Bookshelf | May / June 2014

A collection of reviewed books from the May / June 2014 print issue.


Obesity and poor nutrition are problems in Camden, New Jersey, home of Campbell Soup Company. As part of its ambitious ten-year “destination goal” of creating social value by nourishing its community, the company recently partnered with local farmers and a major food bank. Taking thousands of pounds of blemished peaches that otherwise would have been discarded, Campbell’s employees cooked 54,000 jars of peach salsa, which were sold to generate $100,000 for the food bank. Campell Soup’s story is just one of many tales of social value creation described by the authors—Kiser and Shubert of Babson, and Leipziger, a consultant. While they spend time defining corporate social innovation and how it differs from traditional CSR, they devote most of their pages to describing the actions of a new breed of leaders. These leaders have “a different world-view of business and society, where the simultaneous creation of social, environmental, and economic value is the order of the day.” Cheryl Kiser, Deborah Leipziger, and J. Janelle Shubert (Greenleaf Publishing, US$40)


When a company must figure out how to adapt to a volatile and uncertain future, it needs a strategic conversation, which brings together key people when “the stakes are high, the answers unclear, and the participants are expected to create real insights together,” say Ertel and Solomon. In these conversations, meeting leaders hope to develop shared understanding among participants, shape potential choices, and come to final decisions; like designers, they seek to develop deep empathy with users and rapidly prototype solutions. Solomon of the California College of the Arts and Ertel, a consultant, pepper their book with accounts of wildly successful strategic meetings. For instance, there’s the baby food CEO who took his advisory board through wargaming exercises where they pretended to be competitors bent on bringing down his firm. Such a meeting requires “a dash of creativity and courage,” the authors write, “and most important, a shift in mind-set.” Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon (Simon & Schuster, US$28)


Success depends not only on the people you know, but also where you fit within your network of business partners. Business networks can be likened to the roads in ancient England, write Greve and Shipilov of INSEAD and Rowley of the University of Toronto. “Just as the prosperity of individual cities in Roman Britannia depended on their position in the network of roads, your firm’s prosperity depends on its position in an alliance network.” Business leaders must look beyond their immediate partnerships to take full advantage of the information power the entire network can deliver, they write. Case in point: When Jack Northrop first built the Stealth Bomber in the 1940s, the project failed, in part because major suppliers didn’t communicate. Thirty years later, when Boeing, GE, and Vought Aircraft joined Northrop to design an updated model, their collective work produced “a technical marvel”—and illustrated the power of a strong network. Henrich Greve, Tim Rowley, and Andrew Shipilov (Jossey-Bass, US$50)


In this forthright little book, Ashridge professors Sherrat and Delves offer real solutions to common management problems. They divide the book into categories of challenges so they can address problems relating to individuals, teams, change management, office politics, and outside forces. In every situation, they ask the manager to first consider what might be causing the problem, what might have changed recently, and how his or her own perspective might be complicating the situation. For instance, the challenge might be an employee who reacts poorly to constructive criticism, and Sherrat and Delves offer step-by-step processes for designing solid feedback systems. But they also note that “feedback can often be as much about the giver as the receiver ... It’s important to be aware of how you like to do things and then to be sure you are not criticizing others simply because they like to do things in a different way.” It’s a useful handbook for almost any organizational crisis. Sona Sherrat and Roger Delves (Pearson, US$34.99)