Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Big Think Strategy" is a fun, inspiring read on reinventing business

Every CEO these days wants to reinvent her business. One problem is thinking big enough. Being part of an industry, a market, a sector tends to limit a company's peripheral vision. How do companies break out of their comfort zone and find strategies that take advantage of their unique strengths while opening up new markets?

That is the question "Big Think Strategy" by Bernd Schmitt, professor at Columbia Business School, tries to answer. And the book does a good job of showing what is needed to "kill the sacred cows" of a business and imagine and invent a prosperous, growing future. Schmitt's focus is on nurturing creativity in the executive suite and in among the rank and file. And it's written in a fun style that complements the subject matter and inspires the readership to give the ideas a try.

The best parts of the book are around generating new ideas--from staff, customers or seemingly unrelated industries--creating a strategy from those ideas. In Chapter Four, Schmitt describes four "big think strategy" types--opposition, integration, essence and transcendence--and what competitive reaction each type is likely to spur.

Like more and more business books these days, Schmitt lets his personal story seep into the pages, whether it's his love of steak or a nice suit, or the opera. (I have to say my enjoyment of these anecdotes was offset somewhat by twinges of envy--Schmitt's life seems pretty posh for a consultant... perhaps he is hiring?)

"Big Think Strategy" is a companion piece to a couple of other recent books of importance: "The Opposable Mind" and "The Future of Management" (see posts on these books here and here). And it suffers a bit by comparison to each. Due to its brevity and fewer examples, and to some extent its breezy writing style, it feels less substantial than either book. Nonetheless, it's a good book on a crucial subject for today's leaders.

If you can only buy two books on reinventing your business this year, I'm afraid you'll have to skip "Big Think Strategy." Otherwise, it's a worthy addition to your bookshelf.

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Linda said...

Hi John,

Thanks for this book recommendation.

Along with creating new strategies for a business, achieving superior results with these new ideas is my management goal. I recently read a book that addresses why some companies (and/or managers) struggle and others succeed. The book, "Step Up!" by Daniel Grissom, is a quick read and has many excellent quotes sprinkled throughout. I really liked the step-by-step plan for achieving success in biz . . . and in one's life if you want to apply it in that realm.

Thanks again fora new addition to my management bookshelf.