Bookshelf | July / August 2015

A collection of reviewed books from the July / August 2015 print issue.


Northwestern’s Philip Kotler is an unabashed capitalist—but one who thinks the system could be vastly improved. In fact, he identifies 14 specific shortcomings in capitalism and proposes solutions to each. For instance, he believes income inequality can be addressed by raising the minimum wage, making the tax system more progressive, closing offshore havens, closing tax loopholes, and capping the ratio of executive-to-worker pay. He’s worried about the consequences if capitalism isn’t fixed: If consumers can’t afford to buy goods, then production slows, unemployment rises, and the disenfranchised rise up. Kotler favors “capitalism with a heart,” and it shows. (Amacom, US$26)


“Have you ever wondered how WD-40 got its name?” ask John Danner of Princeton and UC Berkeley and Mark Coopersmith of Berkeley. “It stands for ‘Water Displacement, 40th formula.’ … That’s how many tries it took the three-person team from Rocket Chemical Company to create a working rust-prevention solvent for aerospace customers.” Danner and Coopersmith know that, even though most people hate to think about it, failure is one of the most common human experiences: Two out of five new CEOs last less than 18 months, 81 percent of new hires are poor choices, 88 percent of New Year’s resolutions are not kept. Yet they consider failure a rich resource and fear of failure to be an obstacle to innovation. They offer insights and exercises to help business leaders see past their own mistakes and guide their teams through failure and on to new agendas. (Wiley, US$25)


Universities like to believe they’re the great levelers of society, providing education that allows individuals from any socioeconomic background to prosper in the business world. Lauren Rivera begs to differ. The rich and privileged are more likely to be admitted to top schools, she argues—for example, at Harvard College, “nearly half of the students come from families in the top 4 percent of household incomes. A mere 4 percent come from the bottom 20 percent.” Even when universities admit middle- and working-class candidates, those graduates are excluded from the most prestigious jobs by hiring practices that favor those with social and cultural capital. Rivera concludes, “Higher education and employment are two interlocking systems of economic stratification.” (Princeton University Press, US$35)


Robin Chase has a front row seat to the sharing economy. In 1999, she was a co-founder of ZipCar, a membership-based car-sharing service. ZipCar was one of the early collaborative operations built on three key principles: “The first is that excess capacity (sharing an asset) makes economic sense, the second is that technology allows us to build platforms for participation that make sharing simple, and the third is that peers are powerful collaborators.” Chase believes that these collaborators not only can remake the global economy, but also can help solve problems like climate change. They can take “this rapidly changing world,” she writes, “and transform it into the one we want to live in: sustainable, equitable, thriving, and full of potential.” (PublicAffairs, US$26.99)


Nearly 40 authors contributed essays that look at the current state of women in business education and what can be done to increase parity. The editors—Patricia Flynn of Bentley University in the U.S., Kathryn Haynes of Newcastle University in the U.K., and Maureen Kilgour of Université de Saint-Boniface of Canada—and their contributors consider the reasons women are still poorly represented in graduate-level business programs and how those reasons vary by region. For instance, Sandra Idrovo Carlier of INALDE Business School in Colombia notes that women don’t enroll in MBA programs for the same reasons they don’t advance in the corporate workplace: They’re confronted with rigid working structures and gender stereotyping. She notes that 24 women enrolled in an EMBA program in Colombia believed they could balance professional and domestic roles until they faced the reality of maternity. Several of the contributors outline courses designed to help both male and female students understand how to increase gender parity in the classroom and the boardroom. (Greenleaf Publishing, US$90)