated with future happiness and career success. Behaviors that make children likeable – being helpful, cheerful and kind — directly translate into how satisfied, successful and physically healthy they will be decades later. Likeability is also associated with close and caring relationships as well as personal growth. Likeable adults have more friends and higher self-esteem.

Likeable people live in a different world than their unlikeable peers – one of their own making. Choosing to be more likeable begins with small adjustments in current behavior, such as a friendly hello to a student in the mallway, a single act of kindness, or a smile. These small social cues will be picked up by others and reflected back. We both influence and are influenced by others’ likeability in a feedback loop all day long. If everyone were more likeable, they would be treated better every day. And Fuqua would become a better place for all.

Also available as an ebook on OverDrive and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

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

Book Review: Dark Money

Monday, September 25th, 2017

book cover imageMayer, Jane. Dark money : the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Anchor Books, 2017.

A post script to my recent review of Nancy MacLean’s new book Democracy in Chains:

In her new book about the radical right’s covert plan to restructure American shareholder capitalism and public policy, Duke history professor Nancy MacLean cited the work of investigative journalist Jane Mayer, who reported that the Koch brothers and other wealthy right-wing donors poured more than a $100 million into a “war against Obama”. These political contributions were given to groups and candidates who supported their ultraconservative core beliefs, but also benefited the donors’ powerful business interests, including corporate deregulation, lower personal and corporate taxes, cuts in social spending, and reduced oversight of the environment.

Termed “dark money,” this political spending is untraceable by law, but it is treated as a charitable contribution for tax purposes. Dark Money is also the name of Jane Mayer’s new bestselling book that portrays a network of archconservative families, who use political donations to influence how Americans think and vote. Most prominently featured are right wing multibillionaires Charles and David Koch, but Mayer also includes short portraits of other ultra-conservatives such as Richard Mellon Scaife, heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes; the DeVos family of Michigan, founders of the Amway marketing empire; and NC discount store magnate (Roses) Art Pope.

Dark Money was named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year.

Also available as an audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook on OverDrive.

Book Review: Democracy in Chains

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

book cover imageMacLean, Nancy. Democracy in chains: the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America. Viking, [2017].

Last week, I learned that both anti-immigration activist Stephen Miller and white nationalist Richard Spencer were students at Duke in 2006 when the lacrosse scandal consumed our town and the nation. At the time, Stephen Miller was an undergraduate studying political science and a columnist for The Chronicle. A decade after graduation, Miller had an office in the Trump White House advising the president on immigration issues.

White supremacist Richard Spencer was a PhD student in history at Duke in 2006, but he dropped out to become an editor of the American Conservative, where he was later fired for his extreme views. Credited for creating the term alt-right, Spencer was the leader of a protest in Charlottesville, VA last month that resulted in a violent confrontation.

Stephen Miller and Richard Spencer express views that garner media attention but far more threatening are the secret plans by more powerful players on the radical right. In her new book, Democracy in Chains, Duke history and public policy faculty member Nancy MacLean presents the story of the radical right and their well-planned and financed stealth campaign to rewrite democracy in America by concentrating economic and political power in the hands of a few.

Prof MacLean begins her story in the mid-1950’s at the University of Chicago and later at the University of Virginia and George Mason where economist James Buchanan and other like-minded intellectuals set out to free markets from collective action and government interference. These early libertarians argue that private markets acting in their own self-interest allocate goods and services most efficiently, and that public officials, who also operate with self-interested motives, cannot be trusted to act for the public good. Buchanan advocates for a smaller role for government, lower taxes and government spending, curtailing of worker rights, fewer environmental protections and privatizing public resources. In 1986, Buchanan wins a Nobel Prize in Economics for his groundbreaking work, but he and his associates make little headway in implementing his vision.

In the 1990’s, the Koch brothers and other multibillionaires begin financing a covert strategy to implement Buchanan’s groundbreaking ideas for radical and permanent change, replacing majority rule with pure capitalism. After 2008, the Koch team engineers a hostile takeover of the Republican party. Vice President Mike Pence sympathizes with their view. Libertarian leaders seek liberty, “The liberty to concentrate vast wealth, so as to deny elementary fairness and freedom to the many.” Recommended

Also available as an audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook on OverDrive.

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

Book Reviews: Global Economy

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Economic scholars study, debate and write about problems in today’s global economy, but only the most optimistic readers believe that government policymakers will reverse the trends. Three important works were published last year addressing sluggish growth, rising inequality and unstable financial markets.

book cover imageRicks, Morgan. The money problem : rethinking financial regulation. The University of Chicago Press, [2016].

The central problem in the U.S. financial system is vulnerability in the short term funding markets. The solution is to update and redesign the monetary system to include explicit government guarantees for all short-term borrowing of financial firms.

Also available as an eBook.

 

book coverEl-Erian, Mohamed A. The only game in town : central banks, instability, and avoiding the next collapse. Random House, [2016].

In 2008, central banks prevented a collapse in the world economy. Now they are the only responsible economic policymakers. It is time for governments to step up and develop comprehensive economic policies that will lead to growth and stability.

Also available as an audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook on OverDrive.

 

book cover imageMilanovic, Branko. Global inequality : a new approach for the age of globalization. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, [2016].

The industrial revolution in Europe and North America drove up inequality between rich and poor countries, but the fast rate of growth of Asian countries is pushing global inequality back down. The current trend of shrinking inequality among nations but increasing inequalities within nations will continue.

Also available as an eBook.

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

Book review: Spider Network and Golden Passport

Monday, July 10th, 2017

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy (reviewed here) has been on the New York Times’ list of best sellers for almost a year and his memoir is one of only 5 titles on Bill Gates’ summer reading list. In his insightful book, Vance illustrates how the consumer-oriented values and chaotic family customs of the working class limit their children’s chances for a prosperous future.

But that is not the whole story. In addition to suffering from their own dysfunctional behaviors, ordinary people are routinely cheated in subtle ways that are impossible to detect. Two new books illustrate how elites are advancing their own agendas, while abandoning a longstanding sense of social responsibility.

book cover imageEnrich, David. The spider network. Custom House, [2017].

Wall Street Journal editor David Enrich tells the story of British math prodigy Tom Hayes, who was convicted of criminal fraud in 2015 for manipulating Libor, the benchmark that underlies the interest rate on loans worldwide. From his first days as a trader in the City of London, Hayes learns that his sole objective is to make money. Working at a series of banks, he speculates on the companies’ own funds, using sophisticated pricing models. Hayes optimizes his performance by working with a group of bankers to change their Libor submissions in the direction favorable to his security holdings.

Executives at powerful banks, Citigroup, Goldman, UBS and others, were complicit; yet these influential people were never held accountable. Oversight from regulators was minimal. Meanwhile, people on Main Street who used a credit card, took out a variable rate mortgage or carried a student loan paid more for interest on those obligations. Those with pensions saw lower returns.

Also available as an audiobook on CD, an audiobook on OverDrive, and an eBook on OverDrive.

book cover imageMcDonald, Duff. The golden passport. Harper Business, [2017].

The Harvard Business School (HBS) proudly claims to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. But business journalist Duff McDonald holds HBS to blame for the key problems in America today — growing inequality and the flawed structure of today’s shareholder capitalism. As the most prominent and largest graduate business school, HBS has shaped countless companies, but also the world’s financial system, the economy and society itself. An HBS MBA is the “golden passport” to influence and wealth.

McDonald explains that HBS created the Socratic case method to train MBA students to operate in an ambiguous environment, to diagnose problems and frame solutions, to prioritize, communicate and act. But he also argues that the case method is backward facing and has armed its graduates with conventional answers to conventional questions. McDonald holds Harvard faculty members responsible for the theories that empower executives to increase stock prices by laying off employees. He also criticizes the pervasive focus on money within the school. MBA’s flock to lucrative consulting and investment banking careers. Administrators fixate on raising money from alumni. Faculty members multiply their salaries by serving as consultants for corporate clients. While the institution revolves around making money, McDonald calls for HBS to live up to its aspiration to make the world a better place.

Also available as an audiobook on CD, an audiobook on OverDrive, an eBook on OverDrive, and on Notable Business Books Kindles at the Ford Library.

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

Book Review: Black Edge

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Kolhatkar, Sheelah. Black Edge: inside information, dirty money, and the quest to bring down the most wanted man on Wall Street. Random House, 2017.

book cover imageStories about powerful people behaving badly make good beach reading, especially if the protagonists are rich financiers and they come to a bad end. Extra points if the books illuminate the workings of Wall Street.

Ruthless hedge fund owner Stephen A. Cohen is the subject of Sheelah Kolhatkar’s new book, Black Edge. The story begins as Cohen graduates from Wharton and begins his career at a small brokerage firm in lower Manhattan. His natural instincts make him a star trader almost immediately. Fearless and self-confident, he generates huge profits by trading large blocks of stock at high frequency.

In 1992, Cohen starts his own hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, and by 1995, the company is worth $100 million. He charges exorbitant fees and keeps half the profits. As he grows more powerful, he requires Wall Street bankers to give him advance notice before releasing information that would affect the price of a stock. After SAC surpasses $1 billion in assets, he hires new traders who have personal connections with people working in public companies. He uses these contacts to gather inside information (black edge) that he uses for trading. Cohen becomes one of the richest men in the world.

One of Cohen’s first in-house analysts is Duke engineering alumnus C.B. Lee, who travels to Taiwan and China to gather inside information on companies that manufacture semiconductors. Another early hire is Mathew Martoma, a Stanford MBA, who had attended Duke as an undergrad under the name Ajai Mathew Thomas. Martoma is a biotechnology specialist at SAC who had black edge on pharmaceuticals. After the FBI and SEC investigates, Lee cooperates with law enforcement, while Martoma is convicted of securities fraud and sentenced to prison. He never turns on Cohen, who goes free. At the end of the book, Stephen A. Cohen is more wealthy and powerful than ever. Instead of ending corruption in a powerful industry that operates in the dark, the FBI and SEC stop prosecuting high level corporate criminals on Wall Street.

Sheelah Kolhatkar is a master storyteller. Her entertaining and well-researched book is recommended for anyone interested in finance and ethics. She presents complex material in a clear narrative. Characters are multi-dimensional, including Duke alumni C.B. Lee and Mathew Martoma, who are treated sympathetically. Duke readers note: there is a third university connection — ethics professor Bruce Payne (Sanford School of Public Policy) who is depicted as acting with honesty and integrity.

Also available as an audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook on OverDrive.

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