• Tony Richards

Leadership & Business Growth Books for September 2013

Here are our top picks for the best leadership and business growth books this month.

Thinking In New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity by Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny

When BIC, manufacturer of disposable ballpoint pens, wanted to grow, it looked for an idea beyond introducing new sizes and ink colors. Someone suggested lighters.

LIGHTERS?

With an idea that seemed crazy at first, that bright executive, instead of seeing BIC as a pen company—a business in the PEN “box”—figured out that there was growth to be found in the DISPOSABLE “box.” And he was right. Now there are disposable BIC lighters, razors, even phones. The company opened its door to a host of opportunities.

IT INVENTED A NEW BOX.

Your business can, too. And simply thinking “out of the box” is not the answer. True ingenuity needs structure, hard analysis, and bold brainstorming. It needs to start

THINKING IN NEW BOXES —a revolutionary process for sustainable creativity from two strategic innovation experts from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

To make sense of the world, we all rely on assumptions, on models—on what Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny call “boxes.” If we are unaware of our boxes, they can blind us to risks and opportunities.

This innovative book challenges everything you thought you knew about business creativity by breaking creativity down into five steps:

• Doubt everything. Challenge your current perspectives. • Probe the possible. Explore options around you. • Diverge. Generate many new and exciting ideas, even if they seem absurd. • Converge. Evaluate and select the ideas that will drive breakthrough results. • Reevaluate. Relentlessly. No idea is a good idea forever. And did we mention Reevaluate? Relentlessly.

Creativity is paramount if you are to thrive in a time of accelerating change. Replete with practical and potent creativity tools, and featuring fascinating case studies from BIC to Ford to Trader Joe’s, Thinking in New Boxes will help you and your company overcome missed opportunities and stay ahead of the curve.

The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and It’s Secret Influence on American Business by Duff McDonald

It ranks among the unquestioned laws of American big business over the last half century: If you want to be taken seriously, you hire McKinsey & Company.

FOUNDED IN 1926, McKINSEY CAN LAY CLAIM to the following partial list of accomplishments: its consultants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological change to the nation’s best organizations; they remapped the power structure within the White House; they even revo­lutionized business schools. In this book, star financial journalist Duff McDonald shows just how, in becoming an indispensable part of decision making at the highest levels, McKinsey has done nothing less than set the course of American capitalism.

But he also answers the question that’s on the mind of anyone who has ever heard the word McKinsey: Are they worth it? After all, just as McKinsey can be shown to have helped invent most of the tools of modern management, the company was also involved with a number of striking failures. Its consultants were on the scene when General Motors drove itself into the ground, and they were Kmart’s advisers when the retailer tumbled into disarray. They played a critical role in building the bomb known as Enron.

McDonald is one of the few journalists to have not only parsed the record but also penetrated the culture of McKinsey itself—a corporate mandarin elite whose methods have been compared (by oth­ers and by themselves) to those of the Jesuits or the U.S. Marines. They feel so strongly about themselves that they have insisted on a proper noun where one need not exist. To an outsider, they are a consulting firm. To themselves, simply, The Firm. This revealing book uncovers the inner workings of what just might be the most influential private organization in America.

Beyond The Idea: How To Execute Innovation in an Organization by Vijay Govindaraijan and Chris Trimble

The New York Times bestselling authors of Reverse Innovation and How Stella Saved the Farm distill more than a decade of exclusive research into one short, powerful, action-oriented book.

Companies stumble when they imagine that innovation is mostly about ideas. The reality is that ideas are only beginnings. Indeed, even a company with the world’s best idea still faces a devilish challenge: it must build the business of tomorrow without endangering the business of today.

Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble are the world’s leading authorities on the successful management of innovation. In Beyond the Idea, they distill more than a decade of research and insight into a practical, accessible, read-at-one-sitting handbook that offers invaluable guidance for anyone charged with making innovation happen: executives, managers, consultants, project leaders, and teams.

By offering specific action steps, Beyond the Idea extends the elegant conceptual insights from How Stella  Saved the Farm, Govindarajan and Trimble’s parable. Beyond the Idea shows exactly how to:

Build a team with a very particular structure, one that makes it possible to simultaneously build something new and sustain what exists.

Manage any innovation initiative as a disciplined experiment.

Implement three distinct models for moving from ideas to action.

Beyond the Idea is an essential book for any business that recognizes that innovation always has been, and always will be, the key to long term growth and vitality.

Winning From Within: A Breathrough Method for Leading, Living and Lasting Change by Erica Ariel Fox

Winning from Within by leadership and negotiation expert Erica Ariel Fox presents a contemporary approach for getting more of what you want, improving relationships, and enjoying life’s deeper rewards.

With principles developed while teaching negotiation at Harvard Law School and coaching executives around the world, Fox provides a map for understanding your inner world and a method for sorting yourself out.

Fox uses insights from Western psychology and Eastern philosophy to resolve the gap between what people know they should say and what they actually do. She explains how to master your “inner negotiators,” whether working with a difficult client, struggling with a stubborn spouse, or developing your highest leadership potential.

With a Foreword by William Ury, coauthor of the classic bestseller Getting to Yes, Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change is your guide to greatness.

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday by Todd Henry

Most of us live with the stubborn idea that we’ll always have tomorrow to do our most important and valuable work. We fill our days with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, scrambling to make deadlines and chase the next promotion. But by the end of each day we’re often left asking ourselves “did the work I do today really matter?” We feel the ticking of the clock, but we’re stuck in first gear, unsure of the path forward and without a road map to guide us.

Here’s the hard truth: sooner or later all of our tomorrows will run out, so how we choose to spend today is significant. Each day that we postpone difficult tasks and succumb to the clutter that chokes creativity, discipline, and innovation results in a net deficit to the world, our organizations, and ourselves.

Die Empty is a tool for people who aren’t willing to put off their most important work for another day. Todd Henry explains the forces that keep us in stagnation, and introduces a process for instilling consistent practices into your life that will keep you on a true and steady course.

It’s not about slaving over a project or living on a whim–it’s about embracing the idea that time is finite and making the unique contribution to the world that only you can make. Henry shows how to cultivate the mindset and the methods you need to sustain your enthusiasm, push through mental barriers, and unleash your best work each day. His guiding principles and checkpoints include:

  1. Define Your Battles: Counter aimlessness by defining your goals wisely and build your life around achieving them.

  2. Be Fiercely Curious: Prevent boredom from dulling your senses by approaching your work with a curious mindset.

  3. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Make a valuable contribution to the world by getting uncomfortable and embracing lifelong growth and skill development.

Sure to bring a newfound clarity and a sense of urgency to how you approach your work every day, Die Empty will help you reach for and achieve your goals.

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