Stickin’ My Neck (Way) Out!

January 7. Time for my "Book of the Year2005" picks!
Am I nuts?
But if nuts, at least determined & passionate!

The Art of Business: Make All Your Work a Work of Art, by Stan Davis and David McIntosh. Stan, the lead author, is an old pal. (And, like me, not so young a man. But ... very young at heart ... which is all that matters!) Most interesting, Stan was a "tough-minded" "strategy guy" when I first met him. Now ... ART? Yup! The authors persuasively argue that we are entering an economy which will value—insist upon!—a new way of looking at value creation. They call it moving from an emphasis on "economic flow" (input-output) to "artistic flow." The altered nature of enterprise, the "four elements" of new business thinking: "See yourself as an artist." "See your work as a work of art." "See your customers as an audience." "See your competition as teachers." Another (very) hardnosed guy, economist and current Harvard President Larry Summers blurbed the book this way: "The Art of Business is a good antidote to all the business-as-war books." Amen! Nice job, Stan (& David)! (Incidentally—incidentally??—the pocket-sized book is but 202 pages long.) (Interesting how all these "gurus of hard"—e.g. Stan Davis, Gary Hamel, David Maister—come to put People & Passion first as they age. Hmmm.)

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, by Kevin Carroll, is a gorgeous, gorgeously designed, pocket-sized 100-page book. I heard that Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher bought copies of Who Moved My Cheese? for each of his 25,000+ employees. If I were running a 25,000-person company today, I'd surely buy Rules for all my employees! (And, hey, thanks Jack Covert, CEO of 800-CEO-Read, for sending the book along.) Kevin followed his dreams from a broken family to, eventually, a senior position at Nike where his job is to inspire ... he says some call him Nike's "sports evangelist." (Only at Nike, eh? Love it!) At any rate this book—so brilliantly executed that I plan to take it on the road as a personal Talisman—is arranged around 8 rules: "Commit to it." "Seek out encouragers." "Work out your creative muscle." "Prepare to shine." "Speak up." "Expect the unexpected." "Maximize the day." Nice! (PS: You're gonna have to buy the book to discover the guiding RRB metaphor.) (NB: The glory of this book's design cements my already strong sense that I'll never publish ... ANYTHING ... 10 words or 10,000 ... that is not driven by design as much as content. In an Age of Aesthetics, Design Is Content! Okay, okay ... so McLuhan got there first.)

The Virtuoso: Face to Face With 40 Extraordinary Talents, by Ken Carbone with photos by Howard Schatz. My pal Robyn Waters, Target's original "guru of cool" who now runs her own show (RW Trend LLC), gave Susan & me this breathtaking book as a gift. Wow! The photography is as awe-inspiring as are the interviews with a variety of folks from comedian Robin Williams to explorer Sylvia Earle to stock picker Peter Lynch. (If the book weren't so darned big, I'd also carry it with me as co-Talisman.)

Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, by David Whyte. This 2001 book (no mind, it's new to me—embarrassingly) is authored by an oxymoron: Whyte is a poet who spends his days working with corporations—to great acclaim. Like my other choices, Crossing aims to set us on a course toward Work That Matters (& Dignifies & Inspires & Aspires to Excellence). (Thanks in this case to my friend Roxanne Davis for insisting that I belatedly discover D. Whyte.) This inspiring tome begins with a wonderful, poetic (obviously) epigraph:

"You have set sail on another ocean
"without star or compass
"going where the argument leads
"shattering the certainties of centuries."

Janet Kalven, "Respectable Outlaw"

I can't, in good faith, promise you that I won't find other stars-of-print this year. I can, however, promise you that if you read & absorb & bask in these four books you will up the odds of 2005 being a Remarkable Year ... dramatically. So, c'mon ... let's get on with Shattering the Certainties of Centuries!