Many book lovers savor the opportunity to browse the aisles of a local bookstore to peruse a favorite genre, glance at new releases or watch for the latest from a favorite author. And when you find something of interest, there is the ritual of scanning the book jacket flaps, the table of contents, and even a few chapters to decide if it’s worth buying.
But this has not been quite as easy to accomplish on the Internet … until now. Last week Google announced a new feature tied to its Book Search program, a widget-like tool called Google Previews. By adding simple code to their Web sites, publishers, retailers or anyone with sufficient technical knowledge can embed a Google-hosted preview of up to 20% of any book that has been included in the Google Book Search database.
Among those that have already applied this tool to their Web sites are Books-A-Million and Blackwell Bookshop. Borders and Powell’s will launch their applications soon and certainly others will add this tool in the coming months.
While the tool is a great help to book buyers, it could also prove to be a boon to booksellers. With declining books sales and ever-increasing competition, online bookstores need all the help they can get to make the sale. Google has provided a new resource for any Web site that promotes books.
So grab your cup of coffee and do a little browsing online. You won’t be able to touch the books, but at least now you can get a good look inside.
As I sat down with my notes to write this post about a new book titled Relevance, I decided to hop over to Amazon to see what kind of write-up it had, since the publisher’s Web site had scant information. I searched for the book’s main title, without subtitle, and was confused when the most “relevant” search result was for another business book titled Relevance by David Apgar. I remembered this book crossing my desk earlier in the year, but then realized if I scrolled down the actual book I wanted was below due to publication releases. I found it interesting that 2 business books could come out in the same year with little physically separating them but their subtitles (Hitting Your Goals by Knowing What Matters versus Making Stuff That Matters) and authors.
The book I’m interested in discussing is Tim Manner’s September release of Relevance: Making Stuff That Matters, published by Portfolio. Amazon’s product description is intriguing: “After years studying remarkable companies and speaking to some of the most influential leaders around, Tim Manners has discovered a solution to the marketing woes of many brands. Stop worrying about demographics, fads, and cutting-edge advertising. Instead, focus on relevance.”
With examples from major brands like Kleenex, Staples, Levi’s, Nintendo and Dunkin Donuts, I have a feeling that this will be a compelling read. I see a trend of one-word best practices surfacing in business today, from transparency to sustainability, and relevance certainly has a place among them.
Have you even been to a stadium rock concert, high up in the nosebleeds and able to see all those lucky (or unlucky, depending on how claustrophobic you may be) people down below in what is known as “general admission,” “standing room only,” or what is commonly known to the younger generation as “the pit”? At some of the wilder shows—so I’ve been told—many a zealous music fan will manage to get hoisted above his or her peers’ heads and is passed along from person to person, literally surfing the crowd much the same way you might body surf in the ocean. Sure, it’s not for everybody, but crowd surfing has become something of a regular phenomenon at rock and punk shows, where a band or a musician has a following—a community of devoted fans that all want to participate in the experience.
Is this always safe? No, but it’s for those who enjoy taking a bit of risk, sort of like those folks who get a kick from bungee jumping. But if you want to feel that sense of community, or as a business leader harness that power, then there is another option for you: crowdsourcing.
Lately there have been a handful of popular titles devoted to the way of the crowd: We Are Smarter Than Me, The Wisdom of Crowds, and even Citizen Marketers touches upon it. As of August 26, Crown Business has published another title to add to the growing collection of “crowd” research: Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe.
The book touches on companies and communities that we’re familiar with: Google, Threadless, Wikipedia and InnoCentive to mention a few, but the information provided about them is valuable—they truly are working with the power of the crowds devoted to them and their brand.
As a teaser, I leave you with this quote from the book: “The amount of knowledge and talent dispersed among the human race has always outstripped our capacity to harness it. Crowdsourcing corrects that—but in doing so, it also unleashes the forces of creative destruction.” For more info, check out Howe’s blog and pick up a copy of Crowdsourcing. You’re bound to learn something new!
On the popular executive gift site Leeds World there are some telling executive desk gifts. One is a pair of action dice, which you can toss to receive one of 36 different phrases like “right away,” “be sincere,” or “share an idea.” Or perhaps you would prefer the decision-making dartboard with such choices as “reinvent,” “maybe,” or “innovate.”
Although these gifts are meant as a joke for the stressed-out executive, they may not be too far from the reality of business decision making. The business world has become so complex that good decisions seem almost beyond our reach.
However, some of our top business minds have come to the aid of information-overloaded executives with classic titles that offer principles for making effective decisions. One of the most well-known is Malcolm Gladwell with his book Blink. Sub-titled The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, this bestseller offers a look inside the minds of those who are experts at what we refer to as hunches, gut feelings or snap decisions. Gladwell describes the art of “thin-slicing” – filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables. It is his contention that this is not an art for the gifted few but that through training and practice we all can improve our ability to make these snap decisions successfully.
Another challenge for top executives is being surrounded by “yes-men,” subordinates who are afraid to deliver bad news or offer an opposing view on an issue. In Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Michael Roberto shows readers how to stimulate honest, constructive dissent, use it to improve decisions, and then align the organization around those decisions. He also uses examples to show how the decision process unfolds throughout an organization.
Other related decision-making books include Confidence by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, The Third Opinion by Dr. Saj-nicole A. Joni, The Power of Impossible Thinking by Jerry Wind and Why Decisions Fail by Paul Nutt. These are all available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and the Decision Making Collection of the summaries of all seven titles mentioned is available through Soundview at www.summary.com.
Humans have a natural inclination toward “belonging” to a group. A lot of the time, our sense of belonging comes from the brands, activities and past times that we readily support and are often fanatical about. Deadheads, Mac users [http://www.apple.com], Parrot Heads, and even Saturn drivers.
Seth Godin—prolific blogger and bestselling author of books such as Meatball Sundae, The Dip, The Big Moo and Purple Cow—has decided to take a look at this human phenomenon (and take it a step further) in his newest book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. According to Godin, tribes are groups of people aligned around an idea, connected to a leader and to each other. Tribes make our world work, and always have. But with groups cropping up everywhere (especially due to the prevalence of the Internet), Godin has identified a shortage in tribe leaders—people want to belong to a group, but a successful group needs a head, a leader.
With the book set to be 160 pages published by Portfolio and released in mid-October, I’m sure this book will go the same way that Godin’s other books have gone—up, up, up. Godin knows how to do it because he himself is a leader of an immensely successful tribe in his position of CEO at Squidoo.com.
And Godin, of course, has taken this one step further by inviting loyal readers of his blog to join his tribe. He writes:
I’d like to invite you to join a members-only tribe. A tribe for marketers, for leaders, for those focused on building communities or creating products or spreading ideas.
This online community will live on a site we’ve created that will feature blogs, forums, social networking, comments, photos, videos and a job board. And it’s by invitation only until October. Spots are limited and early members get privileges and bragging rights.
Of course, if you go to the blog post, which was from July, you’ll see a note at the top explaining that as of August 10, the tribe reached capacity and is closed to only the new members. This is a man who knows how to create loyalty, brand fanaticism, and above all else, a tribe.
Myspace. Facebook. LinkedIn. Blogs. Twitter. Vlogs. Digg. Reddit. Del.icio.us. Technorati. Flickr. Had enough yet? Social media continues to explode as more creative minds develop applications that allow people to connect across the Internet in a variety of ways. Want to share your vacation photos? Create a Flickr photo stream. Want to keep your friends and strangers aware of what books your reading and what you think of them? Start a blog—like me! Want to connect with other professionals in your industry? Create an account on LinkedIn.
However, as social media and social networking continues to grow at exponential rates, you have to be careful about what you choose to participate in—do you need Seesmic if you already use Twitter? Dopplr when you use Brightkite?
Aside from a little self-conducted research, there are also some great books out there that don’t necessarily tell you which social media apps to use, but instead give you a real understanding of this Web 2.0 phenomena. A personal favorite of mine is the bestselling Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. Check out their blog to get some further insight from a group of bloggers.
Filed under: Strategic Management | Tags: Strategic Management, strategies
Maybe half of you will comprehend the joke I tried to make in today’s blog title once I get cracking on mentioning the book I’d like to discuss: The Ten Commandments for Business Failure by Donald R. Keough. Did you get it? If not, spend some time on Google. The answer will come to you eventually.
The reason why I bring up testimonials is because of the sheer force behind the ones touting Keough’s book as a must-have for your bookshelf. These aren’t just your typical thumbs-up from quietly respected thought leaders. Testimonials from Bill Gates, Jack Welch, and former president George H. W. Bush are just three of the handful of positive remarks covering this book jacket. Oh, and did I mention that the foreword is written by the Oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett?
Though the title seems negative, the lessons that Keough sets out to teach are valuable and important, and yes, sometimes it is a good idea to learn from your own—and other people’s—mistakes. Keough should know a business mistake when he sees one: It was under his watch during his tenure at The Coca-Cola Company that New Coke was rolled out and bombed. Keough shares his own stories of business failures, as well as those of IBM and Schlitz Beer to mention a couple. His lessons also stem from his long and diverse career: philosophy major in college, TV sports announcer, president, COO and director of The Coca-Cola Company, and chairman of the board of investment banking firm Allen & Company.
The book has been a fairly hot seller on Amazon, with user reviews ranking it highly. I’m not sure if it offers anything really new, but sometimes its good to review the fundamentals. And if you’re interested, check out this interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Filed under: Leadership
The “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett is credited with the quote, “Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” If that’s the case, then for Buffett his life must be like one of those giant snowballs in the kids’ cartoons, rolling bigger and bigger.
In February 2008, Forbes ranked Buffett as the richest man in the world, worth approximately $62 billion dollars. Not bad for a 77-year old. He is considered one of the world’s greatest (and obviously smartest) investors, which only makes sense: He’s the son of a stockbroker.
Though he has long been in the public eye, Buffett has never written a memoir, though there are numerous books out there about him. In late September, there will be another book to add to that list, but this one is a bit different: It’ll be the first biography written with Buffett’s cooperation.
Bantam Books will publish The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder on Sept. 29. According to Amazon.com the book weighs in at a hefty 976 pages—not exactly a light beach read. Nevertheless, this book will be the quintessential book on Buffett, covering his personal life and business successes. Schroeder first met Buffett when she was working on research on his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Apparently Buffett was impressed by Schroeder and offered her access to his files and himself for the biography. My question is, will this book be as interesting as Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence? We shall have to find out.
According to Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis, it’s not about who’s better at business in the “men versus women” debate; it’s about realizing the difference between the business strengths of both genders. I don’t think there are any playground taunts that can even begin to tackle that.
In Leadership & the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business, authors Gurian and Annis work together to offer readers a new view of gender diversity. Both genders have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to business: Men tend to zone out more in meetings, but they are also more competitive. Women often tend to run off topic, but they are also natural-born multi-taskers. But when it comes down to it, both men and women want control.
Both authors are experts on the topic. Gurian is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books (The Wonder of Boys and Boys and Girls Learn Differently!), a corporate consultant, family therapist, and co-founder of the Gurian Institute. His coauthor, Annis, is the author of Same Words, Different Language, a corporate consultant on gender intelligence and inclusive leadership, and CEO of Barbara Annis & Associates.
Be sure to look for a summary in our September package!
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a certain brand of a product. Perhaps you prefer the fit of one brand’s jeans to another, or you like Coca-Cola over Pepsi (a regular debate over by the vending machines). But in these instances, it’s the product you’re focused on, right? Or have you been consumed by the marketing department’s clever and intriguing branding campaign?
Enter “Consumed” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, Rob Walker and his book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are. Walker takes a careful look at why we buy stuff, sliding us under the microscope and dissecting how consumers interact with brands and the 360 degree advertising campaigns we have surrounding us. Case in point: One of my former editors always asked for a Kleenex, never a tissue, when she needed to blow her nose. Would Puff’s Plus suffice? She’d always look at me like I was slightly off and just say sure. Why? Because she identified Kleenex as more than the brand, it was the product to her. That’s what she grew up with, so from an early age they weren’t tissues, they were Kleenex.
Walker discusses how today’s youth is embracing brands as a form of self-expression; to them they’re not just buying a specific brand of clothing, liquor or vehicle; they’re buying a lifestyle.
And youths aren’t the only ones “buying in.” Look around your office and take note. Once you’ve finished that, take some time to check out this interview with Walker conducted by Jessica Herman of Stop Smiling Magazine and this interview by Newsweek. If you want to see what else Walker is up to, check out his blog. Just a few things to keep your Web reading interesting.