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Beyond Competitive Advantage
Beyond Competitive Advantage
by Todd Zenger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.39

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why better corporate theories generate better strategies “with a higher possibility of success”, 14 Jun. 2016
Long ago, Peter Drucker observed, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Change agents should keep that observation clearly in mind when formulating and then executing a theory to achieve and then sustain value creation for itself by creating and then sustaining value for the clients and customers it is privileged to serve.

In Beyond Competitive Advantage, Todd Zenger argues that a unique and insightful corporate theory is the key to sustaining value-creating growth.

What specific benefits does this corporate theory offer? According to Zenger, it provides decision-makers with an enhanced vision or perspective in three separate but interdependent ways:

1. Foresight concerning the future evolution of the relevant industries, technologies, and customer tastes

2. Insight regarding sustainably unique assets, resources, and activities possessed by the firm

3. Cross-sight that recognizes patterns of complementarity between and among assets, activities, and resources both within and outside the firm.

“A central message of the book is that a strategist seeking to sustain value creation needs more than a map to a position. A strategist needs a corporate theory of value creation, something that provides ongoing guidance to the selection of positions and a vast array of strategic actions. In much the same way that a scientist’s insightful theory reveals promising experiments to conduct, a well-crafted corporate theory reveals a succession of promising strategic experiments — a succession of strategies and strategic choices.”

He goes on to observe, "Better corporate theories reveal better strategies — strategies with a higher probability of success. Moreover, a well-crafted corporate theory elevates the strategist’s task of sustained value creation from a series of a la carte decisions about acquisitions, investments, design, financing, integration decisions, and leadership, each guided by rather fragmented logic, to a more coherent set fob choices guided by a synthetic logic.”

In this context, I am again reminded of the fact that, in 1865, a German physicist, Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888), coined the term entropy during his research on heat. The word’s meaning “a turning towards” (in Greek, en+tropein), “content transformative” or “transformative content.” Claudius used the concept to establish a mathematical foundation for the second law of thermodynamics: without the injection of free energy, all systems tend to move (however gradually) from order to disorder, if not to chaos.

In Leading Change, Jim O’Toole suggests that the strongest resistance to change seems to be cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

I commend Todd Zenger on the abundance of information, insi9ghts, and counsel that he provides. This material will help decision-makers in almost any organization -- whatever its size and nature may be – to formulate better corporate theories that generate better strategies “with a higher possibility of success.”

One final point, provided by Michael Porter: "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

* * *

Todd Zenger is the newly appointed N. Eldon Tanner Chair in Strategy and Strategic Leadership at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He also holds the University of Utah designation as a Presidential Professor. From 1990 through July of 2014, he served as a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis in the Olin Business School, most recently as the Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business Strategy. He also previously held appointments there as senior associate dean, as chair of the strategy group, and as academic director of the Executive MBA program. While there he received numerous awards for his executive MBA and professional MBA teaching. He completed his undergraduate degree in economics at Stanford University and his PhD in strategy and organization at UCLA.


Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets
Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets
by Al Ramadan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to achieve and then sustain a competitive advantage in almost any marketplace, 14 Jun. 2016
In this book, Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney explain how almost any company can dominate its competitive marketplace. Category design is one of the key concepts that they examine. What is it? “Category design is about creating a new space and ecosystem for an innovation. An innovation without category design wins you a Techcrunch award.

"Innovation with category design turns you into a powerful, enduring business. Disruption is a by-product of creating a new category that happens to suck the life out of an old category — the way Salesforce.com’s cloud-based software emasculated the on-premise CRM software industry. But plenty of great new categories don’t disrupt anything. Airing didn’t disrupt hotels. Hotels are doing fine. Disruption should never be a goal. Create something great, and it disrupts, well then you get the Disruptor merit badge.

“Category design is the discipline of creating and developing a new market category and conditioning the market so it will demand your solution and crown your company as its king.” More specifically, here are what specifically category design is and does:

o It drives the company’s strategy to become a category king.
o Involves product and ecosystem design.
o Is part of a company culture.
o Is about creating a powerful and provocative story that causes customers to make a choice.
o Is marketing, public relations, and advertising in combined/cohesive/collaborative focus

“Above all, category design is making all of these components work together, in lockstep, feeding off each other, so each action builds momentum for both the category and its king. In that sense, category is like a musical score for a symphony. Just as every part of the orchestra needs to play the same score together, every part of the company needs to execute category design together.” Ramadan, Petterson, Lochhead, and Maney explain HOW all this can be accomplished.

As I worked my way through their narrative, I was reminded of another recently published book, The Three-Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation, in which Vijay Govindarajan introduces a comparable approach to problem solving. Here’s the paradigm:

Box 1: Optimize the current business.
Box 2: Let go of the values and resources that fuel the current business but fail the new one.
Box 3: Invent a new business model.

“Success in each box requires a different set of skills, attitudes, practices, and leadership.” Success also requires seamless coordination of initiatives in each box to achieve the aforementioned objectives. For example, if the company is not functioning at peak efficiency (in Box 1), it will lack sufficient resources and commitment to build its future (in Box 2), and complete the transition to the future (in Box 3). Just as Boxes 2 and 3 must be protected, Box 1 must remain focused and undistracted. Moreover, with the three boxes kept in proper balance, a business can change dynamically over time. Yes, there are differences between this approach and the one proposed in Play Bigger but both have the same objective: achieve and then sustain competitive advantage.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of co-authors’ coverage in Parts I-II (Chapters 1-7):

o Legendary Questions, and, True Stories of Kings and Kingdoms (Pages 3-9)
o Category Kings Defined (9-13)
o Introducing Category Design (18-21)
o Bad Category Design: A Cautionary Tale (21-24)
o Why Categories (27-42)
o A Category Crowns a King (46-49)
o Great Category Design in World History (50)
o What the Hell Is Category Design? (51-56)
o The Ol’ Frotos (From/Tos): (59-65)
o The Courage of Category Design (65-68)
o Inspiration to Insight (71-78)
o Insight to Category (78-86)
o Insight to Category The Story That’s Not Original (86-89)
o Timing in a POV Is…Well, Not Everything, but Close, and Expressing Your POV (106-112)
o Reality Bites Implementing Category Design (123-127)
o Implementing Category Design (127-131)
o Stories of Gravity (140-146)
o The Play Bigger Guide to Mobilization (145-148)
o How to Get Attention (149-152)
o What a Lightning Strike Does to Brains (155-157)
o Hijacks and Hijinks (161-166)
o The Play Bigger Guide to Strikes, Hijacks, and Attention Grabbing (166-169)

Ramadan, Peterson, Lochhead, and Maney provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that – together –provide just about everything C-level executives need to create and develop a new market category and condition that market so it will demand their solution and crown their company as its king.

Where to begin? My suggestions: First, re-read the Play Bigger, then recruit 5-8 others to form a “Sprint” team such as the ones created at Google to achieve high-impact results with innovative thinking. Whoever leads the group should read Jake Knapp’s Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, written with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. Those who question what a few people can accomplish should consider this observation by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior
Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior
by Jonah Berger
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here are the “simple, subtle, and other surprising ways that others affect our behavior”, 14 Jun. 2016
Actually, the invisibility to which the book’s title refers is — in my opinion — a misnomer. Influence in this instance is not so much a matter of others deceiving us (although that may be a motive) as it is a matter of our failure to recognize that influence when it occurs. We don’t “see” it only because we don’t recognize and understand it for what it is.

Jonah Berger shares what he has learned during fifteen years of research that involved countless surveys, experiments, and interviews and additional surveys, experiments, and interviews based on what he learned from their predecessors. As is also true of all other sciences, the science of social influence is evidence-driven. Berger is determined to do all he can to prepare as many people as possible to become mindful of the nature and extent of influence that others have and that was not previously recognized.

As I began to work my way through the narrative, I was again reminded of a book I read years ago, Denial of Death, in which Ernest Becker acknowledges the inevitability of physical death but asserts that there is another form of death than CAN be denied: that which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others’ expectations of us. (I also thought of Becker’s book when I first read Robert Cialdini’s classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.) Why do people to try to influence others' behavior? Berger suggests a number of different motives that, I think, tend to fall into one of two categories: those that are altruistic and those that are self-serving. It is important to add that not all influence initiated with the purest of intentions is necessarily good advice. Also, at least some influence can be of benefit to everyone involved.

To what extent are those who attempt to influence others fully aware of doing that? To what extent are the “others” fully aware of that influence? Why are some people more receptive than others? This is an immensely complicated subject, certainly much mores than I realized prior to reading Berger’s book. As he explains, “Social influence has a huge impact on behavior. But by understanding how it works, we can harness its power. We can avoid its downsides and take advantage of its benefits.” That is why he wrote this book.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Berger’s coverage:

o Familiarity (Pages 10-11, and 160-162)
o Mimicry (30-35)
o Harry Potter books (44-46)
o Music website experiment (46-49)
o Parking preferences (49-52)
o Differentiation (63-97)
o Birth order (64-70)
o Social class (86-96)
o Signals (101-128)
o Academic performance and race (117-120 and 141-142)
o Novelty (164-171)
o The Goldilocks Effect (166-171)
o Optimal distinction (171-181)
o Social facilitation (189-196)
o Winning and losing in sports (204-208 and 211-218)
o Low-income housing (223-229)

It remains for each reader to ask and then answer questions such as these: “Where do you see influence? How do others around you shape your life and how are you shaping theirs? Understanding these often invisible [or previously unrecognized] influences can make us all better off.” Of course, the scope and depth of impact of the information, insights, and counsel that Berger provides will vary from one reader to the next but my own opinion is that this material can be of substantial [begin italics] practical value [end italics] to parents and their children as well as to supervisors and their direct reports, to classroom teachers and their students as well as elected public officials and their constituents. In fact, that is only a partial list. Near the top of any list of benefits would be substantially increased self-awareness. More specifically, developing the “growth mindset” to which Carol Dweck and the “mindfulness” to which Ellen Langer have devoted so much productive attention in their own work.

Social influence that is unrecognized by no means has less impact; if anything, it may have greater impact because none of those involved is aware of it. What I call “enlightened influence” has almost unlimited potentiality for good or will. The choice is ours, once we fully realize that we have that choice and fully appreciate its implications. Thank you, Jonah Berger, for increasing and enriching our enlightenment.


Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy
Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy
by Robert H. Frank
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.91

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like it or not, that’s how the extra cookie crumbles., 13 Jun. 2016
Those who have read one or more of Robert H. Frank’s previously published books – notably The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good (2011) and The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas (2008) — already know that he has a brilliant mind, a playful wit, and an allergy to bull****. He also believes that sacred cows make the best burgers.

What we have in his latest book are his thoughts and feelings about recent research on “the influence of external chance events and environmental factors on individual life outcomes — influences that occur independently of people’s virtues or flaws.” Much of the material in the book is drawn from his personal experiences. However, he also cites other sources as he explores several subjects. Here are five among those of greatest interest to me:

o Successful people tend understate luck’s role and overstate merit’s role.

o Unsuccessful people tend to blame “bad luck” rather than their own inadequacies.

o Making “a few relatively simple policy changes could produce dramatic improvements for all of us”

o Self-interest “is clearly an important motive, perhaps even the most important one.”

o Self-control deficits are obstacles to success and can cause serious problems in human relationships.

Early in the book, Frank quotes several passages from Michael Lewis’ commencement address at Princeton during which he suggests that those who are born into a privileged life are “the lucky few.” They have been faced with an extra cookie.

“All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.”

I agree with Frank that what people deem reasonable is often determined, at least in part, by what their conversation partners believe. “The upshot is that although popular beliefs may remain at odds with reality for c considerable periods of time, the consensus can flip with surprising speed once good [i.e. sound, convincing] arguments begin to find their footing. And those arguments can spread through one conversation at a time.”

Pass it on.


Execution Excellence: Making Strategy Work Using the Balanced Scorecard
Execution Excellence: Making Strategy Work Using the Balanced Scorecard
by Sanjiv Anand
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison, 13 Jun. 2016
David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan co-authored an article, “The Balanced Scorecard: Measures That Drive Performance,” published in the January/February 1992 edition of Harvard Business Review. The material was later developed into a book, The Balanced Scorecard Card: Translating Strategy into Action, published by Harvard Business Review Press (1996). Basically, when Kaplan and Norton first introduced the BSC concept, companies were busy transforming themselves to compete in the world of information; their ability to exploit intangible assets was becoming more decisive than their ability to manage physical assets. The scorecard allowed companies to track financial results while monitoring progress in building the capabilities needed for growth. The tool was not intended to be a replacement for financial measures but rather a complement—and that’s just how most companies treated it. The term “balanced” is critically important: it refers both to the sources of data, and, to the data themselves

As I worked my way through Sanjiv Anand’s narrative in Execution Excellence, I was again reminded of two observations: by Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all”; and by Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” They correctly stress the importance of focusing on the right question to answer, the right problem to solve, as well as having a strategy that drives whatever must be done to answer that question or solve that problem.

I agree with Anand: “it is clear that the real world is different than what [some] books make it out to be. In some markets, the strategy can be complex. In other markets, the strategy is simple because the market is simple. Irrespective of the complexity of the market or the strategy, what matters is the execution. It’s about getting the strategy executed, within the timelines you have, with the resources you can bring to the table to achieve the results you desire. That’s execution excellence.” And it presupposes that the given strategy appropriate to the given objectives.

These are among the subjects of greatest interest and value to me in Part I:

o The unique challenges posed by the global business environment inn today’s flat world
o The evolving role of strategy in a VUCA marketplace
o How to build a strategy that “works” both internally and externally

NOTE: Keep in mind Drucker’s comment that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The best strategy is “for all seasons.”

o Why execution is implementation at all levels and in all areas
o How to manage the business planning process

Anand shifts his attention to the BSC in Part II; examines the challenges of design in Part III; the challenges of implementation in Part IV; and then in Part V, he shares his concluding thoughts, then provides five substantive appendices, three of which are mini-case studies of generic industries (banking, textiles, and travel/tourism).

The Balanced Scorecard concept is more relevant and more valuable today than it was when first introduced more then twenty years ago. Why? Because the global marketplace is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous now than it was at any prior time that I can remember. Perhaps I am channeling when suggesting, also, that the BSC is not a crystal ball or a telescope or an MRI scanner. Business leaders need sufficient quantities of the right data to “keep score” so that the best decisions can be made when pursuing the right strategic objectives.

Sanjiv Anand is to be commended for the wealth of information, insights, and counsel he provides in this volume. He offers most business leaders just about all they need to help their organization achieve execution excellence.


Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price
Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price
by Madhavan Ramanujam
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.25

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How monetizing the design of new or improved products and/or services will help create or increase demand for them, 10 Jun. 2016
Here is Madhavan Ramanujam and Georg Tacke's basic premise: 'The most successful product innovators we know start by determining what the customer values [verb] and what they are willing to pay, and then they design the products around those inputs and have a clear monetization strategy that they follow through with.' They reject a number of myths and misconceptions that help to explain why so many innovations fail:

1. 'If you simply build a great new product, customers will pay fair market value for it. 'Build it and they will come' is the mantra.'
2. "The new product or service must be controlled entirely by the innovation team working in isolation.'
3. 'High failure rate of innovation rate is normal and is even necessary.'
4. 'Customers must experience a new product before they can say how much they will pay for it.'
5. 'Until the business knows precisely what it's building, it cannot possibly assess what it is worth.'

As Ramanujam and Tacke would presumably agree, there are exceptions. Moreover, Steve Jobs has been perhaps the most outspoken among those who believe that most (if not all five) of these myths and misconceptions are, in fact, true; especially the first two.

With regard to #3, most experts seem to agree that a high number of low-risk experiments (using prototypes) rather than a high failure rate is desirable. The mantra 'fail fast' should be subject to reasonable limitations. If DOA, bury it.

The wisdom of the Lakota advises against feeding a dead horse.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Ramanujam and Tacke's coverage:

o Product innovation (Pages 3-13)
o New product development (15-32)
o Feature shocks (16-20)
o Hidden gems (24-27)
o Undeals (27-32)
o Monetization and innovation (33-36)
o Customer segmentation (53-62)
o Key principles of bundling (71-73)
o Pricing strategies (97-110)
o Business cases for new products (111-120)
o Behavioral pricing (135-147)
o Example of behavioral pricing at Internet companies (137-140)
o Behavioral pricing tactics (140-145)
o Price integrity (149-159)
o Post-Launch (153-157)
o Porsche (164-170)
o The "Porsche Principle'(169-170)
o LinkedIn (170-174)
o B2B (174-182)
o Swarovski (188-193)
o Optimizely (194-200)
o Implementing the 'design the product around the price' approach (207-218)

With regard to monetizing failure, Ramanujam and Tacke have found four recurring patterns of product failures that all into four categories:

1. Feature Shock: 'Cramming too many features into one product ' sometimes even unwanted features ' creates a product that does not fully resonate with customers, and is often overpriced.'
COMMENT: There may not be immediate resonation but a liquid always assumes the shape of its contained. Over time, applications will be used to the limit of the capabilities available. Especially with a new product, offering more can accelerate adoption.

2. Minivation: 'An innovation that, despite being the right product for the right market, is priced too low to achieve its full revenue potential.'
COMMENT: With pricing, almost everything depends on two factors: margins and market appeal.

3. Hidden Gem: 'A blockbuster product that is never properly brought to market, generally because it falls outside of the core business.'
QUESTION: Who or what determines that?
ANSWER: Eventually if not immediately, the market.

4. Undead: 'An innovation that customers don't want but has nevertheless been brought to market, either because it was the wrong answer the right question, or an answer to a question no joined was asking.'
COMMENT: People can't make a choice they don't know exists. Some of the most successful products answer questions that consumers had not asked. Swiffer, for example, and handles built into large containers of liquids such as milk and antifreeze.

These are among Madhavan Ramanujam and Georg Tacke's concluding thoughts: 'In a world in which innovation success has become more important [begin italics] and [end italics] more difficult, we believe no company can afford to build its future on wishes, hopes, and dreams.' I agree. In fact, I cannot recall a prior time when the business world was more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it is now.

This book offers an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization'whatever its size and nature may be ' to use the principles of monetiization to design new or improved products and/or services that are most likely to create or increase demand.


Founders Mentality
Founders Mentality
by Zook/Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How to avoid or resolve three organizational crises that can occur after start-up and early-growth phases, 7 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Founders Mentality (Hardcover)
In 1865, a German physicist, Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888), coined the term entropy during his research on heat. The word’s meaning “a turning towards” (in Greek, en+tropein), “content transformative” or “transformative content.” Claudius used the concept to establish a mathematical foundation for the second law of thermodynamics: without the injection of free energy, all systems tend to move (however gradually) from order to disorder, if not to chaos.

Chris Zook and James Allen may have had this phenomenon in mind when writing this book, one in which they examine the paradox of growth as companies mature: complexity is the silent killer of profitable growth. That is why only 1 in 9 achieves more than modest levels of profitable growth and hit their targets over a decade and why 85% of executives say their biggest challenges are internal and self-inflicted.

They identify and discuss three predictable crises that can result from growth. Each of the three occurs at a different phase of an organization’s lifecycle. Here they are:

o “The first crisis, overload, refers to the internal dysfunction and loss of external momentum that management teams of young, fast-growing companies experience as they try to rapidly scale their businesses.”

o “The second crisis, stall-out, refers to the sudden slowdown that many successful companies suffer as their rapid growth gives rise to layers of organizational complexity and diluted the clear mission that once gave the company its function and energy.”

o “The third crisis, free fall, is the most existentially threatening. A company in free fall has completely stopped growing in its core market, and its business model, until recent tly the reason for its success, suddenly no longer seems viable.”

Zook and Allen go on to observe, “These three crises represent the riskiest and most stressful periods for businesses that have made it successfully through their start-up and early-growth phases. The good news is these crises are predictable and avoidable. The killers of growth that these crises contain can be anticipated and even turned into a constructive reason for change.”

With regard to the book’s title: “The founder’s mentality constituters a key source of competitive advantage for younger companies going up against larger, better endowed incumbents, and it consists of three main traits: an insurgent’s mission, an owner’s mindset, and an obsession with the front line.”

These are the major business challenges on which Zook and Allen focus

o How to develop the founder’s mentality in workers at all levels and in all areas throughout the given enterprise
o The three predictable crises of growth and how to avoid or overcome them
o How to use the founder’s mentality to overcome the chaos of rapid growth
o How to reverse stall-out by rediscovering what made your organization great its growth diminishes
o How to use the founder’s mentality to save a business in rapid decline
o And as indicated previously, how to infuse the founder’s mentality at all levels of your organization

Will it be easy? Hardly. However, Zook and Allen provide business leaders with the information, insights. and counsel they need. “These three crises represent the riskiest and most stressful periods for businesses that have made it through their start-up and early-growth offices. The good news is these crises are predictable and often avoidable. The killers of growth that these crises contact can be anticipated and even turned into a constructive reason for change.” I hasten to add that change may involve only a minor adjustment or two. All three crises have early-warning signs.

In The Elegant Solution, Matthew Matt shares a mantra that he cites again in his latest book, Winning the Brain Game:

“What appears to be the problem, isn’t.
What appears to be the solution, isn’t.
What appears to be impossible, isn’t.”

More than 50 years ago, Peter Drucker observed, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

That is excellent advice. Zook and Allen would be the first to agree that it is important, indeed imperative to focus on the right question to answer, on the right problem to solve. Keep that mantra and Drucker’s advice in mind when absorbing and digesting Chris Zook and Jim Allen’ concluding remarks:

“Imagine if [begin italics] you [end italics] were the leader in your core business. Imagine if [begin italics] you [end italics] were faster to the ball than anyone else in your industry. Imagine if [begin italics] you [end italics] had employees highly energized and as committed. If you could make that happen [and you [begin italics] can [end italics] make that happen, your company would be the best place for talent to work, and you would become your competitors’ worst nightmare. You would be a true scale insurgent.”

Why not now?

* * *

Chris Zook is a Partner in Bain & Company's Amsterdam office and has been co-head of the Global Strategy Practice for the past 15 years. He specializes in helping companies find new sources of profitable growth. He is the author of five books with Harvard Business Review Press in the past ten years including his Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change, published in March 2012. Among his best-selling books are Profit from the Core: a Return to Growth in Turbulent Times (HBRP, January 2010), an updated edition of his 2001 book, Profit from the Core: Growth Strategy in an Era of Turbulence, Unstoppable: Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth (HBRP, May 2007) and Beyond the Core: Expand your Market without Abandoning your Roots (HBRP, November 2004).

James Allen is a partner in Bain & Company's London office and a coleader of Bain's Global Strategy practice. He has served a variety of leadership roles at Bain and is the founder of the Bain Founder’s Mentality 100, a global network of high-growth companies mostly led by their founders. Allen has more than twenty-five years of consulting experience and has worked extensively for global companies in consumer products, oil and gas, technology & telecommunications, healthcare and other industries. He has advised clients on the development of global growth strategies, emerging market entry strategies, and turnaround strategies.

If you read a better business book than this one in 2016, please let me know immediately.


Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government
Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government
by William D Eggers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.30

5.0 out of 5 stars How to attract, hire, train, and then retain the talent for digital thinking that can transform any organization, 7 Jun. 2016
This book’s title refers to taking full advantage of unique opportunities that have been created by various digital technologies. Hence William Eggers’ emphasis on the importance of attracting, hiring, training, and then retaining the talent needed. This is a major challenge to which he directs his response in this brilliant book.

Years ago, John Kotter told me during an interview that the most difficult change to achieve is changing how people think about change. It is also necessary to think innovatively about innovation, especially when attempting to transform government.

In this context, I am again reminded of the fact that, in 1865, a German physicist, Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888), coined the term entropy during his research on heat. The word’s meaning “a turning towards” (in Greek, en+tropein), “content transformative” or “transformative content.” Claudius used the concept to establish a mathematical foundation for the second law of thermodynamics: without the injection of free energy, all systems tend to move (however gradually) from order to disorder, if not to chaos.

In Leading Change, Jim O’Toole suggests that the strongest resistance to change seems to be cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Those who seek to transform government at any level (federal, state, county, or municipal) do indeed face some daunting challenges.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Eggers’ coverage in Chapters 1-4:

o Making a New Kind of Government (Pages 9-12)
o The Journey to Digital Transformation (17-19)
o The Digital Mindset (22-37)
o Strategy Drives Digital Maturity (44)
o Digital Leadership (46-49)
o Building Digital Talent (50-54)
o Scaling Digital Capacity (54-59)
o Developing Digital Capacity (64-65)
o Talent Strategies (65-67)
o The Design Stage: Imagining a New Future (75-82)
o Making Agile Development Work for Government (89-91)
o Putting It All Together: A Billion-to-One Experiment (99-101)
o The Sad Legacy of Government IT Procurement (111-113)
o Principles of a Reinvented Procurement System for the Digital Age (114-115)
o Leveraging best practices (128-130)
o Success Strategies (135-137)
o The Case for Horizontally Integrated Government (139-141)
o Branching Out: Creating Systems Built Around Data Exchanges (150-156)
o Managing Identity (161-163)
o Four Obstacles to Uniform Digital ID (166-171)
o Creating Value (171-172)

William Eggers recommends and explains nine strategies that will help decision-makers in governmental entities that need to attract, hire, train, and then retain the talent they need to compete successfully in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous each day.

In my opinion, these same strategies — with only minor modification — can also be of substantial benefit to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Fortune International 500.

Here they are:

o Create an interesting job description.
o What’s your offer? Create a unique value proposition to attract the best talent.
o Don’t leave recruitment to HR staff.
o Embrace a temporary dream team.
o Balance tech whiz kids with government veterans.
o Identify each capabilities gap.
o Ensure cutting-edge technology for cutting-edge talent.
o Identify the torch-bearers.
o Build a digital ecosystem.

So, what to look for when recruiting candidates?

Having high-potential to develop a digital mindset would be high on the list, if not atop it. William Eggers: “There’s no agreed-upon definition of a digital mindset, but five characteristics tend to be common among individuals and organizations that understand d the opportunities inherent in digital transformation: a belief in openness, user-centricity, co-creation, simplicity, and agility.” Eggers thoroughly discusses each. (Please see pages 25-37.)

* * *

William (Bill) Eggers is responsible for research and thought leadership for Deloitte’s Public Sector industry practice and has advised governments around the world. He is an internationally recognized authority on government reform, columnist, and author of seven books. His books have won numerous awards and his commentary has appeared in dozens of major media outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Chicago Tribune.


Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art
Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art
by Virginia Heffernan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the Internet is "the most powerful expansion and expression of the project of being human", 7 Jun. 2016
Virginia Heffernan observes, “These are exciting times, filled increasingly with the desktop zines and other transitional forms that presaged blogs, but cultural loyalists are still hoping to hold on to old paradigms.” In Leading Change, James O’Toole suggests that the strongest resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” I agree, adding that those who defend the current status quo were probably among those who overthrew the previous one.

“Today holding on [to old paradigms] is just about impossible. The tectonic shift has happened…Like all new technologies, the Internet appears to represent the world more faithfully than the technologies that preceded it. And the Internet is an [begin italics] extraordinarily [end italics] seductive representation of the world. We’ve never seen a work of art like it.” Heffernan then adds “that the Internet is a massive and collaborative work of art…the Internet [seems to be] life” but in fact isn’t. “That’s why the Internet becomes more deeply meaningful and moving when ‘read’ as an aesthetic object than lived or reported on as firsthand human experience.”

Frankly, until reading this book, I never looked at the Internet that way and still have some reluctance to do so. However, credit Heffernan for making a far more convincing case in support of the assertion “that the Internet is [of course not] a massive and collaborative work of art…[nor is] the Internet life” more than I could when challenging that assertion. Definition of such terms is, at best, subjective. I do agree, however, that “a new brand of intellectual courage must be brought to envisioning this new symbolic order” just as it make sense for change agents to change their thinking about change and innovators to thinking innovatively about innovation.

With regard to the book’s title, Heffernan suggests that trade-offs are inevitable. That is, “to truly fathom the high-velocity and rapacious new medium that has both re-created and shattered traditional forms, we need to risk the pain and scrap our old aesthetics and consider a new aesthetics and associated morality.”

As Hamlet notes, “Ay, there’s the rub.” Fair enough but Heffernan persists with admirable determination: rather than being abrasive, “I want instead to show how readers might use the Web and not be overwhelmed by it; how we might stop fighting it, in short, and learn to love its hallucinatory splendor.”

I agree that the Internet and then the Web have made possible a cultural transformation that has had greater impact and greater significance than any other that preceded it. This is what Virginia Heffernan seems to have in mind when observing, “At stake in this cultural transformation are the way we think, the way we love, the way we talk, and even the way we fight across the globe. The Internet is entrenched. It’s time to understand it — and not as a curiosity or an entry in the annals of technology or business but as an integral part of our humanity, as the latest and most powerful extension and expression of the project of being human.”

Indeed, “the project of being human” has never had more and better potentialities -- as well as more and better resources and capabilities to fulfill them — than it does now.


Beyond Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Digital Business
Beyond Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Digital Business
by James M. Kaplan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.09

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why all organizations must develop digital resilience to establish and then sustain cybersecurity, 6 Jun. 2016
First of all, it is important to keep in mind that cybersecurity is not an IT issue; it is a [begin italics] business [end italics] issue. The co-authors of this brilliant book — James Kaplan, Tucker Bailey, Derek O’Halloran, Alan Marcus, and Chris Rezek — are staunch and eloquent advocates of what they characterize as “digital resilience.” More specifically, it is a state in which individual organizations, industries, and even entire (national) economies

o “Understand the risks of cyber-attacks and can make business decisions where the returns justify the incremental risks.”

o “They have confidence that the risks of cyber-attack are manageable, rather than strategic — their do not put their competitive position or very existence at risk.”

o Consumers and organizations “have confidence in the online economy — the risks to information assets and of online fraud are not a brake to the growth of digital commerce.”

o Finally, the risk of cyber-attack “does not prevent them from continuing to take advantage of technology innovation.”

Now you have the context in which the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company “have collaborated to understand how to help companies and countries reach their aspirations.” Kaplan, Bailey, O’Halloran, Marcus, and Rezek bring to the task a wide and deep background of experience as well as the unique and abundant resources of the WEF and McKinsey from which they share valuable information, insights, and counsel that can help almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) to protect itself from cyber-attacks such as the theft of information assets and the intentional disruption of online processes.

Now you have the context in which the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company “have collaborated to understand how to help companies and countries reach their aspirations.” Kaplan, Bailey, O’Halloran, Marcus, and Rezek bring to the task a wide and deep background of experience as well as the unique and abundant resources of the WEF and McKinsey, sources from which they share valuable information, insights, and counsel that can help almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) to protect itself from cyber-attacks such as the theft of information assets and the intentional disruption of online processes.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of the co-authors’ coverage:

o Cybersecurity change management program (Pages xvi-xvii and 157-183)
o Three critically important questions that must be addressed (xxI)
o Loss of Business information (13-14, 81-82, and 118-120)
o Loss of intellectual property (17-18, 61-63, 81-82, and 118-120)
o Cyber criminals: Attackers’ advantage (19-21)
o Cloud computing (36-37 and 103-110)
o Cyber: Role of international bodies (50-51 and 185-208)
o Role of senior management (60-63, 96-99, 160-161, 176-177, and 180-182)
o Cybersecurity in business processes (78-90)
o Frontline employees (87-88, 90-93, 113-116, and 118-120)
o Cybersecurity in IT (101-122 and 179-180)
o IT vulnerabilities (101-122, 124-126, 162-163, and 179-180)
o IT controls (110-122)
o Active defense (123-139)
o Cybersecurity analytics (133-135)
o Incident response (141-155)
o Cybersecurity in organizational structure (172-174 and 181-182)
o Collaboration within industries (190-191, 201-202, and 204-205)
o Cybersecurity: National security (195-199)

Please be sure to read with care, then absorb, and digest the material in both the Preface and Executive Summary which “sets the table” for what proves to be a “feast” of cutting-edge information, insights, and counsel with regard to how to move beyond cybersecurity to digital resilience. Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the incalculable value of the material that James Kaplan, Tucker Bailey, Derek O’Halloran, Alan Marcus, and Chris Rezek provide. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of them and their work.

They understand and appreciate better than can almost anyone else how serious the threats to digital business practices are in a world that seems to become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time I can remember. That said, I commend this observation by Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. We must understand more so that we may fear less.”


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