Soundview Executive Book Summaries

BW Names Best Innovation and Design Books of 2008
December 31, 2008, 1:21 PM
Filed under: Innovation | Tags: ,

In mid-December, BusinessWeek created a list of the top 10 best 2008 innovation and design books. We’re proud to say that we have covered at least 4 of these titles in one summary, two featured book reviews, and one speed review.


  • The New Age of Innovation by C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan: In the new age of innovation and corporate growth, business processes must be able to smoothly connect consumers and resources and at the same time manage the necessities that ensure efficiency and flexibility. Managers must become skilled at real-time actions that are event and consumer specific. Leaders will need to imagine and inspire. To accomplish the transformation that companies are faced with in order to compete globally, Prahalad and Krishnan offer a strategic plan.


  • The Game-Changer by A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan: A.G. Lafley, chairman and CEO of P&G, and well-known author Ram Charan team up to show why innovation must be made central to the goals, strategy, structure, systems, culture, leadership, and motivating purpose and values of your business to create sustained and ever-improving organic revenue growth and profits. Based on experience and research, the authors offer a new management process for making innovation central to every driver of your business.


  • Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff: The groundswell is defined as a social trend in which people are using technologies to get what they need from each other instead of from companies. The authors explain the groundswell and then lay out basic tools to understand it. The final section of Groundswell shows how you can successfully make use of the groundswell within your company now and in the future. Solid research backs up this timely book.


  • The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam: Roam touts the advantages of learning to utilize visual thinking through the use of hand-drawn pictures to get to the heart of complex matters and to identify the most effective way to present information. “Any problem can be made clearer with a picture,” he says, “and any picture can be created using the same set of tools and rules.”

Stay Focused on Your Strengths
December 30, 2008, 1:16 PM
Filed under: Economics | Tags:

I ventured over to Marcus Buckingham’s blog today and after browsing, came across his Dec. 16 entry about the economy and how we can all use this time to take control of our careers and our future.


Of course, Buckingham is well known for his momentum behind the strengths movement, and published his latest book, The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success back in late September with Thomas Nelson. Since then, he has been everywhere from Oprah & Friends to the Dave Ramesy Show.


His post can be deemed inspirational, but more importantly, I think it is practical. He writes: “The word ‘control’ is really the key. In uncertain times, people want to know what they can control. Well, you can’t take charge of the economy on a macro level, can you? You can’t get General Motors on track, or somehow turn consumer confidence around. But you can take charge of yourself. You can make the effort to discover what you really love to do, and then take the steps to build your career around that. If you focus on what you love to do, the money will follow. It can be tough to keep that focus, even if you’re currently employed. You can let yourself get distracted by concerns about your company’s business or potential layoffs. But wallowing in anxiety about what could go wrong is simply counterproductive. Don’t worry about the future; plan for it. Now is the time to double down on your Strengths and figure out ways to volunteer more of yourself, contribute more and make yourself known and indispensable.”


Definitely some words of wisdom that we could all reflect upon. For more information about The Truth About You, check out Buckingham’s interview with BusinessWeek‘s Diane Brady.

Creative Cost Cutting
December 29, 2008, 11:09 PM
Filed under: Economics | Tags: ,

In a New York Times article titled “More Companies Are Cutting Labor Costs Without Layoffs” in the business section on Dec. 21, Matt Richtel wrote about a number of initiatives that companies are taking to stave off thinning their workforces while still staying afloat during the recession.


I applaud these efforts, many of which are true out of the box thinking. Richtel writes of four-day workweeks, flexible work schedules, furloughs (voluntary or enforced), wage freezes, unpaid vacations and pension cuts—though many of those options don’t sound grand, I’m sure all of you can agree that any of them sound like a walk in the park compared to a layoff. Specific company examples from the article are as follows: Cisco—four-day year-end shutdown; Dell—extended unpaid holiday; Honda—voluntary unpaid vacation time; Motorola—salary cuts; Nevada casinos—four-day workweek; and The Seattle Times—a week unpaid furlough.


Companies are trying to remain positive. Richtel writes, “At the Pretech Corporation, a concrete manufacturer in Kansas City, Kan., that has not had a layoff in 15 years, part of the rationale is pride. To keep the perfect track record, the company has cut overtime, traded a $5,000 holiday party for an employee-only barbecue lunch, and trimmed its pipe-making operation to four days from five, which allows it to save substantially on heating and electrical costs. ‘We’re optimistic about the future,’ [the company’s co-owner, Bob Bundschuh] said, adding that he thought things could turn around in six months.”


Here’s hoping it does turn around for all of us in six months.

BusinessWeek is All A’Tweet
December 26, 2008, 2:02 PM
Filed under: Social Media | Tags:

On Dec. 12, editor John Byrne posted a list of all the magazine’s staffers who have a Twitter feed.


Byrne writes: “As part of our effort to deeply engage our readers, a good many of us at BusinessWeek have been having great success and fun with Twitter, the hot micro-blogging site that allows users to blog in 140 characters or less. Two months ago, in a post entitled Twittering Your Way Into Our Newsroom, I invited readers to follow me and partake in an experiment to bring the outside in and the inside out. Some 2,640 people are now following me. Thousands of others are following the more than 30 journalists at BusinessWeek who are now on Twitter.”


However, it seems that Byrne’s attempt to get more BusinessWeek readers engaged has gone a bit awry … according to a post on Talking Biz News, a number of BW’s staffers are unhappy about the fact that their Twitter feeds have been made widely public—true, Twitter feeds are public, unless you lock your posts so only people you have given access can read. However, now a many of the staffers have begun receiving article pitches—in 140 characters or less—from PR firms, who quickly circulated the list of Twittering BW staff.


Getting readers engaged is a great thing, but perhaps a better idea would have been to create a specific staffer Twitter feed that could be shared and contributed to; I’ve noticed this is a common marketing tactic.


How do you use Twitter?

Are You Guilty?
December 24, 2008, 2:56 PM
Filed under: General Business

In the hectic business world, we’re always hoping the ETA on the 4Q marketing ROI report will be in before EOB, and going forward we need to remember to give junior staffers a heads up about the company’s plan for increased out of the box thinking. Right?


That opening paragraph was riddled with “business speak,” some of which have become the norm in our vocabulary, and others which have made it onto Great Britain’smost despised business jargon by researchers.” According to the article by Aislinn Simpson in the Telegraph, “Thinking outside the box” was voted No. 1 on the despised list of 20. Simpson references a survey of 2,035 adults conducted by YouGov, which details that 49 percent of those surveyed feel the increased use of such business terms (e.g., “Blue sky thinking” at No. 6 and “In the loop” at No. 20) stems from “employees seek[ing] to impress their bosses.”


A spokesperson for Ramada Encore hotels, Zory Radnay-Florain is quoted: “It’s bad enough when people at work talk about ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, but now we’re starting to use these clichéd phrases at home.” The article cites Radnay-Florain as the commissioner of the survey.


So, how many of these “most hated” terms by our friends across the pond do you use on a daily, or weekly, basis? Are there any on the list that you feel don’t belong there? Review the list here and tell us what you think. Or suggest a few that really get your goat, but don’t appear on the list already. In the end, perhaps we’ll all be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Leading in Difficult Times-a follow up to my post of 11/17
December 23, 2008, 2:51 PM
Filed under: Leadership | Tags:

“When the economy is doing well, you tend to meet leaders who are people-oriented, persuasive, and sensitive. When the economy dips, the leaders in greatest demand are those who are tough, exacting, and able to make the really difficult calls that can affect large numbers of people (like laying off thousands of workers).”


This is the observation of Umesh Ramakrishnan in the introduction to his book There’s No Elevator to the Top. Umesh is a headhunter with CTPartners and to do research for this book he traveled the world to interview top executives from major companies like Charles Schwab, Lenovo, JC Penney, PepsiCo, Infosys, Aetna, Cadbury-Schweppes, NCR, BT, and Singapore Telecom.


Ramakrishnan wasn’t searching for the “secret” to executive success, but instead wanted to dig below the surface to find out how these men and women ended up in the corner office so that he could provide this insight to those that are on their way up. His questions for CEO’s included: What do you know now that you wished you had known 20 years ago? What was your greatest accomplishment? Where did you get your inspiration? What is the difference between a great executive and a mediocre one? What are some of the things you found in the C-suite that you did not expect but which made you feel happy about being there? How do you manage to keep your marriage intact as you flit around the globe seven days a week?


The answers are many times surprising and always informative. Whether you’re headed for the C-suite, or looking for someone to fill the top post in your company, this book provides insight into the kind of character that’s needed to lead. Ramakrishnan also hosts a blog where top leaders comment on the issues of the day.

What Would Google Do?
December 22, 2008, 7:48 PM
Filed under: Strategic Management | Tags:

You may know Jeff Jarvis as the creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly magazine, but he is also the mind behind one of the most popular media and Internet blogs,


In January/February of 2009, Jarvis’ name may become even more familiar due to the release of his book: What Would Google Do? The book is described as “one part prophecy, one part thought experiment, one part manifesto and one part survival manual,” and takes on the challenge of thoroughly examining the fastest-growing company in history. On his blog Jarvis writes: “I’m reverse-engineering Google, taking the lessons and rules I find in their singular success in the internet economy and applying them to other companies, industries, and institutions. And then I’ll pontificate about the greater importance of Google and links on society and life.”


For more information, go check out a video about What Would Google Do? and Jarvis on the book’s page on Harper Collins’ Web site. Jarvis is an engaging speaker and gives you a great feel for the book’s content.