Bookshelf | March / April 2015

A collection of reviewed books from the March / April 2015 print issue.
ORGANIZED INNOVATION

“Innovation is the primary economic battleground of the twenty-first century,” write Steve Currall of UC Davis, Sara Jansen Perry of the University of Houston-Downtown, Emily Hunter of Baylor, and author Ed Frauenheim. But they believe innovation is on the decline, at least in the U.S., because fewer corporations are funding basic research and universities haven’t stepped forward as hoped to fill the gap. They believe that universities, government policymakers, and business executives must pull together in an organized fashion to innovate and commercialize new technologies that will provide breakthrough solutions to world problems. (Oxford University Press, US$29.95)

 CHANGING YOUR COMPANY FROM THE INSIDE OUT

In 2008, a former Peace Corps volunteer now working at IBM proposed creating a service organization within the company that paired top managers with nonprofits in emerging economies. Initially derided, the Corporate Service Corps has become a valued tool in helping IBM both gain access to new markets and retain key talent. The University of Michigan’s Gerald Davis and Christopher White offer many other examples of “social intrapreneurship,” which they define as grassroots change within an organization that aligns with core business objectives while advancing a social cause. The two authors expect to see more of it—and they offer tools and techniques to bring it to any boardroom. (Harvard Business Review Press, US$28)

THE ATTACKER’S ADVANTAGE

“Taking control of uncertainty is the fundamental leadership challenge of our time,” declares business advisor Ram Charan. He believes that the most successful future leaders will be able to look ahead to see what’s coming, recognize opportunity in uncertainty, manage the transition to a new path, and create more agile organizations. He describes how sophisticated algorithms that deliver massive amounts of data are reshaping every industry and predicts that only the “math houses” that understand how to use such computations will survive. Overall, he notes, “The advantage now goes to those who create change, not just learn to live with it.” (PublicAffairs, US$23.99)

 BOARDS THAT EXCEL

B. Joseph White has seen boards from both sides. He’s studied them as an academic in his positions as dean emeritus at Michigan’s Ross School and president emeritus of the University of Illinois; he’s also served on boards for both publicly and privately held companies. Here White explores what a board member’s true responsibilities are, how an individual should determine when to accept board service, and what defines an excellent board. “The bookends, or starting and ending points, of great governance are high aspirations for and great results by the company or organization the board is overseeing,” he writes. It’s a highly personal account of a deeply important topic. (Berrett- Koehler Publishers, US$29.95)

CRITICAL KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER

When key employees leave, how do managers make sure their “deep smarts” about company products and processes don’t leave with them? Dorothy Leonard of Harvard, Walter Swap of Tufts, and consultant Gavin Barton offer strategies that help managers elicit everything they need to know from knowledgeable employees before they depart. Then they present a case study about the knowledge-transfer program in place at GE’s Global Research Centers. “Loss of proprietary know-how can actually cripple a company’s ability to produce the next generation of products,” they write. They’re here to stanch the flow. (Harvard Business Review Press, US$32)

CREATIVE CROSS-DISCIPLINARY ENTREPRENEURSHIP

“Entrepreneurship has always existed with human civilizations,” writes Dianne H.B. Welsh. “It is tied to human survival and success.” For that reason, Welsh believes entrepreneurship skills can be taught within any discipline and will be essential in many industries in the future. But she doesn’t just present strong arguments for why business schools should offer their own entrepreneurship courses and cross-disciplinary programs. She also provides a detailed template for how she launched an entrepreneurship degree program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, including everything from her initial proposal to her actual curriculum, down to the student learning goals. It’s a generous and genuinely useful guide. (Palgrave Macmillan, US$35)

HOW TO REFORM A BUSINESS SCHOOL

Critics say MBA programs need reform, but how should the curricula be revised? Ashish Jaiswal of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies describes the overhaul of the Yale School of Management, which in 2006 abandoned disciplinary silos in favor of integrated “perspectives” in categories such as Customer, Investor, and Society. Among the innovations are case studies that include hundreds of pages of raw data—such as financial statements and analyst reports—so students get a better feel for “the real-life environment in which leaders have to make their decisions.” Jaiswal’s conclusion is clear: It’s time for business schools to “reform and rise.” (OxCHEPS, US$35)

IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE

Yale’s Robert Shiller has released the third edition of his classic text, updated for the times. He points out that, despite their repeated appearances over the decades, market bubbles are still mysterious to investors—perhaps because each one arises around a different economic “story.” He suggests that bubbles should be viewed as epidemics instead. “We know that a new epidemic can suddenly appear just as an older one is fading if a new form of the virus appears, or if some environmental factor increases the contagion rate.” As a bonus, the text of his Nobel Prize lecture is included at the end. (Princeton University Press, US$29.95)