Six thought-provoking books for business education students
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What Works: Gender Equality by Design, by Iris Bohnet, Belknap Press, RRP£21.95/$26.95
This is a persuasive manual for anyone seeking to eliminate unconscious biases, in recruitment and management, that perpetuate imbalances between men and women. In the book, a finalist for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, Bohnet offers invaluable, research-based guidance about how to design and run organisations that are not only fairer but better. It is not as simple as it looks. As Bohnet points out, teams that look and think the same may be better suited for tasks that involve implementing existing solutions, whereas more diverse teams may be better at collective problem-solving.
The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation, by Vijay Govindarajan, Harvard Business Review Press, RRP£22/$32
Inspired by the Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School, lays out a simple and practical path for innovation. He says companies should assign core operations to box one, put stuff they need to forget, sell or close in box two and develop the future in box three. This should allow organisations to explore new frontiers, without losing sight of the need to exploit existing assets — an approach that, among others, Alphabet, Google’s parent, is now testing at scale.
The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Bloomsbury, RRP£18.99/$28
One of the first in what will doubtless be a wave of books about how to cope with longer lives and careers. Gratton and Scott, London Business School professors, use imagined case studies of individuals at different ages to map out how work, personal finances, corporate organisation and relationships may change. The book, another finalist for the FT/McKinsey award, is an important offset to the current obsession with how to manage millennials. A more important question, they imply, is how will millennials, many more of whom will live to 100, manage themselves?
The Real Madrid Way: How Values Created the Most Successful Sports Team on the Planet, by Steven Mandis, BenBella Books, RRP$16.95
Adapting a common business book trope — The Toyota Way, The Amazon Way, The Virgin Way, and so on — Mandis, an academic, entrepreneur and former Goldman Sachs banker, dives into the Spanish football club to discover the secrets of its success. He emerges as a fan, though not an uncritical one, and attributes Real Madrid’s commercial and sporting triumphs to its model: a member-owned organisation based on the values of its supporters and wider community. A fine antidote to the sporting and business fixation on data analytics as the only key to success.
Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, by Clayton Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David Duncan, HarperCollins, RRP£20/$29.99
Harvard Business School’s Prof Christensen is best known as author of The Innovator’s Dilemma but for almost as long as he has taught disruptive innovation, he has promoted a “jobs to be done” approach. The authors explain how the theory can help companies work out why customers “hire” certain products and services. The book gives managers tools with which to adapt to disruption and avoid being swamped by process — and a further insight into Prof Christensen’s thinking on innovation.
Pariahs: Hubris, Reputation and Organisational Crises, by Matt Nixon, Libri Publishing, RRP£20
Scandal seems woven into corporate life, no matter how many rules are applied, and often nemesis follows the hubris of business leaders. Nixon applies a quarter-century of experience working in and with big companies to recent headline stories of malpractice and explains why and how “pariah” organisations develop. He draws stimulating parallels between classical thinking, the historic use and abuse of power, and contemporary news. More importantly, he also suggests how leaders — and employees — can work to prevent the rot from setting in.
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