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Simon Withers (Perth, Western Australia)

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Martin Lukes: Who Moved My BlackBerry?
Martin Lukes: Who Moved My BlackBerry?
by Lucy Kellaway
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amusing look at corporate ambition, 22 Jan. 2006
I once read a book (Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin) that claimed the level of bovine excreta was becoming a danger to the planet’s environment. Lucy Kellaway is a journalist who has long been concerned about this problem in the corporate environment.
Her creation, Martin Lukes, is well known to readers of the Financial Times. He’s an arrogant, selfish, self-obsessed, insecure and ambitious marketing director in the London office of a fictitious Fortune 500 company. By publishing a collection of his emails each week, she allows us to follow his rollercoaster career and personal life, and his adoption of every corporate and marketing fad that comes along.
Martin Lukes compensates for his limited intelligence and talent with unbounded ambition. His relentless clawing up the corporate pole and poor judgement often lead to disaster, but somehow he survives and moves forward.
We all know at least one Martin Lukes. That is why the column has proved to be both compelling and amusing. Lucy Kellaway, through Martin, also introduces us to a collection of recognisable corporate and domestic characters, and fires round after round into the mumbo-jumbo that passes for strategy and public relations in some companies. I mainly cringed, often smiled and sometimes laughed out loud while reading her book.
“Who Moved My Blackberry” is a reworking of Martin Luke’s weekly emails into a 13 month December to December book which, like a diary, tells the story of his life over a year. For those who read the weekly column in the FT, it could be a little too much. Whereas one column is an amusing weekly read in an otherwise dry newspaper, nearly 400 pages in book form is probably a bit much. The story has changed enough to make it slightly annoying to those familiar with the column, but not enough to warrant re-reading.
For those who have not read the weekly column, this will be an amusing adventure. The emails are short and are written in conversational English, so the book is easy to read in small or large doses. The characters are come across clearly and are uncomfortably familiar.
The reader must bear in mind that “Who Moved My Blackberry” is written from a British perspective. There are a number of amusing and very unattractive US managerial stereotypes – and none that are worthy of admiration. Having said that, the author is just as harsh on the British side and I can’t recall one character who leaves a favourable impression. Thanks to the Lord that Lucy (apparently) hasn’t come across many Australians.
The cover to the UK edition is an inspired work of art that sums up perfectly Martin Lukes’ work environment. If there is an award for Dust Jacket of the Year, this should be a nominee. For some reason, known only to the publishers, the US edition appears to have a different cover.
There is a bit of Martin Lukes in all of us. Sometimes I’m writing something that has a familiar feel to it but I can’t quite place it. The it comes to me: I’m writing like Martin Lukes! So I check myself and start again. And say thank you to Lucy Kellaway for doing her bit to reduce the level of BS in the world.

by Edward de Bono
Edition: Paperback

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book, 21 Jan. 2006
This review is from: Simplicity (Paperback)
This is a great book and I wish that I had read it years ago.
Edward de Bono not only makes the case for simplicity but he exhorts us to pursue it and he gives us a framework for doing so.
I can look back on many occasions when I wish I could whipped out such a book from my briefcase and thumped it in front of the annoying or imbecilic person with whom I was dealing at the time and said "Go home, read that, then come back and resume this discussion".
I find that I have underlined many useful comments or ideas. My favourite is possibly this:
"An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore." On the other side of the coin, de Bono has some harsh words for people who try to establish themselves as experts by making things more complex and more difficult to understand. Keep this in mind when dealing with "experts".
The book loses points for being way too long. In the edition I read, the main text was printed only on the right hand pages and an extract or summary of that text was printed in large letters on the facing left hand page, thereby turning a 150 page book into a 300 page book. Very irritating. Indeed, in illustrating a point in the book, de Bono says that he could have made the book - by which I assume he is referring to the main text on the right hand pages - shorter (simpler) but his publishers told him that it had to be a certain length! So, by his own admission (or, perhaps, apology) this should have been a 50 page book.
It's a pity, because it would have been a better book if it had been simplified.
Maybe one day de Bono will take a leaf out of his own book and simplify his main works into a single slim volume. It must be satisfying to look back on a life's work filling the bookshelves, but how much more satisfying would it be to have that life's work in a single volume and thereby easily accessible. It could be called "The Readers Digest de Bono", or "The Best of de Bono" or, perhaps, ideally, "de Bono Simplified".
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The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the Twenty-first Century
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the Twenty-first Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book that would have been a great book at 250 pages, 21 Jan. 2006
There are a number of good ideas and important observations in this book.
People who read newspapers won't find much new information in the book but what Friedman does very well is to show how two evident trends - the development of the internet and related technologies, and the outsourcing of production and services to Asia - are combining to have a major impact on the economies of the West, which is not so evident.
This confluence has had and will have a dramatic effect on the way businesses operate, which makes the book important reading for anyone involved in business. It will also have serious ramifications for the younger generations in the West, which makes it important reading for parents and students.
Friedman writes easily and anecdotally, so the book is easy to read.
My only complaint is that it is too long for the ideas it discusses. I wish that Friedman added a sentence along these lines:
"If we're going to preserve major forests for future generations, writers like me will have to learn how to express their thoughts more concisely. In this way we will both contribute to the environment and save time for our readers. After all, we're paid by the book, not by the page."

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