(946 pages, published in German by C.H. Beck and in English by Weidenfeld & Nicholson)
This is not only an impressive book, well researched and well written (the translation into English is beautifully done), it is also exhaustive. The five co-authors, all of whom are professors at top universities in the United States and Germany, have produced more than a simple history of the Deutsche Bank.
They have divided their story into five periods: from the bank's inception, during the Bismarck years, to the Great War, 1870 to 1914; from the end of the Great War through the world's first global economic collapse, 1914-1933; from the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship to the end of World War II, 1933-1945; from the end of World War II through Germany's resurgence, 1945-1957; and, finally, the period of the rise of the Deutsche Bank as a global financial powerhouse, from 1957 to 1995.
Each section of the book is written by a different professor who is a specialist in the economic history of the time. The style is serious and analytical but this large and imposing work never makes a reader feel bogged down; all of the authors' contributions are written in a naturally flowing narrative form.
When this book first came out, there was controversy over its treatment of the Nazi period, as one might expect. But while it is straightforward in its account of the bank's role in helping to finance the Nazi dictatorship, it also takes great pains to show that senior staff members, up to the level of the board of directors, were divided in how they thought the bank should respond during the Hitler era. The book also recounts that while the bank had its own significant contingent of Nazis, it also had its share of German resistance fighters.
Though controversial in its assessment of the World War II years (some commentators in Germany viewed it as too soft while others as unduly harsh), this is an excellent work of history. It is written without compromise and without pulling punches. It is an extremely valuable account of how the single most important private financial institution in Germany helped that country develop its own form of capitalism. It is also a valuable account of how that same institution worked in concert with the Government and international institutions and banks and with foreign and domestic businesses to engineer Germany's economic resurgence during the "miracle years."
Not only is this book breathtaking in its scope, it also gives readers deep insights into how the mighty German economy was built, from Bismarck's nationalistic era to the current global period of B.M.W., Daimler-Benz, Siemens and the autobahn.
BEST MANAGEMENT BOOK
by Noboru Konno and Ikujiro Nonaka
(362 pages, published in Japanese only by Nippon Keizai Shimbunsha Publishing)
What really makes a company competitive?
According to Noboru Konno and Ikujiro Nonaka, it takes a combination of knowledge and creativity, which the authors term—in a rough translation from the Japanese—intellectual capability. Intellectual capability, what it is and how to develop it, is the subject of this book.
But more than presenting these concepts as a disconnected group of ideas, the authors develop them into a comprehensive body of knowledge, which includes theory, methodology, measurement and a description of the infrastructure necessary for putting a company's intellectual capabilities to work. As such, the concepts contained in "Intellectualizing Capability," like the core-competency notions of C.K. Prahalad or the analysis of dysfunctional measures by Robert Kaplan, are not simply descriptive, they are actionable.
So far, Intellectualizing Capability is available only in Japanese. This, along with its use of case studies taken almost entirely from Japanese companies, is its principal weakness. Even so, the ideas contained within the book deserve a wide, global audience. They affirm and describe what many leading-edge companies have come to believe—that ideas, correctly applied, are the competitive weapons of the future.
Charles E. Lucier (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior vice president and the chief growth officer of Booz Allen Hamilton. His client work focuses on strategy and knowledge issues for consumer products and health companies.