Bookshelf | November/December 2018

View a selection of reviewed books from the November/December 2018 print issue.

EVALUATING SCHOLARSHIP AND RESEARCH IMPACT

Evaluating Scholarship and Research ImpactAs stakeholders call for research with more relevance, and online publications offer new avenues for tracking data, both professors and educational institutions are looking for ways to measure the impact of scholarship. But impressive metrics don’t always mean impressive research, point out three professors from Iona College. In their short book, Jeffrey Alstete, Nicholas Beutell, and John Meyer argue that it would be far more “accurate, professional, and holistic” to use a hybrid approach to evaluating impact, one that weighs everything from the purpose of the research to the mission of the institution to the funding that supported the work. They point out that research can have great value and impact even if appears outside of top-tier journals and doesn’t rack up high download counts. “Research is a complicated, multifaceted activity,” they note—and the evaluation process should be as well. (Emerald Publishing, US$64)

 

 


WOMEN, MINORITIES & OTHER EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE

Women, Minorities, and Other Extraordinary PeopleWhy is the Apple Watch designed to work best on light-skinned people? Was the design team lacking people of color or individuals with tattoos? Barbara Adams, an organizational psychologist at GAR Diversity Consulting, presents all the reasons diverse workforces are important; then she explores why diversity and inclusion initiatives so far have not delivered the desired results. She explains the basics of implicit bias, suggests workplace interventions, and urges honest—if uncomfortable—dialogue. She also shares some of the ways she tries to be inclusive in her own life. For instance, when she donates to one of her own alma maters, she sends an equal amount to the United Negro College Fund. Change won’t happen on the personal or the corporate level unless we’re intentional about our choices, she says. To create inclusive workforces requires us to “get our collective and emotive systems working better together so that curiosity and wonder about difference replace fear, disdain, and hierarchies around who is better.” (Greenleaf, US$22.95)

 


REINVENTING JOBS

Reinventing JobsWhat current jobs will be lost to future automation? That’s not the right question, say Ravin Jesuthasan of risk management firm Willis Towers Watson and John Boudreau of the University of Southern California. Instead, they urge business leaders to understand which parts of what jobs might be automated and how the remaining tasks must be recombined into new jobs. This requires leaders first to deconstruct jobs into component work tasks and identify which components can be automated because they’re repetitive, independent, and physical. Leaders also will need to assess how the variable, interactive, and mental parts of previous jobs will need to be handled by human workers and what those job descriptions will look like. According to Jesuthasan and Boudreau, “These new, reinvented work options can fundamentally shift organizational characteristics such as leadership, power, accountability, culture, structure, information sharing, and decision making.” The good news is that the authors do see people as being necessary in the automated future—though the parameters of work will change. (Harvard Business Review Press, US$32)

 


AN INCLUSIVE ACADEMY: ACHIEVING DIVERSITY AND EXCELLENCE

An Inclusive AcademyOrganizers choose an all-male panel for an academic conference. Women on a school’s faculty earn less than men in similar positions. Candidates for a faculty position do not include a person of color. These scenarios are still too common in academia, say psychology professors Abigail Stewart of the University of Michigan and Virginia Valian of the City University of New York. The pair outlines obstacles to diversity, citing examples that show how explicit and implicit biases affect many academic policies, before delving into potential solutions. For example, writing clear criteria for evaluating applicants can make hiring committees less susceptible to bias, while using “open” language in job postings could attract more diverse candidates. And should hiring committees discover that their short list of candidates includes only white males, they should regroup and take steps to encourage more women and minorities to apply. “Change what you can where you can,” write Stewart and Valian, because small changes lead to major progress. A telling and well-researched roadmap to help academia meet its diversity goals. (US$29.95, The MIT Press)

 


TEACHING LEADERSHIP

Teaching LeadershipIs leadership really a skill anyone can teach—or learn? Yes, say Gama Perruci of Marietta College and Sadhana Warty Hall of Dartmouth, who believe leadership can be presented as an intellectual field of study, a series of training exercises, or a leadership development program that focuses on practical wisdom. They review how literature on leadership has evolved to focus on five components—traits, behavior, context, the leader-follower relationship, and cultural norms—and then offer a survey of their own leadership programs. For instance, at Marietta’s McDonough Leadership Center, students explore the continuum of leadership beliefs from Plato to Aristotle before delving into the concept of followership and some of its darker connotations. “Students are left with the uncomfortable feeling that they too could be guilty of atrocities by not questioning misguided leaders’ orders,” write the authors. They move on to discuss topics such as ethical dilemmas and the transnational perspectives required for today’s global leaders. “There is no magic formula for developing a rigorous curriculum that can expand students’ knowledge of how leadership works,” they note. “The key…is to be purposeful in leadership development.” (Edward Elgar Publishing, US$140)

 


DATA VISUALIZATION MADE SIMPLE

Data Visualization Made SimpleWhile data is ubiquitous, it’s only useful if people know how to interpret it and share the resulting insights. “Suppose you identify new markets your company should target,” writes Kristen Sosulski of NYU Stern. “Could you provide clear evidence that would convince your company to allocate resources to implement your recommendations?” For that task, she notes, raw data is less useful than a detailed graphic. She presents clear information about why data visualization is essential and what types of tools are available, before explaining what features users should look for in visualization graphics and how companies and individuals can use the information they uncover. For instance, cab companies can learn who’s hailing a taxi at midnight in New York City and city planners can see where the most traffic accidents occur—but only when the information is presented in a clear and logical fashion. She says, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not all pictures are readable, interpretable, meaningful, or relevant.” (Routledge, US$155)

 


LEAN IMPACT

Lean Impact“The same techniques for innovation that have fueled dramatic progress in Silicon Valley can be the basis for creating radically greater social good,” writes Ann Mei Chang, a former tech executive and USAID official who now directs Lean Impact. She admits that social enterprises face wholly different constraints—they are often funded by grants that detail precisely how money can be spent, and they need to satisfy the sometimes conflicting goals of beneficiaries and donors. Yet nonprofits can still follow lean business principles that include defined goals, multiple iterations that are validated by end users, and a final product that can be widely scaled. Chang notes that the goal shouldn’t be something vague such as “end poverty,” but something specific and measurable, such as “raise wages by 10 percent for a million people by 2030.” She writes, “Work down from the size of the need that exists in the world, rather than working up from what seems achievable.” This is the rare book that’s as practical and useful as it is inspirational. (Wiley, US$30)

 


DRIVING DIGITAL STRATEGY

Driving Digital StrategyAs digital disruptors transform every industry, business leaders will succeed only if they “lead with a digital-first mentality,” writes Harvard’s Sunil Gupta. To do this, he says, they must reimagine their businesses, reevaluate their value chains, reconnect with customers, and rebuild their organizations. For instance, as leaders reimagine their businesses, they not only must identify their core competencies, but also become increasingly customer-centric. Sometimes this means moving in new directions before customers are even aware of their own shifting demands. One example comes from John Deere, a farm equipment manufacturer that was able to mine customer data once it added digital sensors and software to its products. Now John Deere is evolving into a farm management company that can give farmers information about predictive maintenance, weather effects, and seed optimization. Says Gupta, “The two most valuable assets of a company today are its data and its customer base, yet they don’t show up on a data sheet.” But they do provide a guide for the digital future. (Harvard Business Review Press, US$32)