FT Business Books: What to read this month


“The Four Workarounds: Strategies Used by the World’s Worst Organizations to Solve Complex Problems,” by Paulo Savaget

Paulo Savaget has a soft spot for organizations that are “lively, imaginative and on the fringes of power”. His book is a hymn to deviation and “junkiness” and a rich collection of stories about how to sidestep rules and norms to solve complex problems.

The book, which grew out of a proposal that made it to the final of the FT’s 2019 Bracken Bower Prize, divides workarounds into four groups – piggyback, loophole, roundabout (disruptive or disruptive self-reinforcing behavior), and next best.

Savaget illustrates his subject with wide-ranging examples, from cryptocurrencies to abortion activism. Many of the problems tackled by his heroic rule-breakers are in resource-poor areas where need is the mother of all deviations. Case in point is how a British couple working in Zambia set up the non-profit ColaLife to take part in existing soft drink distribution networks and design diarrhea dispensers that fit inside Coca-Cola crates.

The book’s ambitious claim is that workarounds can be useful in all places and situations, from household to management. The book not only tells some entertaining stories about exploiting loopholes and the next best thing about ingenuity, it also touches on the philosophical.

By adopting a “workaround mindset,” Savaget writes, we can “transform our ‘unknown unknowns’ into ‘known unknowns.'” . .[and]to deconstruct our assumptions about what we know so that we can recombine fragments that we would otherwise never see as belonging together.

“Mixed Signals: How Incentives Really Work”, by Uri Gneezy

There’s something that people are guilty of all the time—we say one thing but do another, often because of certain incentives that influence our behavior.

For example, the author, a professor of economics and strategy at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, told his son that only bad people lie. One day, he took his son to Disney World, where children under the age of three were admitted free but adults were $117. The result? Gneezy was prompted to lie about his son’s age – he had turned three shortly before the visit. The result? His son noticed his father’s actions and was very confused.

This is a book about how to avoid such mixed signals – especially in a business or work setting – that lead to conflicts between what people are saying and what their incentives are signaling. The book outlines how to create what the author calls a middle ground, where these signals and incentives can be better aligned and lead to better outcomes.

Mixed signals that can cause problems are encouraging long-term goals but incentivizing short-term success, or stimulating innovation and risk-taking but punishing failure.

Think of the manager telling her employees at a call center that customer care is the most important thing. But, Gneezy asks, what if the manager sets the incentives so employees get paid based on the number of calls they answer? It sends a mixed signal about what the manager is looking for. The incentive is to be fast, which means Quality (e.g. customer service) is omitted Crowd. And it means employees will be confused about the manager’s values ​​versus their expectations.

Gneezy adds that every company or manager needs to make sure the incentives are what they want to encourage. They can reward quantity, but how do they ensure quality isn’t compromised?

The answer is not very simple. Finding the right balance of incentives can be tricky. But Gneezy hopes his book will provide insights that will help people feel ready to embrace the concept and design better incentives.

“Keeping Your Distance: The Lessons From Sport That Business Leaders Have Missed,” by Catherine Baker

keep distance is a handbook for leaders looking for a more sustainable way to achieve long-term goals and get the best out of their leaders.

Beginning with six steps that enable managers to master the key attitudes, approaches, and behaviors that drive long-term success—like discipline and finding sustained motivation—Baker, an expert in combining business and sports expertise to improve performance, examines how to apply them in working life .

The chapters are supplemented with lessons from elite sport and insights from athletes and top business performers. Using discipline as an example, like in sports, developing as a leader requires determination and hard work. Focusing on small and enduring behaviors may help make discipline a part of a daily routine that, Baker writes, you can even learn to find some joy from.

The second part provides guidance on how to get the best out of the people you lead, drawing on stories from a variety of top athletes and coaches, backed up by research and other case studies. Trust is key, Baker writes. And leaders can build it if they behave consistently and honor their commitments. These actions create trust in those around them.

Baker concludes that the more consistently you can bring out the best in you and your people, “the greater that impact will be over the long term.”

“The 24-hour rule and other mysteries for intelligent organizations”, by Adrienne Bellehumeur

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Some business books you can read for pleasure. Others read to get something done. The 24 hour rule definitely offers the latter, but is written in an accessible manner that encourages those of us who feel buried in unnecessary emails, receipts, memos, and spreadsheets.

Adrienne Bellehumeur is a Canadian business owner and consultant who developed her system of administration – dynamic documentation, as she calls it – to manage the information, management of projects, drafting of bids and communication necessary for the operation of her internal controls – and compliance business risk oversight are required.

She admits that she could have used a book like this when she started her career as an accountant and analyst 15 years ago.

Essentially, the “24-hour rule” is about doing something with whatever information you receive within 24 hours. It’s part of a six-step process that involves effectively structuring and presenting this information to get your work administration in order.

This book will encourage those who are despairing of their ability to organize. The core message is that professional success is built on small but significant changes in our daily routines.

It’s not earth-shattering news, but given that managing work and life can be a constant headache for even those who feel in control, the book offers advice we can all apply to to reduce the burden.

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