Book List    [back]

I created a mini-library for my Tech MBA students -- a collection of books stored in the classroom for easy access, and available on a check-out basis.  The library is based on the premise that graduate students need more reading :)  I polled my colleagues to create the list, and it is pretty broad ranging.

1. Flow
2. The Innovator's Dilemma
3. Clockspeed
4. At Home in The Universe
5. Mass Customization
6. The Goal
7. The Renaissance of American Steel
8. Neuromancer
9. Competing for the Future
10. The Competitive Advantage of Nations
11. The New Global Leaders
12. Six Thinking Hats
13. Building a Web-Based Education System
14. Mastering Virtual Teams
15. Guns, Germs and Steel
16. The Machine That Changed the World
17. The Ends of the Earth
18. Out of Control
19. The Prince
20. The Balanced Scorecard
21. Data Mining Solutions
22. Online Competitive Intelligence
23. Management Challenges for the 21st Century
24. Blown to Bits
25. The Abilene Paradox
26. The Witch Doctors
27. Managing Knowledge: A Practical Web Based Approach
28. E-Business: Roadmap for Success
29. Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People
30. Next Generation Manufacturing Methods and Techniques
31. The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations (Audio CD)
32. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Leaning Organization (Audio CD)
33. If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice
34. Change-ABLE Organization: Key Management Practices for Speed and Flexibility (NEW 8/29/00)
35. Stocks for the Long Run:The Definiteive Guide to Financial Market Returns and Long-Term Investment Strategies
36. The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need
37. Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life
38. Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation
39. The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood
40. Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate
41. Product Creation: The Heart of the Enterprise from Engineering to E-Commerce
42. High Tech Start Up: The Complete Handbook for Creating Sucessful New High Tech Companies
43. Done Deals: Venture Capitalists Tell Their Stories
44. When Sparks Fly
45. Experiential Marketing
46. The Worldly Philosophers-The Lives, Times & Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers
47. Venture Capitalists
48. Experiential Marketing
49. The Worldly Philosophers-The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers
50. Getting Started in Entrepreneurship
51. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
52. Strategic Renaissance
53. Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
54. Corning and the Craft of Innovation
55. Mergers & Aquistions - A Guide to Creating Value for Stakeholders
56. Clicks and Mortar - Passion Driven Growth in an Internet Driven World
57. Digital Capital - Harnessing the Power of Business Webs
58. Organizing for High Performance
59. The Quest for Global Dominance
60. Point, Click and Wow! A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations
61. 99 of the Best Experiential Corporate Games We Know
62. Doing Business in Arizona - A Legal Guide
63. Fuzzy Math: The Essential Guide to the Bush Tax Plan
64. Pop Internationalism
65. The Return of Depression Economics
66. Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom (Audio CD)
67. From Global to Metanational: How Companies Win in the Knowledge Economy
68. The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance
69. The Strategy-Focused Organization:How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment
70. Digital Enterprise: How to Reshape Your Business for A Connected World
71. Jack - Straight From The Gut, Jack Welch
72. On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu-The Japanese Model and the American Worker
73. Alternatives to Lean Production
74. Managing Innovation - Integrating Technological, Market and Organizational Change
75. Pocket PC
76. Pocket PC & Handheld








Capsule Reviews    [back]

Summary reviews of books that have stood out -- both in a good and bad sense.  Sorted by major category.

Recent Additions

Title: What (Really) Works  

Authors: Joyce, W., Nohria, N., & B. Roberson Harper-Ellis


The cover page of the book describes this as "the groundbreaking five-year study of secrets of the world's best companies", and is a longer version of an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review.  The study is meant to imply some rigor, but, ultimately, this is just another In Search of Excellence wannabe.  Here are four of the main "secrets": have a good strategy, execute that strategy well, orient your culture around performance, and keep the hierarchy flat.  The results of their empirical analysis are equally startling.  For instance, 89% of Winners clearly communicated their strategy to employees and stakeholder, while 51% of Losers did poorly at this task.  Ultimately, the book is mainly a compilation of stories about successful and unsuccessful firms.  Many of these exemplars are used widely elsewhere (e.g., Nucor, K Mart) and are typically based on third-party materials.  As a result, there isn't much in the way of original insight here.


Title: A Thousand Pieces of Gold 

Authors: Mah, A.Y. Harper Collins


Ancient Chinese proverb says...the title refers to a proverb similar to the Western truism that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The book, written by the author of Falling Leaves, explains the context for a number of sayings.  The explanations are rooted in the rise and fall of China's First Emperor.  The book provides an engaging take on China's history, including the origins of the Great Wall and the story behind the fabulous terracotta tombs at Xi'an.  An excellent companion for anyone traveling in China.


Asia Studies

Title: When Broken Glass Floats 

Authors: Him, C. W.W. Norton


The title refers to a Cambodian proverb of a time when evil triumphs over good.  This is a memoir of a child growing up in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.  The Khmer emptied Phnom Phen and set out to create an agrarian utopia.  Rather than focusing on politics, S-21 or the killing fields, Him gives a child's perspective of life in the camps.  Her story is painful to read, yet wonderfully written. 


Title: The Boxer Rebellion  

Authors: Preston, D. Berkeley


'Fun reading' and 'history' are two phrases that you rarely get to use in the same sentence.  For those lacking in world history -- in my high school days, this course was optional and Euro-focused, so I fall into this category as well -- the Boxer Rebellion was a pivotal 55 day period in 1900.  Chinese fighters laid siege to the Foreign Legation across from the Forbidden City.  Preston gives an account of the of this event from the perspective of persons trapped inside.  In addition to being interesting reading on its own, the book also offers useful context to help understand China's distrust of the west, the colonial attitude of many nations, and how the Empress Dowager planted the seeds of her own downfall.  The book is also fascinating if you travel to Beijing, as it gives vivid portraits of city life a century ago.


Title: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress  

Authors: Sijie, D. Vintage


Back when China was closed to the West, odd snippets would make their way to local newspapers in the US.  One such tidbit was a report in my hometown paper that 'Oh what joy carrying dung up the hill to the commune' was the most popular song in China.  Thirty years later, I find this book -- where two boys have been sent to re-education camps, "forced to carry buckets of excrement up and down mountain paths" (except from the back jacket).  Their crime?  Being sons of  'stinking scientific authorities' during the height of the Cultural Revolution.  In this unusual setting, the boys discover a setting filled with contraband Western literature.  A delightful novel.


Title: River Town  

Authors: Hessler, P. John Murray


Excellent!  Peter Hessler spent two years teaching English at a teacher's college in Fuling --a small town on the Yangtze River in China's Sichuan province.  Delightfully written, is captures the culture, politics, and broader events -- such as the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese and death of Deng Xiaoping -- as viewed by a waiguoren in this small community.

Technology and Manufacturing

Title: Business @ The Speed of Stupid  

Authors: Morrison, A., & Burke, D. Perseus


Despite the title, this book is not a Bill Gates bash-fest. Rather, it is a collection of morality fables about the hazards of e-business.  Morrison and Burke present a set of true (but disguised) cases where well intentioned Internet projects go awry -- at the end of each case, the firm involved has lost money, opportunity, and someone's out of a job. The villains behind these failures are the usual suspects -- impatient CEOs, control freaks, technophiles, and technophobes.  While these characters are hopelessly two-dimensional and blatantly short-sighted, you have probably worked with many of them -- I have! 


Title: Clicks and Mortar

Authors: Pottruck, D.S., & Pearce, T. Jossey-Bass


Excellent discussion by Schwab insiders about their entry to the online trading market.  Ironically, there is little emphasis on technology issues per se.  Instead, authors discuss how their e-platform extends the existing Schwab strategy, and the role of factors such as people, culture, incentives, etc in making that strategy work.  Note to instructors: Works well as a follow-up to the Stanford case The Charles Schwab Corporation in 1996.


Title: Clockspeed  

Authors: Fine, C.H. Perseus


A few years old, and still extremely relevant.  Fine received a dissertation award from the NAPM years back, and this book shows that the purchasing folks are pretty sharp.  Topics here include time-based competition, and the integration of product, process, and supply chain competencies.  As a bonus, it’s an easy and accessible read – easily digested on a long flight.


Title: Digital Capital


Authors: Tapscott, D., Ticoll, D., & Lowy, A. Harvard


Read just the introduction and conclusion, and save yourself from a slow death-by-buzzword in between.  In their introduction, the authors compare e-biz webs to the keiretsu in Japan: Pervasive and critical to success.  In fact, many Japanese firms are not keiretsu members, and these independent firms often outperform their networked counterparts!  But, these minor details detract from the metaphor, and are omitted here…In the conclusion, the authors pitch a mutual fund based on the book’s wisdom.  Sure, it was up 239% at the time of printing, but people still believed back then that there was big money in selling canned dog food over the web, too.  The book lists the fund’s value at time of publishing $415 million.  In August of ’01, lists a valuation of $0.32 million.  Enough said.


Title: Next Generation Manufacturing

Authors: Jordan, J.A., & Michel, F.J. Wiley


In the 1990s, the Agility Forum worked with the NSF and 500 experts to determine what competencies are needed for manufacturing firms to thrive in 2010.  Weighing in at 439 pages, this book is still a relatively brief summary of the three-year project.  To provide continuity across topics, the authors frame the book as a ‘week in the life’ of a CEO of a large (and fictional) Boeing-esque company, and the issues that he confronts to stay competitive.  A great resource for anyone interested in manufacturing.


Title: On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu

Authors: Graham, L. Cornell


Graham is a sociologist who spent six months working on the assembly line at the S-I plant in Lafayette, IN.  During that time, Graham, Graham observed the work process, and spoke with other employees to create a record of her experience.  Her book is sharply critical of ‘Japanese production’, and as such is worth reading as a counterpoint to The Machine That Changed the World.  Her description of the plant is harshly critical and lop-sided – e.g., management’s perspective is not included, unions are portrayed only in a positive light, and so on.  More critically, her experience at this one plant is used to tar all companies using a variant of the Toyota Production System.  Ultimately, her negative descriptions do not track with the success of TPS-based facilities – such as NUMMI – in reducing absenteeism, turnover, and employee conflict.  Sun Tzu says to ‘know your enemy’, so, it is worth reading this book if you are engaged in manufacturing.


Title: The Renaissance of American Steel

Authors: Ahlbrandt, R.S., Fruehan, R.J., & Giarratani, F. Oxford


In the early 1980s, steel production in the US was on the verge of extinction – going the way of American-made televisions and consumer electronics.  This book – a recipient of the Shingo Prize in 1997 – describes how both minimills and integrated steel producers responded to competitive pressures.

Don’t know what the Shingo Prize is?  Shingo has been described as the ‘Nobel Prize’ of manufacturing.  Click here for a list of winning books and monographs, and click here for award winning businesses.


Title: Visualize This  

Authors: Clabby, J.   Prentice Hall


It’s hard to predict the future, especially when it comes to technology.  Consider the prognosticators of the early 20th century who forecast personal space travel, the end of disease, and other wonders; yet largely missed the invention of computers.  Consequently, Clabby’s vision for the next generation internet should be read with equal doses of skepticism and optimism.  The premise is simple but intriguing: How will current technology trends shape the evolution of the internet?  Clabby’s answer is the Sensory Virtual Internet.  SVI is an environment where keyboard interface with computers has been replaced by voice recognition, coupled with the ability of users to receive both tactile and scent stimuli as well.  SVI is driven by advances in these particular technologies, as well as infrastructure development – advances in graphics, solution of last-mile problems, and back-end systems.  Unfortunately, the book reads more like a laundry list of technology trends, and less like a vision of the future.  Because the focus is so broad-ranging, there is a lot of general discussion and less meat.  The book also omits some important topics, such as the growth of internet appliances, and the nature of the global community.

 Experiential Ed & Training

Title: 99 of the Best Experiential Corporate Games We Know!

Authors: Priest, S., Sikes, S., & Evans, F. eXperientia


A disappointment.  If you’re simply looking for a book of experiential exercises – some original, some not – then this book may be of interest.  Unfortunately, the only “corporate” tie-in is the title – presumably an effort to gain a wider audience.  This book is good if you want some icebreaking activities with new groups.  However, it is too superficial for any substantive corporate development work.


Title: Strategize! Experiential Exercises in Strategic Management

Authors: Sicliano, J., & Gopinath, C.



The title is somewhat misleading:  While the book is filled with exercises, they are generally paper and pencil writing/analysis type problems, as compared with the activities more commonly associated with experiential training.  Still, a mix of group and individual-level activities.  The book is aimed at students in an undergraduate strategy seminar.  If you are new to teaching there may be some insights here.  Otherwise, many of the activities – such as performing a 5 Forces analysis or SWOT – are pretty basic.


Title: Teamwork & Teamplay

Authors: Cain, J, & Jolliff, B. Kendall-Hunt


Some students may tell you that I'm not overly lavish in my praise.  That said, if you own one book on experiential training, this is it!  Tremendously creative, excellent activities, and good details on how to create your own materials.  You can order the book directly.

 General Business

Title: Point, Click & Wow!!

Authors: Wilder, C., & Fine, D. Jossey-Bass


The worst presentation that I’ve ever viewed was an undergraduate team where one member had recently discovered the wonder of .ppt files, and another member the joys of financial ratio analysis.  The second worst presentation involved some graduate students, Hormel, and animated dancing cows.  This book is pretty basic, but a good starting point for those new to the dog and pony show routine.

Management & Strategy

Title: The HR Scorecard

Authors: Becker, B.E., Huselid, M.A., & Ulrich, D. Harvard


This book fills a useful niche, connecting the worlds of corporate strategy, human resource management, and the balanced scorecard model.  The book has a nice high-level discussion of how HR can support strategy execution – nothing new by itself.  However, the remainder of the book discusses building metrics to identify and assess HR issues.  Helpful even if you haven’t read the Kaplan and Norton books.


Title: Strategic Renaissance

Authors: Dudik, E.M. Amacon


I am a big believer in the use of metaphor and historical examples to frame strategy questions.  Consequently, I was excited by the premise of this book – using ideas from science and history to build innovative strategies.  By the time I finished the first chapter, though, this excitement had dissipated.  Two issues surfaced in the first chapter:

 * Dudik starts by emphasizing a flaw common to most strategy books – relying on a sea of examples to justify a particular perspective.  He argues that relying on examples is flawed, because of the potential for distortion and selectivity.  For the moment, ignore the fact that both inductive and deductive reasoning have a place in scientific inquiry.  Instead, my concern here is that author then proceeds to use his own sea of examples to justify his own framework.

* The second issue is related – he condemns theories that aren’t suitable to testing.  Citing Karl Popper, the author notes that many theories – e.g., Freudianism and Marxism – are not testable.  As such, they become matters of belief.  Dudik use this rationale to argue that strategy theories should be testable.  The argument is a reasonable one, and he shows how this can help firms uncover assumptions behind a mission or a strategy.   Subsequently, though, he offers his own model of strategy – the Hammer and Pivot.  As far as I can tell, it is no more testable than these other theories he critiques.  His own recommendation to carefully try and falsify a theory is also ignored.  The bottom line, then, is not to trust an untestable model supported by countless anecdotes.  I could not get past this basic contradiction.

 More generally, I did not find much in the way of new thinking here.  Many of the topics have been covered better elsewhere – e.g., in the context of sustainable advantage, Charles Fine has a much more insightful assessment in Clockspeed, and Dudik largely dismisses the role of human capital and culture as the basis of an advantage.  Other recommendations are scarcely novel.  Some of his recommendations include: stretch goals improve performance; anonymous participation lowers inhibitions in a discussion group.  Finally, most of the parallels come from military history – a different orientation than one would expect from the book summary.


Title: The Strategy-Focused Organization

Authors: Kaplan, R.S., & Norton, D.P. Harvard


I wouldn’t recommend that every company transform their strategy process into a clone of the K&N Scorecard model – there are many aspects of strategy that simply aren’t addressed here.  That said, the framework offers real potential for building metrics and diagnostic tools. 







Fiction    [back]

No Stephen King books here -- sorry!  Instead, here is a quick list of some interesting, and less mainstream authors:

Iain Banks: One of the best writers in the U.K.  Banks writes in two genres -- fiction, and science fiction.  If you can't tell the difference, the former are written as "Iain Banks", and the latter as "Iain M. Banks". His fiction is dark, and science fiction is tremendously original.  Wasp Factory, Against a Dark Background, and Feersum Endjin are good starting points -- the latter is a book whose narrator has a disability and rites fonetikly.  I had to read it twice in a row -- once to figure out how to read, the second time to enjoy it.

Greg Egan: Go figure - Egan lives in Western Australia, and his books are easier to get in the US than in Oz.  Someone once stole a copy of Permutation City while I was stretching my legs during a transpacific flight and it drove me nuts.

Jeff Long: His mass market hardcover The Descent was a great combination -- part action, part mystery, part fantasy.  If you can find a remaindered copy of Angels of Light somewhere, you can tell how much Long has grown as an author in the last several years.  Year Zero is just out, and on my summer reading list.

Jay Russell: In the interests of full disclosure, Russell is a buddy of mine.  If fact, if you look close enough, you'll find me as a minor (and unflattering) character in one of his books.  Brown Harvest is both a spoof and homage to the 'boy detective' books many of us read as kids, and Celestial Dogs is a wild ride combining mystery and horror genres.  

Neal Stephen: With Cryptonomicon, Stephenson is moving out of the 'less mainstream' niche that I mention above.  This book is a definitive answer to the question, "Can a 918 page book be riveting on every page?"  His more science fiction oriented books include Snow Crash (VR) and Diamond Age (naontech).