Time for a Wake-Up Call

So, you think tossing that milk jug into the recycling bin is going to make a difference? Not really, claim William McDonough and Michael Braungart. According to the authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, it’s going to take a lot more than the three Rs — recycle, reuse and reduce — to get this planet back on track.

McDonough and Braungart — an architect and a chemist, respectively — write: “Cradle-to-grave designs dominate modern manufacturing. According to some accounts more than 90 percent of materials extracted to make durable goods in the U.S. become waste almost immediately. Sometimes the product itself scarcely lasts longer. It is often cheaper to buy a new version of even the most expensive appliance than to track down someone to repair the original item. Many products are designed with ‘built-in-obsolescence,’ to last only for a certain period of time, to allow—and encourage—the customer to get rid of the thing and buy a new model.”

Their solution for this is to design with the mindset of cradle-to-cradle, where products have a circular life cycle, instead of the current cradle-to-grave, or linear, life cycle. Toward the end of the book, the authors include a five-step process for eco-effectiveness that can be implemented by any company that is willing to take the plunge.

The book is definitely a wake-up call, however I feel that many of the early chapters bombard the reader with information in such a way that it comes across a bit too thick as a hot-headed activist. Descriptions of the various dyes in clothing and how they can be toxic does not always make you want to find out what else could possibly bring you to your demise. Perhaps if the authors had included their case study of how Ford Motor Company began to remake itself and how it dealt with sustainability, then perhaps fewer readers would be apt to write this book off as “doom and gloom.” Nonetheless, Cradle to Cradle contains valid information for how your company can make changes, and how you personally can begin to think differently about the world around you.

Say No to Greenwashing


Going green is the socially responsible thing to do, but according to marketer, author and blogger John Grant no one agrees on what “going green” means. He plans on changing that.

Grant’s most recent book, The Green Marketing Manifesto (John Wiley & Sons, 2008), aims to educate readers about corporate sustainability and give them a solid understanding that green marketing needs to be both commercial and environmental, while encouraging marketers to “ditch the old 20th century marketing and hang onto [their] creative problem solving instincts.”

One of the most important issues that Grant breaks down is the issue of greenwashing—making something normal seem greener than it actually is — and labels it as one of the largest sins of green marketing. If readers take nothing else away from this book, it must be that though greenwashing can often seem harmless, it will be the end of a company’s credibility with its customers and the public in general.

Grant is passionate about green marketing and sustainability, practicing what he preaches; on the second page of the book is the statement of sustainability. “[The book] is printed in vegetable ink on acid-free paper, responsibly manufactured from sustainable forestry in which at least two trees are planted for each one used for paper production.” Of course, it only makes sense—you don’t stand to have any credibility left if you can’t be bothered to practice what you preach.

Ultimately, The Green Marketing Manifesto is a combination of a tutorial and inspiration for readers. “We need marketing that does good,” Grant writes, “rather than marketing that just looks good.”

How Green Is Your Company?

Sustainability and going green is a hot topic in the business world, not to mention everywhere else. Look at the grocery store, with hybrid vehicles in the parking lot and people bringing in their own reusable canvas shopping bags. Or perhaps you put your recycling bin out every Thursday morning and take public transportation into work five days a week. These are all important actions to take, however, going green in the business world is not as easy as recycling your soda bottles or carpooling.

In an effort to see what kind of information is available on the Web about corporate sustainability, I took a spin on Google. One of the first things I came across was an offering for a free eight-page whitepaper on Waste Management’s Web site titled “A Practical Guide to Developing a Successful Corporate Sustainability Program.” That definitely seems like a useful document to share around the office, with tips about energy usage and printing and packaging.

At Environmental Leader visitors to the Web site can become subscribers to the EL Daily free e-newsletter, search for Webinars, and download items like a water conservation calculator and various podcasts.

I’m just scratching the surface of all the information that is available about greening your company; stepping away from the computer and over towards my bookshelf there’s a stack of green titles that I hope to introduce to you over the next week. 

Personality Not Included

Hopefully by now you’ve found the time to sit down with our summary of Rohit Bhargava’s Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity and How Brands Get It Back in our August package. According to Bhargava, it’s all about being authentic, especially in a world thick with social media. According to the book’s Web site, “In the social media era, being faceless no longer works. Personality matters.”

Your personality must be instilled in your brand, which lets customers know who you are as a company and what your products are all about. If you have a bland company personality and a stale brand, you’re not going to have customers beating down the door for your products—you will not be the next Steve Jobs and Apple if all you exude is boring.

And even if you think your company has a solid personality and brand—coupled with the production of fantastic products—it never hurts to see if there are other ways that you can improve. Personality Not Included is packed with case studies and has plenty of examples of businesses that are using the successful techniques that are discussed throughout the book, making it a compelling read. In the business world we always want to know what someone else is doing, and even more importantly, how he or she is doing it.

Lencioni Is at It Again

I don’t know about you, but there are days when it’s hard enough to find time to write a shopping list, let alone a book.

Ten years ago, author, consultant and keynote speaker Patrick Lencioni wrote The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable. But he didn’t stop there: In the following years he wrote The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive (2000), The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002), Death by Meeting (2004), Silos, Politics and Turf Wars (2006), Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide (2005), and The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (2007). Lencioni’s business fable format for his books works in a 2:1 ratio, with the majority of the book being the palatable business fable, followed by practical, concise business applications.

According to Lencioni’s Web site, the prolific author’s books have sold 2.5 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 20 languages. By tackling important business topics such as teams, leadership, and organizational health, Lencioni has guaranteed himself a spot on just about any manager’s bookshelf.

Apparently that hasn’t been enough. Somehow, between delivering keynote speeches and holding the position of president of The Table Group, this busy husband and father of four has found some more time an energy to pen yet another book: The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family. The latest from this king of fable is due out from publisher Jossey-Bass by mid-September, and takes a look at another aspect of life: managing a family. Sure, your spouse and children may not be quite like your direct reports at work, but in order to keep a family happy and running smoothly, some important managerial tactics are key.

Toning Up Beyond the Weight Room

Driving past your neighborhood gym, you can see rows of people on various cardio equipment through the strategically-placed windows, sweating as they pound away in an effort to stay fit and trim. However, as you stroll through your office at work, how many cubicles do you pass that have co-workers focused on expanding their skill sets and narrowing in on their strengths. Probably not that many. Most are focused on their assignments at hand, which often may not speak to their particular strengths, but they do it anyway because that’s what they were assigned.


This scenario does not jive well with Marcus Buckingham —author, keynote speaker and former senior researcher at Gallup Organization. He has something else in mind: a strength revolution.


Buckingham asks, “What would happen if men and women spent more than 75 percent of each day on the job using their strongest skills and engaged in their favorite tasks, basically doing exactly what they wanted to do?” According to him, if people left their weaknesses in the dust and began focusing on growing their strengths, companies would see efficiency increase, as well as quality of work. It would be a win-win situation.


Buckingham is the author of five books: First Break All the Rules (coauthored with Curt Coffman, 1999), Now Discover Your Strengths (coauthored with Donald O. Clifton, 2001), The One Thing You Need to Know (2005), Go Put Your Strengths to Work (2007), and now his latest The Truth About You, due out at the end of September 2008.


I’m excited to see what Buckingham has to say in The Truth About You; according to his Web site , the book is geared toward young professionals, 17-25 years old. Nevertheless, the site assures that the book will be “valuable for anyone who wants to take control of their career and performance.” At 112 pages, and published by Thomas Nelson, I’m sure it’s a book we all could make a little time for. It also will be an excellent gift to give the young professionals in our lives this holiday season.

What Sways You?

I recently finished reading the brothers Brafman’s (Ori and Rom) latest collaboration, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (Doubleday Books, 206 pages).  As of early August, the June release was sitting at No. 14 on The New York Times’ best sellers’ list , down from its July position of No. 7.  Perhaps something else is swaying book buyers to other titles. Nonetheless, the book takes readers on a psychological voyage lined with fascinating—and sometimes odd—case studies, ranging from over-sensitive egg buyers to the “curse” of having a low draft pick.


They write: “Living in a time when we can predict hurricanes, treat diseases with complex medical interventions, map the universe, and reap the benefits of systemized business approaches, it’s easy to forget that … all of us are swayed at times by factors that have nothing to do with logic or reason.”


After finishing this fairly quick and compelling read, I found it was hard not to apply some of what I had learned—or at least become more aware of—to what was going on in my personal and professional life. Does that mean that I have managed to loosen the grip that irrational forces have on me? Not quite, but at least I understand more about them.


For more information about Sway, check out the authors’ Web site , where you can read reviews of the book, learn more about Ori and Rom, as well as follow them with their blog.

Look for a Second Opinion

As consumers, when we go to buy things, most of us do a little research. We may talk to friends and family that own a particular product, but possibly the easiest thing is to take a quick stroll on the World Wide Web. Go to Consumer Reports’ website, check out reviews on Amazon, or simply Google the product of interest and see what pops up. Before parting with our money, we want to know what other people think, whether they’re experts or folks just like us; it either validates a good purchase, or makes us feel secure that we didn’t shell out for something that falls apart during the first five minutes of use.


So that brings me to the bestsellers lists. Respected publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek all feature a best-sellers list, letting their readers know what books are selling well, not necessarily which books that actually read well. There is a difference. How do you know that the books on those lists were actually enjoyed, recommended, and have valid takeaways? You don’t; those lists simply provide the measurable data that the books listed have sold the most. 


But I’m not saying there aren’t good books on the best-seller lists; you just need to pay attention to them over a series of months to get a real feel for what books are staying steady on the lists (strong book sales are the most likely evidence that a book has good content) and which books are simply a flash in the pan. But who has time to track best-selling books on three different lists?


The bottom line: As a book buyer, you can’t just stop at the best-sellers list, you need to take that next step and get a second opinion in the form of a recommendation or review by a trusted source. Trust me on this, I should know.

Innovations of Olympic Proportions

I would expect that most of us spent at least a few evenings in front of our TV in August watching some of the many Olympic events . And if you’re in business, it also crossed your mind what an opportunity this massive event is for those that are involved. The key word for business in these Olympic Games: Innovation!


Adidas developed a running shoe for Jeremy Wariner that has different spikes on the left and right shoes, since he propels primarily with his right foot. Opening and closing ceremony tickets are embedded with RFID chips made by ASK-TongFang that identify the owner and prevent fraud. And the 18,000-seat basketball gymnasium includes an aluminum-alloy skin that reflects most of the sun’s rays to keep it cooler inside, designed by Beijing Architecture Research Institute. These innovations and many others open doors for the companies involved that equate to billions of dollars of business in the coming years.


How does a company become innovative and keep the innovation juices flowing? We scanned our library of top business book summaries to see what the innovation leaders are recommending to keep ahead of the competition. Here are few ideas:


Patricia Seybold brings her internet-focus to innovation in Outside Innovation, advocating for the involvement of customers in the product design process. By engaging your lead customers and providing them with design tools, you can harness their creativity to bring brilliant new products to market. Lego is a prime example with their Mindstorms product line, which was developed in tandem with key families, hobbyists and educators.


In The Ten Faces of Innovation, Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman describe the various roles that people can play within an organization in order to foster innovation. These include the Anthropologist – who goes into the field to see how customers are using and responding to products, the Cross-Pollinator – who mixes and matches ideas, people and technology to create new ideas, and the Handler – who instantly looks at ways to overcome limits and challenges. There are seven other personas that can help any company to become a long-term innovator.


These two titles, along with eight others, are available in Soundview’s Innovation Collection

From the Editor

Welcome to the Soundview Executive Book Summaries Editor’s Blog. Through this blog you, our readers, will receive an insider’s look at the best and brightest business books coming up on today’s hottest topics and trends.

Learn what the leading business authors are thinking through our discussion of current Soundview titles and the latest business book buzz.  

Sarah T. Dayton

Editor in Chief