March Book Review

Acclaimed author Fran Liebowitz recommended that you “think before you speak” and “read before you think.” Here’s what we’re reading right now and why we think it matters.

 

Org by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

In Org, Fisman and Sullivan attempt to explain many of the idiosyncrasies of the firm using the framework of organizational economics. Citing examples ranging from the U.S. Army to Al Qaeda and a one-man artisanal eyeglass maker to British Petroleum, Org highlights the tradeoffs and tensions inherent in marshaling any number of human beings toward a larger goal. Succinct, well-written, and easy to read, Org offers an insightful reexamination of the entire business—everything from culture and innovation to management and incentive alignment. 

 

The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good by James O’Toole

The Enlightened Capitalists is Marshall Business School (USC) emeritus professor James O’Toole’s history of “Enlightened Capitalism,” the belief that enterprise exists to both turn a profit and help people. Though his examples, like mill owner Robert Owen (who created a utopian town for his workers), and James Lincoln (whose still-successful Lincoln Electric shares profits and has not laid anyone off since 1947) predate the modern concept of the B Corporation, they share notion that profit and stewardship are not mutually exclusive. Though the philosophy has faced many detractors, ranging from other capitalists worried about their bottom lines to labor unions worried about being rendered obsolete, O’Toole’s general finding is that doing the right thing can be good for business as well.

 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Grit the book’s eponymous character trait is essentially a measure of effort and stick-to-itiveness. The subject of extensive research by Duckworth, a McArthur Genius Grant winning psychologist, grit is heavily correlated with success. In the book, Duckworth profiles a number of “grit paragons,” who range from rags-to-riches business executives to teen-aged spelling bee champions, in order to teach readers how to become “grittier.” Her insights are applicable personally (Duckworth includes a diagnostic test and steps to improve your score) and across a wide range of industries—LLI has worked with grit in the past to help corporations internally rebrand. In short, Grit is a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to perform better when faced with tough challenges.

 

Doing What Matters: How to Get Results That Make a Difference - The Revolutionary Old-School Approach by James Kilts

In the world of social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and bottomless email inboxes, we’re constantly inundated with distractions. Acknowledging how easily the workday can be overwhelmed by all of these stimuli—not to mention never-ending meetings and trivial workstreams—Kilts suggests we only do what really matters. Filtering out only the highest priority tasks and focusing your efforts where ROI is greatest, Kilts argues, allows you to achieve higher productivity and revolutionary results. In other words, selectivity breeds success.