The Business Thinkers and Management Giants sections field a business all-star team with a 102-person-strong lineup that goes from Adam Smith to Peter Drucker, Estée Lauder to Oprah Winfrey, Henry Ford to Warren Buffett, and Akio Morita and Jack Welch to Jeff Bezos. The essay on my former boss, David Ogilvy, is an engaging portrait of the most famous advertising man in the world (as he described himself), if less insightful on what he brought to the business.
The second half of the book is made up of the business Dictionary, the World Business Almanac (statistics and charts on almost every subject and geography), and a 235-page section (a book in itself?) of Business Information Sources in case of information malnutrition. Plus an index.
What is missing?
So many subjects are covered throughout the book, some with several entries (there are 21 essays on people and culture in the Best Practice section, for example), that it is surprising there is so little on what drives organizational success — innovation. There are dozens of operating principles, but only a handful on how to generate and protect ideas that set one company or brand apart from others.
The book is also thin on corporate governance. Although this project was obviously undertaken before Enron’s debacle and other corporate scandals, governance has been a growing concern over the past several decades. There are a number of entries for ethics, but they tend to be academic rather than directive. The chairman of a board audit committee once instructed me, “The tone is set at the top.” Or, as Harry Truman put it, “When I was growing up in Independence, there was right and wrong, and you didn’t spend much time talking about it.”
What is one to make of all the information in this hefty volume? Will it just prop up other books on a shelf? It is not the Oxford English Dictionary, that great (but simple) reference work. And it is hardly a coffee-table book, although it can be browsed and dipped into.
But Business: The Ultimate Resource lives up to its subtitle. It covers a lot of ground and will be useful to several audiences, in several ways. Executives will go to it for a reminder of what they should be considering while working on a project, or for an introduction to an unfamiliar subject. Junior executives (if they’re smart) will study it as a training tool. Business teachers will refer to it in course preparation.
Would I buy it and use it? I certainly would use it — and, at $59.95, it’s a real value.
Reprint No. 02407
Kenneth Roman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenneth Roman is a former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and has served on a number of boards of directors. He is coauthor of Writing That Works (HarperCollins, Quill, 2002) and How to Advertise (St. Martin’s Press, 1975), the third edition of which will be published in 2003.