Monday, September 13, 2010

Sorting through business books (and minds)


I browsed the book tables last week, evenings in Chicago, looking for a diversion and insight.  With business weighing on my mind, I cruised through the management and economics sections.  Unfortunately, they are heavily dominated with single-thought manifestoes with single word titles: Blink, Bang, Think, Switch, Empowered, Zapp, Drive, Power, Nudge, Rework, and Linchpin.

No, they really were all there.

I thumbed through a few pages, enough to get the flavor of them.  It’s hard to see why they are classified as business books at all: many are ‘soft’ works of self-help or psychology, with little relation to ‘hard’ topics like product pricing, business strategy, managerial finance, market competition, or product development.  These are the concerns that I need to sort through in establishing and growing a small business each day, and where I would really value experience and insight.

But they all sell well, so who are these books selling to?

I suspect it’s the folks embedded in corporations, where jobs are defined more narrowly, the organization is the competition and the process is the strategy.  It’s a different mindset.  For example, I used to look at budgets as a tool for efficient allocation of resources to assure that projects were completed.  Now I see them as investments needed to reduce risk and secure a return.

So, in a corporate environment, these books would give perspective, perhaps a clever twist to a meeting or report, a fresh anecdote for a planning or review session.  It might help to establish a new point of view in a brainstorming session, or a novel organizing principal for an offsite.  Many times, my managers would hand out copies of a book to the whole department, with instructions to prepare for weekly discussions, chapter by chapter, on how we could improve though it’s principals.

And, in my present environment, I haven’t got the business well enough formed to be able to translate it into processes and structures to pass on to others.  So its not surprising that these books don’t relate to my challenges.

defector_pbFortunately, Daniel Silva had come out with a new Gabriel Allon spy novel, assassin and art restorer.  It’s enough to keep me engaged for most of the week as he makes one escape after another from certain death until the final triumph is achieved.

‘almost like running a small business.

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