Bookshelf | March / April 2017

A collection of reviewed books from the March / April 2017 print issue.

FINDING PURPOSE

The University of Michigan’s Andrew Hoffman has crafted a series of heartfelt essays that explore why anyone connected with business should be concerned about climate change, sustainability, and the fate of the world. Some are directed at students and generally full of encouragement: “I challenge you to look beyond those problems to a future that is optimistic and attractive, one that includes a life of meaning, security, prosperity, and happiness for ourselves, our children, all of humankind, and all of nature.” Some are directed at executives and sound a call to action: “Reducing unsustainability is completely different from creating sustainability, and we have to move from the former to the latter.” And some are aimed at academics and offer a stern critique: “Academics find themselves…publishing in journals that no one outside the discipline reads, and asking questions the public doesn’t care about. We need a more socially literate scientific community and a more scientifically literate public.” Thoughtful and powerful. (Greenleaf Publishing, US$30)

THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND BUSINESS SCHOOLS

While business schools have been globalizing their programs for years, INSEAD’s Gabriel Hawawini argues that true internationalization is a difficult goal that most b-schools can’t achieve. He defines internationalization as “an ongoing process of change whose objective is to integrate the institution and its key stakeholders (its students and faculty) into the emerging global knowledge economy.” Schools have a hard time meeting this standard, he notes, because most are dealing with countervailing forces such as missions that require them to focus on domestic students or regulatory barriers that make radical change impossible. “The truly global higher education institution will have to either evolve from an existing institution that was born international or be created from the ground up,” he writes, calling such an institution “metanational.” But, he adds, “The world is still waiting for the emergence of an institution of this type.” Until then, he suggests that schools focus on adding international elements to their programs while simultaneously keeping their focus closer to home. (Springer, US$39.99)

THE THING ABOUT WORK

Even though hundreds of business books are published every year, Menlo College’s Richard Moran points out that you probably already got your best career advice from your mother: “Work hard and do the right thing. Everything else is a bonus.” Nonetheless, he offers his own insights on the best ways to navigate the workplace, crafting short, punchy essays that cover everything from creating an effective strategy to simply showing up at the office. His comments are filled with both common sense and humor, as when he warns against going after low-hanging fruit, which implies doing the easiest things first. “Bad approach. Most often, the first things that must be done are the most difficult.” A lighthearted approach to a serious topic. (Bibliomotion, US$22.95)

THE SUSTAINABILITY EDGE

“The next great competency that businesses will need to pursue and fully integrate to gain a sustainable and consistent competitive advantage will be sustainability itself,” write Suhas Apte of the Blue Earth Network consulting firm and Jagdish Sheth of Emory. In their view, this means maximizing benefits for all stakeholders, including consumers, customers, employees, suppliers, investors, communities, NGOs, governments, and the media. A company must engage with each stakeholder group in a slightly different way—for instance, it must motivate consumers to care about sustainability and believe that its own products are sustainable. This means understanding exactly how “green” specific customer groups are and how to appeal to them. “Consumers in the developing world tend to feel more emotionally and intellectually connected to the planet’s ability to cope with the resource needs of humanity,” they write. U.S. consumers are less swayed by environmental concerns, but millennials across the planet care about sustainability. Businesses can use this information to adapt their messages to consumer groups, create competitive advantage—and protect the world. (University of Toronto Press, US$32.95)

DEFINING MANAGEMENT

How did business schools, business consultants, and the business press gain credibility and authority during the past century, shaping every part of what we now call management, from the language we employ to the commonly accepted practices we use? The evolution and interaction of those three entities are closely examined by Matthias Kipping of York University, Lars Engwall of Uppsala University, and Behlül Üsdiken of Sabanci University. They trace historical contexts, such as the rising influence of the U.S. after World War II, and international differences in attitudes toward both education and commerce. But they express some caution when they note, “To be sure, having such authority does not mean that these sets of actors provide the ‘best’ education, advice, or guidance, leading to superior decisions and better practices. It only means that they have become taken-for-granted, even indispensable in these roles.” And they ask, “Should these actors be so ubiquitous and powerful?” They supply some reasons why the answer should be “no,” but they also make it clear how we arrived at the point where we are now. (Routledge, US$59.95)

INNOVATION IN EMERGING MARKETS

While developed nations continue to lead the way in global innovation, emerging economies are producing some of the most successful, practical, low-cost innovations in the world. Jerry Haar of Florida International University and Ricardo Ernst of Georgetown have gathered essays by nearly 30 contributors who examine everything from reverse innovation to social media innovation, all from the perspective of what’s happening in emerging markets. It’s a rich field of study—in part, because the huge numbers of low-income consumers represent a vast untapped economic market. “In emerging markets, there is a high demand for products and services that are affordable, flexible, and functional,” write the editors. “Innovation to the price point is essential—creating a good enough product/service at an accessible price.” But there are other reasons to watch the innovations created for the developing world. They often can be adapted for the developed world, where they can upend traditional markets. Finally, innovation creates prosperity for everyone. The authors write, “Innovation is the single most powerful force for driving economic evolution and progress globally, but particularly in the emerging market context, where it is critical in driving job creation and income growth.” (Palgrave MacMillan, US$95)

STOP TEACHING

If business schools are going to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders, they’ll need a new classroom approach, says Isabel Rimanoczy, a strategic sustainability advisor. Rimanoczy is particularly interested in teaching strategies that will lead to responsible leaders working for a sustainable world. She focuses on an educational style called Action Reflection Learning, which is built around relevance, tacit knowledge, reflection, self-awareness, social learning, and other pillars. For instance, when students are able to link a classroom topic to their own lives and interests—when it is relevant to them—they’re more deeply engaged, she points out. When students are allowed to draw on their own stores of tacit knowledge, instead of merely having information handed to them by a professor, they develop a sense of ownership of the learning process. Students who are given such opportunities, she writes, are more likely to define “what they would like to see in a better world ... and what new behaviors would be needed to support that change.” This self-knowledge, she believes, would make them responsible leaders, indeed. (Business Expert Press, US$34.95)

THE ONLINE TEACHING SURVIVAL GUIDE

This expanded second edition looks at best practices in online teaching from every vantage point, from constructing the class to choosing the technology. Judith Boettcher, a consultant on distance learning, and UC Berkeley’s Rita-Marie Conrad provide overarching tips about how to approach the online classroom, as well as detailed advice about topics such as managing discussions and assessing student performance. For instance, their five general guidelines about choosing technology tools are deeply practical: Aim for pedagogy first, technology second; keep it simple; involve learners in your choices of digital tools; have backups planned for when the cloud inevitably disappears; and review your tech tools every few terms. They list more than a dozen best practices for online teaching, including “think digital for all course content.” Today’s students want to learn anywhere, anytime, which has a profound impact, they point out. “If course content is not digital, it is as if it does not exist.” A useful book for anyone providing any part of a course online. (Wiley, US$40)