Editor’s note: This is the best business book I’ve read in a year or more. Mr. Sinek uses simple, if sometimes repetitive language and tangible examples to support the concept that great businesses are centered on “why” they exist rather than “what” and “how”. Sinek teaches forming your “why” and also how to use your “what” and “how” to maintain and build that “why”. He also tells of those who found their “why” then lost it. He thinks, and I quite agree that people prefer buying from and working for organizations with a clear purpose beyond making widgets.
Excerpt: “With every price drop, promotional, fear-based message or novelty we use to achieve our goals, we find our companies, our organizations and our systems getting weaker and weaker.”
Editor’s Note: Because I read a lot of books and articles on philanthropy, I assumed this would be another dull but earnest attempt to improve the world of charitable giving, but Dan Palotta makes a pretty compelling case for the need to move towards a free-market system (e.g. investment in marketing, tolerance for risk, competitive pay) in order to win the war against poverty and disease. Dan will be coming to Cleveland on April 10th to the Cleveland Social Venture Partners' (CSVP) second annual bigBANG! event. Go to http://bigbang.csvp.org/ for more information.
Favorite Excerpt: “Our system of charity doesn’t produce the results we are after because there is a flawed ideology at work. Its error flows directly from the Puritan belief in human depravity.”
Editor’s comment: The soft side of business is the most difficult for most people, including me. And yet, the two most successful companies I’ve been involved in demonstrated exactly what Lenioni describes in his book , The Advantage. He writes like a consultant, which is annoying at times, and yet the book’s point is crystal clear and should be read by every organizational leader, no matter what type of business they are involved in.
Favorite Excerpt: “The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call ‘vulnerability-based trust’. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent, honest and naked with one another, where they can genuinely say and genuinely mean things like ‘I screwed up,’ ‘ I need your help,’’ Your idea is better than mine,’’ I wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,’ and even, ‘I’m sorry.’”
Editor’s Note: The Bond by the “Three Doctors,” is a continuation of their first book, The Pact. In The Pact, Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt tell how they became friends in high school and promised to graduate from college to become doctors. The Bond, co-written by our friend Margaret Bernstein of the Plain Dealer, goes even further into their friendship and ways that they have set out to mentor other children who are growing up in similar homes. Their story resonates as our foundation’s vision is that all low-income and/or first-generation students will have a caring and committed mentor to help get them get to and through college.
Favorite Excerpt: “We believe a new era is possible, and that adults can successfully band together to form a bond and to wash away the crippling legacy of absentee fatherhood. It can happen, if we wake up and voice the hard truth to one another that it’s a heartless thing to deprive a child of a father who should rightfully be a protector and cheerleader.”
Editor’s Note: If you aren’t an anxious person and/or don’t believe in psychiatry – don’t read this book. But for those of us who suffer anxiety issues, as I do, and believe in paying attention to our mental health similar to working out for our physical health, this is a good summary of reminders. I noticed it on sale at the book store so just picked it up for curiosity and lo and behold, most of the chapters are things I’ve worked on for years and two chapters (5 and 12) gave me new things to practice. This little book will be a holiday gift for my anxious family members and friends. Enjoy.
Favorite Excerpt: “I’ve experienced great tragedy in my lifetime, some of which actually happened.”
Editor’s Note: This book came to me from my work with International Partners in Mission as they are featured in Chapter 3 as “doing right.” But I must tell you, it is (I’m still not done) the toughest read I’ve had in a long time. The writing is good, McDonald’s an award winning newsman but what he makes me think about it very, very difficult. I’m a marketing guy, so I’ve long seen the need for all religions to reach out more effectively to their believers. But McDonald makes me wonder as he outlines just how extreme most religions have become in
addressing its contemporary “consumers.” If you think about such things, this book, while disturbing, is well worth the read.
Excerpt: “Considering the contemporary Church’s trajectory toward a market-driven version of faith, it is reasonable to expect future churches will derive as much of their revenue as possible from corporate sponsors.”
Editor’s Note: Our foundation helped International Partners in Mission (IPM) create its “international immersion experience” program as a way to generate unrestricted revenue in order to sustain and expand its mission impact – a great example of a nonprofit being market-driven and “finding a need and filling it.” Our Managing Director, Bill Leamon, is taking a group of students from Notre Dame College to Nicaragua (the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere) with IPM next spring, and he recommended this book to me. I found the explanation of dependent economies (where most of the effort goes into goods for export rather than goods for local consumption) very enlightening, along with gaining a better understanding of how much our foreign policy towards Nicaragua (an American, William Walker, was even its President from 1856-57) has shaped the country’s governance, as well as contributed to its dismal impoverishment.
Excerpt: “Considering Nicaragua’s recent history in light of its past, then, I felt compelled to change the subtitle of the book to the more realistic, if less upbeat, “Living in the Shadow of the Eagle.” For Nicaragua, there has long been – and probably always will be – an “eagle” in the northern horizon.”
Editor’s Note: It’s hard to be reminded of the Holocaust, especially when I think I was born only seven years after it ended. It’s not like so many things–ancient history. And so I was glad when my daughter-in-law suggested that I read it. Hitler and Himmler and their “human experiment” are not as distant as we’d like to think.
“We were masters of nature [on forced marches], masters of the world. We had forgotten everything – death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth.”
Editor’s Note: Steve Rothschild, former executive vice president of General Mills and founder of Twin Cities RISE!, a nonprofit that works to advance anti-poverty programs, offers a useful case study of the challenges and successes RISE! has experienced, with a view to providing a management guide for other nonprofit leaders to follow. I especially liked the book's honest portrayal of the early difficulties that RISE! faced, especially the process the organization went through to achieve focus, and the steps it took to overcome the natural tendency of most philanthropists to try to do too much too fast.
Excerpt: “To make progress, leaders – in government, funding organizations, business, nonprofits, and social enterprise – need a new approach. They need an approach that integrates the best ideas of social programming with the expertise that the for-profit sector has acquired in achieving long-term outcomes.”
Editor’s Note: I worked in an Interpublic Group advertising agency from 1979 to 1987. And so I was on Madison Avenue after the period covered by AMC’s hit show, Mad Men. If you hope this book is about the television show or contains salacious content as the show does, you will be disappointed. It is instead an intelligent review of the period the show covers, often referred to as the “golden age of advertising.” Cracknell himself spent 40 years in the business as a writer and creative director so his words mean more than an observer. If you have interest in the business of advertising, this is a nice history of the business with special focus on the “creative revolution” of the 60’s, the period covered by Don Draper and his colleagues in the TV show. I respect the ad business more than most because when it’s done well, as it was in the two agencies I worked for, it is a valiant and constant struggle between creativity and business discipline. The excerpt below, from the book’s epilogue, reflects my feelings about the current state of the art.
Excerpt: “Creative endeavor will never fully flourish when the only imperative is profit. It loses sight of the fact that…advertising is entirely about people. There is nothing else, no plant and equipment, no raw materials – it’s just people and their ideas…Contemporary advertising has painted itself into a corner where there is no financial and emotional tolerance for failure. And a creative endeavor without room for mistakes is a contradiction in terms.”