Book Reviews - March 2009
Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self
Author: Alan M. Webber
Publisher: Collins Business
It seems almost impossible to talk about business in a positive and profitable way in the current economic recession, but Alan M. Webber manages to do just that with his new book, Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self. The former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review and co-founder of Fast Company, Webber says now is a time of opportunity, arguing “economic creation always accompanies economic destruction.” It’s “time to rewrite the rules,” he says, so that your business can thrive even as others fail.
Webber compiled 52 rules, gleaned from working with established businesses and entrepreneurs alike. Here’s a sampling:
Rule 2: “Every company is running for office. To win, give the voters what they want.” This seems simple enough yet so many businesses fail because management insists on following a business plan without listening to their customers. “Every day, you have to prove to your customers that you’re worthy of their votes,” Webber says.
Rule 4: “Don’t implement solutions. Prevent problems.” Seemingly obvious but rarely implemented. Too often we are reactive instead of proactive. “Companies still don’t apply early intervention and prevention,” Webber complains. Better to find the real nature and causes of a problem and attack them early to prevent bigger problems.
Rule 10: “A good question beats a good answer.” Questions are how we learn, how we create change, Webber contends. “If you ask the right question, no matter what your answer, you will learn something of value,” he says.
Rule 13: “Learn to take ‘no’ for an answer.” Webber presents four arguments why “no” is not necessarily a bad thing. Hearing “no” gives you an opportunity to create a good impression by the way you react to the disappointment; if the person gives an explanation, it gives you the opportunity to receive honest feedback; it helps you to separate business from yourself and not take it personally; and sometimes,
it helps you recognize that an idea is simply not going
Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self is a very straightforward book. It contains no charts, graphs or grids; no diagrams or worksheets; no conventional chapters and their requisite Table of Contents; and no superfluous words or flowing prose. Webber lays out his rules immediately after his introduction, with deceptively simple but thought-provoking explanations for each. The final product is a real gem — easy to understand, easy to digest and chock-full of valuable information for established and emerging businesses alike.
The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir
By Jennifer Baszile
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, January 2009
320 pp., $25
Everyone has a story to tell. Yet committing oneself to remembering his or her story and sharing it requires an entirely different mindset — recalling events can be painful yet enlightening. Baszile’s story about her journey to self-awareness begins with the retelling of a humiliating confrontation in elementary school with a white classmate: “Black people have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people,” the close friend said. Thus begins the author’s story of a young girl’s dealing with prejudice at a time when she was also trying to make sense of the world her parents had come from, their ongoing struggle to live out the American Dream and the expectations they had of her. Baszile’s recollections are moving and vividly written. This coming-of-age story is sure to connect with readers who have strived to understand how segregation has helped to shape their own perspectives on accomplishment and race relations.
It’s All Love: Black Writers on Soul
Mates, Family, and Friends
By Marita Golden
Broadway Books, February 2009
403 pp., $16.95
“Where is the love among Black folk?” Marita Golden, author and co-founder of the Zora Neale Hurtson/Richard Wright Foundation, asked herself this question as she was moved to uncover evidence that love in the Black community does exist, despite growing statistics that suggested otherwise. In searching for answers, what began as a dialogue on the subject of Black love with several colleagues blossomed into an illuminating anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry that explores the ways in which love is expressed and shared in our communities and in our relationships. It’s All Love features the works of more than 30 writers, including Pearl Cleage, David Anthony Durham, Kim McLarin, Felicia Pride and A. Van Jordan; and it celebrates the nuances of love and affirms that Black love is very much alive — and flourishing.