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We’re pleased to share our team’s business book recommendations. While selecting this year’s finalists, we reflected on the late Peter Drucker’s quote, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” Our list of the year’s most noteworthy books was compiled with that axiom in mind.

Our team’s selections cover a range of business topics and even include a couple of noteworthy titles from late 2004 which didn’t make last year’s list. We’ve focused on subjects of interest to our clients including best practices in service delivery, knowledge management, new technologies and innovation. But we also chose titles that should energize leaders in any sector. Each of these books deals with how people, processes and fresh insights are converging to improve business performance.

Here is this year’s list:

The World is Flat — A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Friedman, ISBN: 0374292884

If you can read only one business book this year, consider this best seller. Here is another provocative thesis by three-time Pulitzer-Prize winner and celebrated New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. He argues that the turn of this century will be remembered as the dawn of the Age of Globalization a "flattening" of the world which he views as both an opportunity and a threat to societies. Friedman contends that one force responsible for this effect is the emergence of a common web platform which enables sharing information irrespective of time, geography or even culture. The resulting seismic shift is not driven by big corporations but by small, innovative startups -- especially those in emerging regions like China and India -- that are revolutionizing the way we do business. This “must-read” won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Blink

Malcolm Gladwell, ISBN: 0316172324

Behavioral scientists have long held that people make up their minds about people they meet for the first time almost instantly. This thesis is true according to Malcolm Gladwell. In fact, decisions may occur faster than even social scientists thought. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, artfully describes how we all use hunches to make decisions. But he warns us about the pitfalls of relying on first impressions. For starters, marketers have learned how to exploit this tendency which leaves us vulnerable to “the Warren Harding Effect" -- choosing good-looking but inept leaders. The key, says Gladwell, is to develop our "adaptive unconscious," a powerful internal resource that can warn us about danger and alert us to opportunities.

[Note: The author cites contributions by Osprey Associates’ advisor, Alan Lambert, Ph. D.]

Blue Streak: Inside JetBlue, the Upstart that Rocked an Industry

Barbara Peterson, ISBN: 1591840589

What’s behind the buzz about JetBlue Airways? Our pick for the best book about the aviation industry was actually published in late ’04. It offers insights about 6-year old JetBlue and its innovative founder, David Neeleman. Neeleman, who previously worked for Southwest, decided in the late '90s to launch his own discount airline. His company is now the fastest growing low-cost U.S. carrier, and the talk of the industry. But how do we account for JetBlue’s success when most other carriers have been treading water? Several reasons. But Peterson, a Condé Nast Traveler contributing editor, points out that JetBlue, in contrast to most “legacy” carriers, focuses on the Customer Experience.

Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know

Thomas H. Davenport, Laurence Prusak, ISBN: 0875846556

Based on their research with over 30 companies, the authors explore how various types of companies can understand, measure and manage their intellectual capital, converting insights into market value. They categorize knowledge into four sequential activities accessing, generating, embedding and transferring and look at the key skills, techniques and processes of each. They present a practical approach to cataloging knowledge so that employees throughout the firm can leverage it. They also warn us about the limitations of communications and information technology in managing intellectual capital.

Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management

Peter Drucker, David Garvin, Dorothy Leonard, Susaan Straus, John Seely Brown, ISBN: 0875848818

The popular Harvard Business Review paperback series focuses on bringing managers the fundamental information they need to stay competitive in a fast-moving world. This edition includes a collection of ideas that have established the Harvard Business Review as required reading for forward-thinking businesspeople everywhere. This book offers key ideas and practical applications that are currently defining the field of knowledge management. The book includes Peter Drucker's (1988) prophetic "The Coming of the New Organization" and Ikujiro Nonaka's ground-breaking "Knowledge-Creating Company”.

The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture

John Battelle, ISBN: 1591840880

This book, a finalist for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, looks at how Google transformed the world of information while trouncing its competitors. Drawing on over 350 interviews, this book uncovers why Google became successful and how applied innovation can transform companies. Author John Battelle was a founder of The Industry Standard and one of the original editors of Wired.

Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change

Clayton M. Christensen, Scott D. Anthony & Erik A. Roth, ISBN 1591391857

Here is another book from late 2004 to make our list this year. As Inc. Magazine noted, “Just as kids await the latest Harry Potter installment, so do business leaders look for Clayton M. Christensen’s next offering." No pressure there. But Christensen and co-authors Scott Anthony and Erick Roth don’t disappoint. They confidently assert that it’s possible to forecast which emerging business models will succeed and which will not, and why. They show decision-makers how to identify early signals of disruptive change, and how to make strategic choices that can lead to future success. Innovation is the hottest trend in business today and this book describes how we can convert theories about innovation into practical application.

Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve their Service Interfaces with Customers

Jeffrey F. Rayport and Bernard J. Jaworski, ISBN: 0875848672

This book is our pick for the year’s most interesting read concerning the convergence of human and technology factors. The authors argue that as "front-office automation" technology develops, competitive advantage increasingly depends on the right blend of interfaces with customers: human, automated, and hybrids of both. When managed properly, emerging technologies will create a "people-rich" workplace that combines the unique capabilities of humans and technology to enrich our world. This book transports us to the frontiers of shaping the Customer Experience.


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