Riku Sayuj's Reviews > Business, the Universe & Everything: Conversations with the World's Greatest Management Thinkers

Business, the Universe & Everything by Stuart Crainer
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1651956
's review

liked it
bookshelves: mba-stuff, pop-strat, r-r-rs, reference

This book is a series of interviews with top management ‘gurus.’ It is full of business ideas from these — some of world’s leading business thinkers. It will not turn a bad business into a good business. Nor will it turn a bad businessman into an entrepreneurial genius. However, what this collection of interviews offers is a smorgasbord of business ideas:

Pick and choose. Some you will find risible. Others will strike a chord. Others still you may remember and act on. In the final analysis, ideas are nothing without application.

The Table of Contents is quite valuable and can serve as quick reference. I am basing my quick summary on it. Please feel free to ‘pick & choose.’

Section 1: Leading the Way

1. Warren Bennis: Geeks, geezers and beyond

Warren Bennis analyses Geeks and Geezers — which compares leaders under the age of 35 (‘geeks’) with those over 70 (‘geezers’). His basic argument is that tough situations make for tough leaders.

Best question: You argue that crucibles are important in people’s development. But can you create your own crucible?

2. Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Teaching cowboys Confucius

Kanter uses The Change Toolkit — to create Web-based versions to empower people to make change more effective. To give these skills to everyone so that change management – essential to leadership – becomes more widely understood and practiced. This is a way to empower people – by giving them the tools.

Best Question: Is the western heroic view of leadership still appropriate?

Answer: If we think of the western notion of leadership as cowboy leader- ship, the tough heroic stuff, it is no longer very appropriate. My view of leadership is probably more Confucian than cowboy.

The best leaders have somewhat universal characteristics. Leaders are more effective when they are able to create coalitions, develop and use a support system, encourage, listen and develop other people. Those sorts of attributes tend to transcend cultures.

3. Manfred Kets de Vries: The dark side of leadership

PSYCHOANALYSIS Meets Management Strategy: He talked about why companies crave heroic leaders – and what happens when executive egos get out of control. de Vries is a sort of pathologist of organizations. People would ask me to look at organizations that they thought were going in the wrong direction — for looking at the darker side of organizations, and particularly the darker side of leadership. How do leaders derail, what goes wrong? How can you recognize the signals when things go wrong and what can you can do about it?

You can argue that 20 percent of the general population is relatively healthy; 20 percent is relatively sick; and the other 60 percent some- where in the middle. That applies to most people I meet. If you are a CEO you usually have a ‘magnificent obsession’ and that comes with a price. You are obsessed by certain things having to do with business. You may not have the greatest talent for other parts of your life that may result in negative side effects such as a high incidence of divorce.

The real disease of many executives, CEOs in particular, is narcissism.

4. John Kotter: In the field

There’s no one who has spent more time talking to managers. That is about the claim to fame.

5. Daniel Goleman: Maxed emotions

Spread the gospel of emotional intelligence to a largely grateful business world — It is based on the notion that the ability of managers to understand and manage their own emotions and relation- ships is the key to better business performance.

Section 2: Selling the Future

6. Peter Schwartz: Thinking the unthinkable

An internationally renowned futurist, Peter Schwartz is a leading advocate of scenario planning – a technique that helps organizations ‘think the unthinkable’ by creating alternative stories, or scenarios, about how the future might pan out.

Claim to fame: He assembled a team of futurists to envision the world in 2058 for Steven Spielberg’s latest film Minority Report.

7. Watts Wacker: Fringe benefits

How do you practically look to the future when things are changing so rapidly?

The way to do so it is to look at what is called the fringe.

Basically, the fringe is three deviations away from the mean. If we want to see the parts of the future that are seeable we need to look at the fringe because the fringe migrates to the middle.

Trends that are peripheral today become mainstream tomorrow. Keep a sharp eye!

8. John Patrick: The attitude thing

Very general. Best let the Guru talk:

What is the right attitude?

It is an attitude that includes the ability to think globally but act locally, think big but start simple, think outside-in instead of inside-out, be able to accept ‘just enough is good enough’, engage in trial by fire, transform to a model of sense and respond instead of the traditional model of plan, build, deliver. This attitude comes from the grassroots thinking that was part of the evolution of the Internet. It’s hard to describe. Young people tend to have it but it’s not really an age thing. The masses of people in the middle layers of large organizations often don’t have it. The bureaucracies of large organizations have shielded them from the new way of thinking and, in some cases, Darwinian instincts have caused them to bring up their own shields.

9. Charles Handy: Reflections of a reluctant capitalist

No other management theorist’s world view encompasses the irresistible rise of the flea, the crumbling of the elephants and a written constitution for business. In addition, the world according to Charles Handy calls on the business world to rethink the money-obsessed mindset of executives and to look for a reason for business beyond simply increasing shareholder value.

10. Philip Kotler: Marketing in the digital age

Kotler wrote Marketing Management, still the definitive work on marketing and the text-book on every marketing student’s shelves.

Subsequently, Kotler has applied marketing theory to a huge variety of new areas – nonprofit organizations (museums, per- forming arts, hospitals, colleges, etc.), social causes, places (cities, regions, and nations), and celebrities. Along the way he has coined phrases such as ‘mega marketing’, ‘demarketing’, ‘social marketing’, ‘place marketing’, and ‘segmentation, targeting, and positioning’.

It is no surprise to talk about  e-marketing then, right?

Best question: What is the best marketing job in the world?

Answer: The most satisfying marketing job is not to sell more Coca-Cola or Crest toothpaste but to bring more education and health to people and make a real difference in the quality of their lives.

Section 3: People Power

11. Derrick Bell: The ardent protestor

Derrick Bell is one of America’s most forthright and best-known commentators on race and ethics. He protests for their rights and makes it a part of business strategy. Commendable.

12. Jonas Ridderstråle: Emotional capital

Core Competencies to PASSION! Companies talk a lot about core competencies but they are meaningless without core compassion, actually caring about what you do, why you do it and who you do it with.

Organizations can start by hiring people with a passion for their business. In reality, companies actually steer clear of passionate people. They would rather hire dull, reliable people than passionate enthusiasts with an appetite for change. They fill their ranks with people who want the future to be the same rather than people who want to invent the future. One thing we can be sure of is that the future will not bring more of the same.

13. Leif Edvinsson: The context’s the thing

The context around the workers matters most:

The big issue now is the context around the knowledge worker. The context surrounding knowledge workers has become tougher. Research suggests that 20 per cent of our health is related to the architecture which surrounds us – work space design, sound levels, smells, types of seating and so on. Context matters.

So the challenge of intellectual capital is also very personal and health-oriented. One important dimension of this is to replace offices with other meeting places or knowledge arenas, such as knowledge cafés. We have to have space to clear our heads to seize our own opportunities. In years gone by, people took the waters in search of physical restoration. Now, we need mental spas, places where we can renew ourselves and our minds. After all, we have the potential for hundreds of billions of thoughts per day.

The opportunity cost of not seizing these opportunities is enormous. This is brain economics; the care for the talent potential. I think it was Peter Drucker who lamented the inefficiency of the knowledge worker. He was right. You, as brainpower, can work positively and usefully for 4–8 hours per day. Thereafter, your effect is likely to be a negative one.

14. Tony Buzan: Brain power

Buzan is best known as the creator of Mind Mapping®, a ‘thinking tool’ once described, colourfully and not altogether helpfully, as the ‘Swiss army knife of the brain’. A mind map is a kind of mental shorthand. Arguments and ideas radiate in tentacles from a centre point.

His central argument is that the magical powers of the human brain remain largely untapped. Our greatest asset is allowed to wallow in ill-organized, poorly-directed lethargy. Unused muscles rapidly lose their tone.

15. Marshall Goldsmith: Coaching for results

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world’s best-known – and best-paid – executive coaches. What else? Yeah, he gets results. Don’t ask me how. Didn’t you see the word ‘coach’?

16. Kjell Nordström: Tribal gathering

How should companies differentiate themselves?

The starting point must be a neat niche, a funky few, a global tribe. You need to understand your particular tribe better than anyone else. You must know what makes them tick, what scares them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what turns them on. The tribe is the basic unit of business. If you don’t know who your tribe is or anything about them, you are not going to stand out from the crowd.

So what’s the message?

If you focus your energy on creating and then exploiting an extremely narrow niche you can make a lot of money. The tribe may consist of one-legged homosexual dentists. It may be lawyers who race pigeons. But if you manage to capture these customers globally, you can make a lot of money. There are riches in niches.

17. Tom Stewart: Intellectual capitalist

Intellectual capital can be crudely described as the collective brainpower of an organization. The switch from physical assets to intellectual assets – brawn to brain – as the source of wealth creation has been underway in the developed economies for some time. As an advertisement for Deutsche Bank put it: ‘Ideas are capital. The rest is just money’.

Section 4: Strategic Wisdom

18. Gary Hamel: The radical fringe

He calls for radical innovation in business, telling companies that they must continually reinvent themselves, not just at times of crisis. His landmark book, co- authored with C K Prahalad, Competing for the Future, was BusinessWeek’s book of the year in 1995. Its 2000 sequel, Leading the Revolution, was also a bestseller.

We have to systematically train people in new ways of think- ing. We have to create new metrics. Most of the metrics companies use – ROI, EVA, and so on – push us into thinking simply about incremental improvements. We still have a very deep belief in management processes, which are the antithesis of innovation.

19. Costas Markides: Escaping the jungle

Imagine you find yourself in the middle of a dark and hostile jungle. If you want to get out of the jungle, do you need a strategy?

Think about it. In the dense foliage, you cannot see beyond a few feet. You want to get out of this jungle but you don’t know how and you don’t know which way to turn. There is total uncertainty. How then can you get out alive? Well, the last thing you want to do is to stay still, paralysed by uncertainty. You need to analyse your position based on the available information and then decide on a direction. That’s the first principle of strategy – the need to make difficult choices based on what information you have at the time. You take stock, gather information based on that and then start walking. The worst thing is to stay still. That’s the second principle of strategy – the need to stop analysing and start doing, even if you are not entirely sure that what you are doing is going to turn out to be the right thing.

So, what needs to change?

We need to train people how to think, not what to think.

20. James Champy: What re-engineering did next

Champy and Hammer established re-engineering as the big business idea of the early 1990s, creating a whole new consulting industry.

His recent book, X-Engineering the Corporation, argues that managers must now look beyond re-engineering and cross (as in X) boundaries they’ve never crossed before. The walls between a company, its customers and its suppliers – and even between competitors – are falling, he argues. The advent of the Internet makes it possible to redesign processes across organizational borders.

James Champy talks about what the re-engineering revolution achieved, how it was hijacked by corporate downsizers, and why X-engineering is the next big thing.

21. W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne: Strategic moves

“Smart Strategic Moves” are needed. Yes! You guessed it — I didn’t get how this is anything different.

22. Henry Mintzberg: Searching for balance

Henry Mintzberg talks about why MBAs and shareholder value are killing business, and the need to bring balance to the capitalist system.

Solzhenitsyn said that a society that has no rules like the communist society is abhorrent, but a society that only stays within the letter of the law – he had the United States in mind – is not much better.

Best Question: What’s wrong with MBAs?

Answer: Basically, my objection is that MBA programmes claim to be creat- ing managers and they are not.

The MBA is really about business, which would be fine except that people leave these programmes thinking they’ve been trained to do management. I think every MBA should have a skull and crossbones stamped on their forehead and underneath should be written, ‘Warning; not prepared to manage’.

And the issue is not just that they are not trained to manage, but that they are given a totally wrong impression of what managing is; namely decision-making by analysis. The impression they get from what they’ve studied is that people skills don’t really matter.

So they come out with this distorted view. I’ve seen it over and over again where people have MBAs and go into managerial positions and don’t know what they are doing. So basically, they write reports and plans and do all sorts of information processing things and pretend that it’s management. It’s killing organizations, and I think it’s getting worse over time.

One more: Is Michael Porter’s Five Forces framework still relevant today?

Porter’s Five Forces is a wonderful way to analyse industries but it has nothing to do with making strategies because there’s no creativity in it. It’s just an input for a process, not the process itself.

23. Sumantra Ghoshal: The rise of the volunteer investor

Errr… leadership as voluntary investment of human capital?

Well, that’s it folks. Have fun wrecking your business.
19 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Business, the Universe & Everything.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

April 1, 2014 – Started Reading
April 2, 2014 – Shelved
April 2, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
April 2, 2014 – Shelved as: mba-stuff
April 2, 2014 – Shelved as: pop-strat
April 2, 2014 – Shelved as: r-r-rs
April 2, 2014 – Shelved as: reference
April 2, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Thank heavens that I don't have to run a business.


Riku Sayuj Lilo wrote: "Thank heavens that I don't have to run a business."

haha! Some of it would apply to any venture I guess, including publishing. :)


message 3: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Riku wrote: "Lilo wrote: "Thank heavens that I don't have to run a business."

haha! Some of it would apply to any venture I guess, including publishing. :)"


Darned! I forgot. Self-publishing books is a business venture. And I also ran a small dancing school and later a small real estate office, a few decades ago. I must be getting senile. :-)


message 4: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo P.S. I marked the book as TBR. I will probably read it AFTER I will have wrecked my self-publishing business.


message 5: by Zanna (new)

Zanna great!


Riku Sayuj Lilo wrote: "P.S. I marked the book as TBR. I will probably read it AFTER I will have wrecked my self-publishing business."

ha! I hope not!


Riku Sayuj Zanna wrote: "great!"

Thanks, Zanna!


back to top