Bookshelf | November / December 2015

A collection of reviewed books from the November / December 2015 print issue.


Many books describe the technology behind the Internet’s evolution, but Shane Greenstein of Harvard Business School is more interested in the complex factors that commercialized it. Those include public policy decisions, economic incentives, privatization, and innovation. He describes how disparate players—including individual inventors, the military, and organizations like the National Science Foundation and CERN—created the policies and protocols that would shape the web. He focuses on innovation commercialized by “suppliers who lacked power in the old market structure.” It’s a vast and fascinating topic. (Princeton University Press, US$35)


“Humans are wired to cooperate and compete,” write Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School and Maurice Schweitzer of Wharton. At work, at play, and in relationships, our interactions are affected by three forces: the scarcity of resources, the human drive to be social, and the instability of the world. How we get what we need depends on complex systems of taking and sharing. One intriguing chapter focuses on how to project power—and how not to lose or misuse it. The book will make all CEOs and employees rethink their relationships. (Crown Business, US$27)


As online teaching becomes more prevalent, administrators must determine how to evaluate instructors, note Thomas Tobin of Northeastern Illinois University, B. Jean Mandernach of Grand Canyon University, and Ann Taylor of Penn State. Professors still must develop learning goals, facilitate learning, and provide feedback. But they also must adopt new methods for achieving these goals, and administrators must ask new questions. How well do faculty use email and forums to connect with students? How often do they log in or post announcements? The authors provide a useful, comprehensive survey of questions to ask, strategies to try, and systems that work. (Jossey-Bass, US$45)


When investors evaluate companies, they consider tangible factors like balance sheets and intangible ones like leadership, but investors admit they’re often on shaky ground in the second category. Michigan's Dave Ulrich has created a “leadership capital index” to help investors identify attributes in two domains—personal and organizational. In the personal domain, he suggests, investors should look at how well a leader sets strategy, deals with people, executes plans, projects leadership, and maintains good character. In the organizational domain, they should consider how top leadership manages talent, elicits optimal performance, uses information, institutes work processes, and creates culture. He believes such information-gathering could give investors unassailable ground for making decisions. (Berrett-Koehler, US$29.95)


Is your job becoming obsolete? Are you? Those unnerving questions are posed by Barbara Mistick, president of Wilson College, and Karie Willyerd, a workplace futurist with SAP. The authors identify megatrends that are transforming the workplace—including globalization, big data, technology, and demographic shifts—then lay out strategies designed to help anyone “stretch,” adapt to new realities, and stay employable. They suggest these practices: Learn on the fly; be open to new learning; build a diverse network to help you find the next job; be greedy about experiences; and bounce forward, even after setbacks. As they write, “Stretching is the future imperative for us all.” (Wiley, US$26)


Because social entrepreneurship has moved from the fringes of society to the mainstream, we need both a definition of the term and a roadmap to guide social entrepreneurs, write Roger Martin and Sally Osberg. They focus on “reflective practitioners,” who think about the world before they try to change it. These entrepreneurs follow four steps: They understand the world, envision a new future, build a model for change, and scale up. The authors, who are both connected to the Skoll Foundation, offer examples of social entrepreneurs from Andrew Carnegie to aid workers in Africa. They admit that “true equilibrium change is a high bar”—but they convincingly argue that it can be met. (Harvard Business Review Press, US$30).