Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Don’t Forget Soundview Live

Just wanted to put up a quick post to remind all subscribers that this Thursday, July 30, 2009 at Noon (EDT) is our next Soundview Live event!

This interactive Web event is delivered FREE to subscribers. Soundview Live will feature Clayton M. Christensen, lead author of The Innovator’s Prescription. In light of the on-going debate over health care in the United States, this could be one of the most important discussions we’ve featured on Soundview Live. The best part is that our subscribers will be the ones who provide the bulk of the questions that Clayton Christensen will answer! You can get direct access to the person behind the theory of disruptive innovation.

If you’re not currently a Soundview subscriber, free access to an event like this is a great reason to start your subscription today.

Current subscribers who wish to attend Soundview Live featuring Clayton  M. Christensen and non-subscribers who want to start their subscription to Soundview can both visit this link for more information.

If you’re attending, I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.

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Parables, Fables and Other Tales to Tell

I’m going to break one of my golden rules today, and you’re here to witness it.

There are certain turns of phrase that I refuse to allow to see print because I feel they smack of laziness on the part of the writer. At the top of that list is introducing a concept by use of the phrase, “Webster’s dictionary defines [insert word] as … .” I always picture this phrase being read in a monotone voice at warp speed by a nervous middle school student as he races through a five-minute presentation on gravity.

But after reading this story earlier today, I fear I have no other recourse but to use this dread technique. The article discusses business parables, such as those written by Ken Blanchard, who co-authored his latest, Who Killed Change, with John Britt, Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoekstra. The article also mentions that this proliferation of storytelling business books has caused some outlets to create a separate category solely for business parables and fables.

So what’s the difference between a parable and a fable? I beg for forgiveness even as write this, but according to the dictionary of my choosing, a parable is a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparison with natural or homely things. A fable is defined as a brief tale embodying a moral, sometimes using animals or objects as characters.

This immediately caused my mind to leap to the works of Patrick Lencioni, who in my opinion is the master of the business fable. Having read the majority of his works, I don’t recall animals or even inanimate objects populating his successful series of fables. His works have been some of the more interesting business books to be written in the last 10 years, even if they might be mislabeled as fables.

One book that I think should always be included in discussions about “storytelling” business volumes is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. This tale of putting one’s own needs behind those of others is a book that should find its way to the desks of more and more executives. And just for the record, I’d classify it as a parable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to perform some form of penance  for breaking my own editorial code.



Onward to The Green Road

One of my joys as editor in chief is reviewing the numerous book reviews that are submitted to us. We have a talented pool of writers who imbue their reviews with style and creativity. From the monthly allotment, we provide the best reviews on Summary.com for FREE. It just takes the simple step of signing up for a log-in.

Of course, my appetite for reviews doesn’t stop with the ones that fill my inbox. I go in search of intriguing reviews from many outlets, both print and online. This review, furnished by Matter Network via the folks at Reuters, deals with Andrew Winston’s book Green Recovery, published by our friends at Harvard Business School Press.

The review, as well as the book itself, make the case for continued emphasis on green thinking in business. With the recent battles over health care and the continued concern about the jobless rate in the United States, there may be those who assume that the green movement is pushed onto the side-table until other issues are resolved. This is a bit foolhardy, and Winston devotes a good bit of his effort to assert the needs of businesses of all sizes to not take their eye off the globe. Winston’s six business trends are among those commonly named drivers of the green business movement, and each has enough push behind it to ensure that it won’t leave the agenda in any boardroom for some time.

If you have a particular interest in the impact of the search for sustainability on the business world, I’d recommend Soundview’s collection The Business of Green. We compiled 11 of the most important books written to date on the subjects that rest beneath the green banner. It wouldn’t hurt to get informed on environmental issues, because as Winston indicates, a company’s ecological practices will only come under greater scrutiny in the months and years ahead. Oh, and don’t worry about the footprint of our collection … it’s available in a variety electronic formats but not on paper. No trees were harmed in its creation.



A Giant Leap with No Equal

This week marks what I personally consider to be one of the most important moments in human history. There were others that came before it. Yes, once upon a time we figured out how to breathe underwater. We also discovered how to harness electricity to create light and heat. We managed to lift our feet from the ground and soar with powered flight. All of these innovations are impressive and should not be undersold.

But in our jaded age where information moves as quickly as the trends it produces, let’s pause for one moment and consider July 20, 1969. All of the above marvels I’ve described are impressive, but they were all contained by the boundaries of the gravity and atmosphere of Earth. By contrast on the date in question, mankind safely stood on a world other than his own. Throughout history, for the millennia in which men and women stared up at the night sky to see that glowing orb, no one could have conceived of the thought that one day someone would stand on its surface and look back at the blue sphere he left behind.

Perhaps what’s more impressive is that those voyagers returned safely. This is due to the incredible combination of skills and teamwork on the part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s approach to teamwork has been studied, scrutinized, and even heavily criticized (in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster). It’s also the subject of a new book: How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers and Project Teams. Charles J. Pellerin, a former NASA astro-physicist, details the “4-D” team-building process he created to help NASA’s various technical experts form more cohesive, productive teams. It’s important to note that this book is not sanctioned by NASA, but this does little to take away from its excellent content.

While we can’t as yet reveal our plans in relation to this book, needless to say it’s publication comes at a critical point, as the government re-examines the space program. I, for one, remain hopeful that the teamwork and dedication which led us to land safely on the moon will one day help NASA to make an even greater leap.



All Systems Go for August

Have you delved into your August edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries yet? If not, what are you waiting for, huh? It’s a cool alternative to the “dog days” of August, putting all modesty aside, of course.

If you’re not a subscriber, take a look at what you’re missing.

We’ve got top business consultant Amit S. Mukherjee with his latest release The Spider’s Strategy. Mukherjee provides four “design principles” that are essential for understanding and navigating one’s way through unexpected events.

The August edition also includes another of our popular Bonus Summaries. This time, it’s The Leadership Pipeline. I was a little nervous that we weren’t going to be able to cover this book due to the flood of great releases we received while putting the August edition together. However, we felt it was essential to give our subscribers a key leadership title due to overwhelming demand for more summaries on this subject. This collaboration between Ram Charan, James Noel and Stephen Drotter is one of the best leadership books we’ve covered in recent months.

But the true gem of our August edition is J. Barry Griswelland Bob Jenning’s The Adversity Paradox. We were quite impressed with this book, particularly the authors’ insistence on the importance of adversity in the journey to success. Subscribers should also check their online library for an exclusive interview with the authors. They’ve got quite a story to tell!

For additional information or to order individual copies of any of our August summaries, visit us at Summary.com.



Small Business and the Trillion Dollar Bill

The debate continues to gain momentum concerning the potential changes to health care in the United States. I took a few moments to read (and reread) this article from the Wall Street Journal that discusses the impact on small business of the proposed $1.04 trillion health care legislation. Our client base is quite diverse, something of which we’re very proud, but small businesses make up a vital (and vocal, I might add) segment of our subscribers. So many of the books that we summarize are intended to provide the information that can help entrepreneurs and small business owners to propel their businesses beyond the corporate equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck.

While it’s not my intention to offer any political commentary on the bill that is currently circulating in the House of Representatives, I will say that I was glad to see the Wall Street Journal put the issue “above the fold”  as they say in the newspaper business. (Quick editorial aside: With the way newspapers continue to move away from print and toward online-only offerings, what will editors say in future? Above the scroll?). Small businesses are often glossed over while the two sides of the aisle lob legislative shells at one another.

While this goes on, we at Soundview continue to refer back to The Innovator’s Prescription. We’re only two weeks away from our Soundview Live event with the book’s lead author Clayton M. Christensen. Will you be joining us? If you’re currently a subscriber, visit our Web site and sign up FREE. If you’re not a subscriber,  just click this link to learn more about how easy it is to become a Soundview subscriber and receive free admission to our Soundview Live audio events.

The upcoming edition of Soundview Live will feature extensive Q&A with Clayton Christensen. This is driven largely by the questions submitted by our subscribers. I, for one, hope our friends in the small business sector ask Christensen’s opinion of the proposed legislation and how it relates to the vision outlined in his book. Should make for great listening!



The Path to the Castle

Here’s a book that recently crossed my desk with little fanfare. After taking a look through its contents, I’m surprised that more hasn’t been made of Erika Andersen’s new release Being Strategic: Plan for Success, Out-think Your Competitors, Stay Ahead of Change.

Andersen, who also authors her own blog, is known for her work as a coach and advisor to senior executives. Many of the companies with whom she’s worked are in the mass media business. In fact, her resume reads like the on-screen listings guide from my cable TV service: NBC, CBS, MTV, etc.

In Being Strategic, Andersen provides a breakdown of the skills involved in strategy. As she admits in her introduction, the word “strategic” shows up nearly every day, yet how many different definitions of “strategy” have you heard over the length of your career? To draw a parallel with a bit of Asian philosophy, “strategy” is like water, it takes the shape of whatever container currently holds it. Of course somewhere along the line, the container gets tipped over and its contents spill out all over the place!

Fortunately, Andersen turns liquid to solid through her use of the metaphor of building a castle. Considering that the goals most of us are asked to accomplish are as lofty and labor-intensive as constructing a medieval castle, Andersen chose wisely when coming up with this comparison. Her book is filled with excellent examples from Andersen’s travels, and she has the writing skills to help carry her readers from the valley to the hilltop without losing them along the path.

Of course, Andersen isn’t a stranger to Soundview. We were quite fond of her previous book Growing Great Employees. Check out her newest release and start your path to your castle. Just watch out for trolls along the way!