Bookshelf | November / December 2016

A collection of reviewed books from the November / December 2016 print issue.


If you and your team did an outstanding job at the office, what would motivate you to keep working hard on successive days—a monetary bonus, a voucher for free pizza, a “good job!” message from your boss, or no acknowledgement at all? Pizza wins for the short-term, but the appreciative note has longer cumulative effects. That’s only one of the insights Duke University’s Dan Ariely offers in this short and fascinating account of what motivates people at work and in every other aspect of their lives. But people aren’t just looking for recognition or rewards; they crave connection to the work they do and a sense that they are engaged in an activity that has intrinsic value. “Human motivation is actually based on a time scale that is long, sometimes even longer than our lifetimes,” Ariely writes. “We’re motivated by meaning and connection because their effects extend beyond ourselves, beyond our social circle, and maybe beyond our existence.” An insightful read for leaders who want to know how to get the best out of everyone around them. (TED Books, US$16.99)


A single people-oriented problem can cost an organization more than US$15 million and 5,000 hours, according to a survey of 83 exec­utives. Even worse, all the attempts to solve the problem can be fruitless, say Ohio State’s Tanya Menon and Northwestern’s Leigh Thompson. That’s because managers tend to fall into one of five “spending traps,” such as relying on tried-and-true interventions that have worked previously or being too uncomfortable with con­flict to speak up plainly. Menon and Thompson offer detailed advice about how to break old patterns—for instance, they provide several ideas for managers who want their people to stop seeking information only from familiar sources. Managers can try simple solutions, such as expanding lunchroom tables to allow more people to sit together. Or they can try more struc­tured ways of mingling co-workers, such as bringing in individ­uals from other departments to participate in team meetings. Such exercises are hugely beneficial, they note, because “people problems, not technical problems, exact the greatest toll on productivity.” (Harvard Business Review Press, US$30)


“Everyone is creative, and you can develop your inherent cre­ative skills just like you would any other skill,” writes Bernhard Schroeder, a former marketer who now teaches entrepreneur­ship at San Diego State. In his book, he first debunks common myths about creativity: For instance, it doesn’t come in a single flash of inspiration, it’s rarely produced by a lone thinker, and it’s less likely to be a completely new idea than a recombination of existing solutions. He also describes the conditions needed for indi­viduals and co-workers to be creative. They must have a growth mindset; they must be situated in an environment where the culture promotes creativity; they must be in physical spaces, or “habitats,” that facilitate creative interactions; and they must properly employ brainstorming tools, not merely generate as many ideas as possible. He fills the book with anecdotes about famous creative businesspeople and details about some of the exercises he uses with students. He notes that, in a business environment where “the new normal is fast, faster, fastest,” all businesses will need to be creative just to survive. (AMACOM, US$24)


Skilled researchers often aren’t comfortable in their roles as teachers, but they have an excellent resource in the fourth edition of Linda B. Nilson’s comprehensive guide. Nil­son, the founding director of Clemson’s Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation, explores virtually every aspect of classroom instruction in this book. Chapters cover the common traits of today’s millennials, the optimum way to structure a course, what technology to use inside and outside the classroom, and how to design grading and assessment rubrics. She offers a wealth of supporting research and alternative approaches for every topic; for instance, a chapter on how to teach criti­cal thinking presents numerous models and provides several different step-by-step approaches. Nilson is in favor of limiting technology in the classroom, but supplies detailed informa­tion about how teachers can utilize everything from learning management systems to social media pages, and she’s just as thorough on other topics. There’s something here for anyone teaching at the university level. (Wiley, US$46)


Chief marketing officers can help their companies succeed—and incidentally, create more fulfilling careers for themselves—by demonstrating how essential marketing is to the overall enterprise. Consultant Thomas Barta, formerly of McKinsey, and Patrick Barwise of the London Business School urge CMOs to push themselves beyond their base­line skills of creating brands and promoting products. They must become leaders who use their knowledge “inside the organization to improve the end-to-end customer experience.” To do this, the authors write, CMOs first must identify the “value creation zone,” or V-Zone, where the needs of the consumer and the needs of the company overlap. They must understand what the CEO considers to be the company’s top priority, and they must show how marketing efforts align with that priority. Note Barta and Barwise, “Marketers should be in the forefront of making customer focus happen—especial­ly in a digital world, where many CEOs are looking to marketers to lead the way.” (McGraw Hill, US$30)


“I believe that everyone has within them­selves the capability to lead if they only know to break the idea of leadership into understandable chunks and then integrate it back into a more powerful whole,” writes Jim Fisher of the University of Toronto. He draws on much of the existing leadership literature to do just that, creating a frame­work that guides would-be leaders through the essential steps. His framework consists of three key ele­ments—managing, directing, and engaging—but each element contains its own subset of three tasks. For instance, a leader in the managing stage of the cycle must plan, organize, and control the workflow; one in the directing phase must develop a vision, get alignment on that vision from others, and motivate workers. A leader in the engaging phase communicates values, provides clarity around goals, and encourages the involvement of others in the enterprise. “The model builds from the con­crete step of determining what specific action is required and organizing people to achieve it, to the more inspirational world of purpose and meaning, and finally to the more spiritual world of engaging,” Fisher explains. Even more important, he notes, is that all the elements must interact. He points out, “The real secret is consistency.” (University of Toronto Press, US$32.95)


Business leaders can’t solve today’s complex global challenges with yesterday’s tactics, which is why the University of Pittsburgh’s John Camillus has developed a clear, if hardly simple, framework for solving wicked problems. First, he writes, leaders must recognize the transformative mega-forces shaping business, such as globalization, innovation, and shared value; then they must understand how the interactions among these forces lead to disruptive technologies, conflicted stakeholders, and unknow­able futures. The hardest part is converting challenges into competitive advantage. “Wicked strategies embrace disruptive technologies to create innovative business models, engage conflicted stakeholders to co-create value, and resolve and master unknowable futures through feed-forward processes,” he writes. Those “feed-forward” processes use scenario plan­ning to envision the future rather than relying on feedback to analyze the past. While Camillus notes that “it is impossible to solve complex problems piece by piece,” he does offer hope that they can be solved. (University of Toronto Press, US$32.95)


While this book seems to tackle a niche topic, Babson’s Xinghua Li makes a power­ful case for why environmentally themed advertising in these two countries has vast importance. The U.S. and China are the world’s biggest polluters, and their actions contribute to the ongoing and disastrous effects of climate change. Furthermore, as consumerism grows in China, many U.S. companies are supplying goods that might or might not be environmentally safe. Therefore, Li believes it’s critical to ex­amine advertising that claims to be about green products, be­cause false advertising might lead large numbers of customers to buy products that are harmful to the environment. As part of her premise, Li looks at advertising from a psychoanalytic perspective, specifically its ability to create desire. “Desire, as the fundamental force that drives our being, does not operate according to conscious reason and nor does it succumb to behavior control,” she writes. “It drives overconsumption and leads to social inequality and ecological destruction.” A deep dive into a complex subject. (Routledge, US$145)