Tag Archives: Books

In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century

intheirtime.jpg In Their Time, written by Harvard Business School professor Anthony Mayo and Nitin Nohria, is a book about American business leaders of the last century. Professors Mayo and Nohria recognize three different types of leaders: entrepreneurs (create new businesses), managers (expert at taking advantage of every opportunity), and leaders (reinvent industries and see new opportunities in them). They discuss how these three types of business leaders exceled in their ability to seize opportunities that existed in their time. The book recognizes not only well known leaders of our time like Sam Walton and Jack Welch, but many lesser known leaders who were important in their day and age.

What I like about the book is its acknowledgement of “contextual intelligence”, the ability to make sense of the unique context in which we live and to create or discover new business opportunities based on that understanding. Professors Mayo and Nohria assert that this contextual intelligence distinguishes great business leaders from also-rans. The book is organized by decades beginning in the 1900 through the end of the century, presenting a fascinating history of the last 100 years from a business perspective.    

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Giants of Enterprise: Seven business innovators and the empires they built

giantsofent.jpg Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built, by Harvard Business School professor Richard S. Tedlow, is the story of seven great American entrepreneurs of the last century who created new industries or new business from nothing. In this 528-page book, Professor Tedlow describes the lives and works of Andrew Carnegie (the steel magnate), George Eastman (the founder of Kodak), Henry Ford (the man who brought cars to the masses), Thomas Watson Sr. (the founder of IBM), Charles Revson (the man behind the success of Revlon), Sam Walton (the founder of Walmart), and Robert Noyce (the driving force behind Silicon Valley). Professor Tedlow is impressed by the contributions of these seven great American heroes. (as are almost all of us), but that does not stop him from critically exploring their personal and professional triumphs and failures.  

The book is very informative BUT it is long! I personally don’t have an issue with reading long books, especially when they entertain and inform me about highly succesful entrepreneurs who broke old rules and created new ones, but I know of many people for whom the biggest obstacle to reading this book is its length. Frankly, I think Professor Tedlow could write a much shorter version of the same book and likely find it to be more popular for use in business schools and entrepreneurship classes.    

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The World is Flat

worldisflat3.jpg The World is Flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century is an internationally acclaimed book by New York Times columnist and popular opinion-shaper Thomas Friedman. The title, based on a statement by Nandan Nilekani the former CEO of Infosys, is a metaphor for viewing the world a level playing field for companies from countries across the world. In the book, Friedman travels around the world and analyzes recent advances in globalization. He attributes the “flattening” of the world to 10 forces: (1) The fall of the Berlin Wall, (2) introduction of Netscape, (3) workflow software, (4) open-sourcing, (5)  outsourcing, (6) off-shoring, (7) supply chaining, (8) in-sourcing, (9) increased access to information, and (10) personal digital devices such as PDAs. Friedman argues that the 10 flatteners conerged to create a new, fallter, global playing field that is changing lives of people around the world. Friedman also discusses forces, such as terrorism and AIDS, that can impede and flattening of the world. Friedman’s book and his analysis of slobalization has become a must-read for strategic managers and influences government and business leaders around the world.

A major criticism of Friedman’s thesis in The World is Flat is that it is an one-sided view of globalization, a overly optimistic view of the benefits of globalization. Many scholars believe it is dangerous to have so much faith in globalization and have urged caution in following a book, which some believe, is based on “unsupported allegations” and “interviews with friends” and ” playing golf with rich and famous corporate executives”. Ronald Aronica and Mtetwa Ramdoo have written a hard-hitting book The World Is Flat?: A Critical Analysis of New York Times Bestseller by Thomas Friedman which presents another side of globalization, focusing on many issues ignored by Friedman. They recognize that “globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution”, and discuss many of the things that have gone wrong with globalization. Of course, Aronica and Ramdoo are not only the two authors critical of Friedman’s ideas about globalization, may other scholars, academics, and executives have written about the “dark side” of globalization.

Despite its limitations and shortcomings, I believe every person who is interested in globalization-related issues should read The World is Flat, even if they disagree with the ideas presented in the book.

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