Monthly Archives: January 2012

BOOK REVIEW: “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen (2011)

Key concepts: disruptive innovation, leapfrogging, processes, corporate culture, project management

Companies and industries studied: Apple, Nucor, Dell, Toyota, GM, GE, Ford, Compaq, HP, IBM, disk drive industry

Summary
It is said that this was Steve Job’s favourite book and had a lot of influence on the way he ran Apple. It focuses on disruptive technology and shows why a lot of companies miss out on innovation in markets and why leaders are often ‘leapfrogged’ by challengers. Among some of the surprising theories Christensen states that companies should NOT always listen to their customers (Steve Jobs declared this many times over; so did Henry Ford). Also, it may be better for a company to invest in lower margin products rather than high margin ones. 

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Innovation, Management, Research, Strategy, Technology

Work: It’s what you do, not where you are

An old joke

A CEO is showing a visitor around his factory. The guest asks politely:

“How many people work in your company?”

The boss looks at his employees sitting at their desks, reflects for a moment and then replies.

“Oh, probably about half of them!”

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Filed under Business, Business Schools, Careers, Higher Education, Intercultural, Management, Research

BOOK REVIEW: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson (2011)

This is the hottest business book of the moment and Amazon’s best selling book of 2011. 577 pages look fairly daunting but there is a nice mixture of personal detail and professional development which makes it fairly simple to read.  Jobs was adopted which made him feel “Abandoned”, “Chosen” and “Special.” He frequently got into trouble at school and then dropped out of Reed College in his second year. He had regular temper tantrums and big mood swings but also a remarkable gift for improving products and making them simple to use. He spent hours and hours fussing over tiny details including those legendary ‘spontaneous’ presentations.

The book gives a clear picture of a genius who was almost impossible to live with, a modern day Mozart, if you will. It gives an objective account of his ups and downs at Apple and shows both the strengths and the weaknesses of the man. There is an interesting side story of the rivalry between Jobs and Bill Gates including the latter complaining that while he was saving the world from malaria, the world was more interested in new products created by Jobs! It is an excellent read.

Some keys facts:

The name “Apple” was linked to Jobs’ strange diets. “I was on one of my fruitarian diets,” he explained. “I had just come back from the apple farm. It sounded fun, spirited and not intimidating. Apple took the edge off the word ‘computer’. Plus, it would get us ahead of Atari in the phone book.” Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Careers, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Strategy, Technology

BOOK REVIEW: “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” by Howard Schultz & Joanne Gordon (2012)

Coffee at Starbucks
Authors: Howard Schultz & Joanne Gordon

Key words
Change management, leadership, rebuilding a brand, supply chain management

Quick Summary

Howard Schultz’ very personal and open account of the difficulties that Starbucks ran into and why, in 2008, he decided to come back to the company as CEO. He had stepped down 8 years before. Schultz’s is very passionate about his company (this comes out even more in interviews) and the people that work for it. The book is even divided into five parts entitled Love, Confidence, Pain, Hope and Courage.

The book gives an excellent account of how an “iconic brand” reinvented itself, why Schultz was determined to ban hot breakfasts from the store, the importance of creating an ‘experience’ or an ‘atmosphere’ for the customer and how the company became profitable again. He is also quite honest about why certain products and strategies failed. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Corporate responsibility, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Strategy, USA

‘Are the Republican candidates all crazy?’

Elections in 2012

     
Election years are often interesting times as they bring out some of the best and the worst in our politicians. The world will be particularly well entertained in 2012 as the USA, France and China will change their governments (there may be slightly less open debate during the government change in Beijing!). Last week, things got underway in the USA as Republicans began the long process of choosing their nominee for the November elections.

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Filed under Higher Education, Intercultural, Leadership, Strategy, USA

The best is yet to come

Exhausted after the Christmas holiday?

It is always surprising to see just how tired people look after the Christmas holiday. The very idea of a holiday is that you rest. None of us do that though. We all hurry round from family to friends in a mad dash to see everyone we know and to stock up on as many calories as possible.  What we should be doing is taking it easy so that we can get our strength back so that we can make it through the dark months ahead. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Management, Uncategorized, USA, Vacation / Holidays