The Responsible Company

The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years

by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

We hear a lot about sustainability, but the authors contend “no human economic activity is yet sustainable… Responsible seems to us the apt, more modest, word to use… The term itself is necessary shorthand; there is no responsible company, only responsible companies of varying degrees, who act strategically to do less harm while improving, not sacrificing, the health of the business.”

Doing good and seeking profit are not incompatible. Wal-Mart’s initial environmental efforts were motivated by reputation management, “but removing excess packaging from deodorant sticks, concentrating laundry detergent in small bottles, and installing auxiliary power units in their trucks to reduce idling time turned out to save them millions of dollars.”

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Humble Inquiry

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

by Edgar H. Schein

Retired MIT Sloan School of Management professor Edgar Schein asserts, “Without good upward communication, organizations can be neither effective nor safe… Your organization may be underperforming because various employees or groups do not recognize the degree to which they are, in fact, interdependent.” The gist of this book is about creating a trusting environment with open communication across hierarchical boundaries. This entails less telling, more asking, and better listening.

“The U.S. culture is strongly built on the tacit assumptions of pragmatism, individualism, and status through achievement… Given those cultural biases, doing and telling are inevitably valued more than asking and relationship building. However, as tasks become more complex and interdependent, collaboration, teamwork, and relationship building will become more necessary. That, in turn, will require leaders to become more skilled in humble inquiry.”

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Team of Teams

team-of-teams

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

by General Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he was fighting a 21st-century war with a 20th-century military. This engaging book is about the reconfiguration which  led to faster decisions and greater results. McChrystal’s mission was to defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI), but his leadership insights are applicable to business as well. Continue reading

The B Corp Handbook

the-b-corp-handbook

The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good

by Ryan Honeyman

What is a B Corp? B Corporations are for-profit organizations which serve a variety of stakeholders rather than to enrich shareholders exclusively. Stakeholders include employees, the community, the environment, as well as the firm’s owners. B stands for benefit.

The term applies in two contexts: Certified B Corps and a form of incorporation offered by several U.S. states. The majority of this book is about the former. The latter is addressed at the end of this summary. Continue reading

How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life)

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How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life)

by Dov Seidman

The book is about ethics and reputation, value-based cultures vs. rule-based cultures, and as the author likes to say, “getting your hows right.” There are some valuable messages in the book. Continue reading

The Thank You Economy

The Thank You Economy

by Gary Vaynerchuk

The Thank You Economy is about connecting with customers through social media, but it is not a book about Facebook, Twitter, or any other specific technology.  It’s about creating a culture of caring relationships, like when your great-grandmother shopped with local merchants. Those relationships disappeared as the economy evolved from mom-and-pop shopkeepers to big box stores, but social media offers a means of restoring that human touch in a scalable way. Continue reading