W. P. Carey faculty share favorite books of 2005

January 31, 2006

Recently we asked a group of W. P. Carey professors which books, of the innumerable business titles released over the last year or so, had caught their attention. The responses were remarkably diverse and insightful: topics ranged widely, appealing to all sorts of reading tastes. Here are their recommendations, along with some of their comments:

 

Winning by Jack Welch with Suzy Welch

Packed with personal anecdotes and written in the distinctive no-b.s. voice of the former General Electric chief executive, "Winning" offers deep insights, original thinking, and nuts-and-bolts advice that are bound to change the way people think about work.

"Someone named by Fortune as the 'Manager of the [20th] Century' has to have something provocative to say, and Welch doesn't disappoint," says management professor Blake Ashforth. "Some of his advice is pretty contentious, but that should just help you think through what makes sense for your own company."

 

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter

 

President Carter offers a personal consideration of "moral values" as they relate to the important issues of the day. He puts forward a passionate defense of separation of church and state, and a strong warning of where the country is heading as the lines between politics and rigid religious fundamentalism are blurred.

 

"This is a challenging book from a economic and business standpoint," says management Professor John P. Millikin. "Jimmy Carter does an excellent job of describing the impact of fundamentalist thought on our economic and political landscape, including the burgeoning deficit, the widening gap between rich and poor and its impact on our economic life."

 

Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal?: Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Organization by Robert Mittelstaedt

 

Every business disaster has one thing in common: the people in charge never saw it coming. The warnings were there. They didn't have to wreck their companies and their careers, but they let it happen. This book can keep it from happening to you.

Whether you're in a global enterprise or a garage startup, Mittelstaedt shows how. His techniques apply to everything from culture to strategy, customer safety to market share.

 

New York Times writer Paul B. Brown cited Mittelstaedt's book as one of the notable business books from 2005. "Mittelstaedt is particularly good at pointing to potential warning signs. His overall message: Learn to evaluate and believe early warning signals," Brown wrote in his Dec. 4 article.

 

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

 

In "Blink," Malcolm Gladwell revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. It is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant -- in the blink of an eye -- that actually aren't as simple as they seem.

 

"This book details the act of making snap judgments and how the accuracy can be destroyed simply by asking the person making the judgment to explain themselves when making a choice," says Daniel Brooks, a professor of supply chain management whose field is decision science. "The topics are fascinating, the quirkiness of information from focus groups is explained, the way to tell if a new product will be a success or not is investigated and the whole of it is written with the skill of a novelist."

 

The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization by John Hagel III and John Seeley Brown

 

Renowned business thinkers Hagel and Seely Brown argue that the only sustainable advantage in the future will come from an institutional capacity to work closely with other highly specialized firms, allowing organizations to get better faster. Calling for a forceful reinvention of business strategy -- and the very nature of the firm itself -- the authors share their view of what every company must do today to become tomorrow's market leader.

 

"This book has inspired me to consider the implications of this business transformation on the required IT infrastructures," said Julie Smith David, a professor of information systems. "This portends a huge shift from IT that enables internal processes to those that can manage transactions across firms and oceans."

 

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman

 

With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the 21st century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt.

 

Several faculty members from various disciplines nominated "The World is Flat" -- evidence of the influence of a book that was widely quoted this year. "Friedman does a marvelous job of highlighting the various trends that impact us all and produce a 'flat' playing field for commerce and for human talent," says management Professor John Millikin. "I think should be required reading for our students."

 

Management Professor Peter Hom is less enthusiastic, but agrees that Friedman's thesis poses questions for universities. "On the one hand, 'The World is Flat' may seem to be just one more overblown prediction from a journalist," comments Hom. "It made me wonder about how business schools can better prepare students for this future, though the author seems to emphasize more engineering and science education."

 

The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle

 

Google Inc.'s breathtaking success makes it difficult to recollect the search startup of five years ago: a cash-burning outfit with no business model, teetering one misguided decision away from the dot-com rubble. "The Search" provides a compelling glimpse of the search industry's early years, covering the terrain and characters that contributed to Google's almost happenstance rise.

 

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

 

Kim and Mauborgne have conducted an extensive study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than 100 years and 30 industries. They found that companies can achieve lasting success by creating "blue oceans": untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Such strategic moves -- which the authors have dubbed "value innovation" -- create powerful leaps in value that often render rivals obsolete.

 

"This is a good strategy book that an accountant can appreciate," says Yuhchang Hwang, professor in the School of Accountancy. James Ward, professor of marketing, called the book "a provocative, interesting book relevant to marketing strategy."

 

Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (Leadership for the Common Good) by Barbara Kellerman

 

Drawing on high-profile, contemporary examples -- from Mary Meeker to David Koresh, Bill Clinton to Radovan Karadzic, Al Dunlap to Leona Helmsley -- Kellerman explores seven primary types of bad leadership and dissects why and how leaders cross the line from good to bad. The book also illuminates the critical role of followers, revealing how they collaborate with, and sometimes even cause, bad leadership.

 

"Examples of bad leaders can provide as much insight about leadership as secrets of successful leaders," says Angelo Kinicki, professor of management. "The author also does an excellent job in examining the difference between ineffective leadership and unethical leadership."

 

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan

 

Over the last 150 years the corporation has risen from relative obscurity to become the world's dominant economic institution. Bakan contends that today's corporation is a pathological institution, a dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies. But he believes change is possible and he outlines a far-reaching program of achievable reforms through legal regulation and democratic control.

 

Business and Religion: A Clash of Civilizations? (Conflicts and Trends in Business Ethics) edited by Nicholas Capaldi

 

The scandals of Enron and WorldCom constitute egregious examples of the absence or deficiency of ethical decision-making in matters of commerce. This book's purpose is to inaugurate a dialogue on the common elements of all three Abrahamic traditions -- Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- that touch on ethical issues in business.

 

Moral Courage by Rushworth Kidder

 

Why, when people discern wrongdoing, are they sometimes unready, unable, or unwilling to act? In a book rich with examples, Rushworth Kidder reveals that moral courage is the bridge between talking ethics and doing ethics.

 

Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life by Michael Lewis

 

There was a turning point in Lewis's life, in a baseball game when he was 14 years old. The irascible and often terrifying Coach Fitz put the ball in his hand with the game on the line and managed to convey such confident trust in Lewis's ability that the boy had no choice but to live up to it. "I didn't have words for it then, but I do now: I am about to show the world, and myself, what I can do."

 

"Anyone who was influenced at an early age by someone who treated them like an adult, pushed them to do more than they normally would have, made demands that seemed difficult at the time but created a sense of achievement and commitment will be touched by this book," says Daniel Brooks.

 

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

 

The definitive volume on the Enron case from an award-winning team of Fortune investigative reporters, "The Smartest Guys in the Room" takes the reader deep into Enron's past, behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron's rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise.

 

Leadership Secrets of the World's Most Successful CEOs: 100 Top Executives Reveal the Management Strategies That Made Their Companies Great edited by Eric Yaverbaum

 

Leadership is such a vital skill that four out of 10 U.S. corporations now have some sort of formal leadership training program in place, says public relations executive Yaverbaum. His book consists of exclusive interviews with top executives discussing the proven strategies, philosophies, and tactics they use to help their organizations succeed.

 

The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander

 

This volume provides the opening work in Christopher Alexander's seminal trilogy on architecture (continued in "A Pattern Language" and "The Oregon Experiment"). Here he provides a fascinating introduction to the ideas behind the succeeding two books.

 

"This book about patterns in architecture has become a frequently cited reference in discussing business process patterns," says Michael Goul, professor of information systems.

 

Service-Oriented Architecture Compass: Business Value, Planning, and Enterprise Roadmap by Norbert Bieberstein, Sanjay Bose, Marc Fiammante, Keith Jones, Rawn Shah

 

IBM Enterprise Integration Team experts present a start-to-finish guide to planning, implementing, and managing Service-Oriented Architecture. Drawing on their extensive experience helping enterprise customers migrate to SOA, the authors share hard-earned lessons and best practices for architects, project managers, and software development leaders alike.

 

Service-Oriented Architecture: Concepts, Technology, and Design by Thomas Erl

 

Erl presents the first end-to-end tutorial that provides step-by-step instructions for modeling and designing service-oriented solutions from the ground up. Erl uses more than 125 case study examples and over 300 diagrams to illuminate the most important facets of building SOA platforms: goals, obstacles, concepts, technologies, standards, delivery strategies, and processes for analysis and design.

 

My Life by Bill Clinton

 

Here is the life of a former president -- a national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions -- told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice.

 

The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil

 

The inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is one of the best-known and controversial advocates for the role of machines in the future of humanity. In his latest foray into the future, he envisions an event -- the "singularity" -- in which technological change becomes so rapid and so profound that our bodies and brains will merge with our machines.

 

"This is one of those 'almost science fiction' books but it is actually grounded in real, current capabilities," says Daniel Brooks. "The singularity refers to the coming-together of current human biological needs with nanotechnology, robotics and genetic research and the author's investigation of the ways in which this will add years and quality to human life."

 

All the News That's Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News by James T. Hamilton

 

Whether a story appears in print, on television, or on the Internet depends on who is interested, its value to advertisers, the costs of assembling the details, and competitors' products. Economist James Hamilton shows just how this happens. This is the first book to develop an economic theory of news, analyze evidence across a wide range of media markets on how incentives affect news content, and offer policy conclusions.

 

Mao: The Unknown Story by June Chang and Jon Halliday

 

In all, 70 million Chinese perished under Mao's rule -- in peacetime. Combining meticulous history with the story-telling style of Jung Chang's novel "Wild Swans," this biography allows the reader to enter the shadowy chambers of Mao's court, and eavesdrop on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao's character and his behavior toward his wives, mistresses and children are unveiled for the first time.

 

Management Professor Peter Hom says "Mao" holds lessons about China's Communist leaders for those who are eager to do business in there. "June Chang's well-documented and researched book will give business leaders and students greater insight into how Chinese [political] leadership operates by learning about how Mao and the communist party came to power," Hom says."I don't think Tom Friedman ['The World is Flat'] paid sufficient attention to this topic and he seems overly optimistic when he suggests that greater economic interdependence between China and other nations will overcome political differences. There are fundamental differences in worldviews.

 

"I once read that managers should read history or biographies of leaders to best understand leadership," Hom adds. "While Mao is not one to emulate, this particular book does offer fascinating insights into his various tactics for gaining political power."