Stuff of the Month

Web sites, two books, a no-nonsense bag, and Randall Rothenberg's take on Madison Avenue's Ad of the Month.

Books: Guru Showdown

It's never been easy being a management guru. One day, you're heralded for a pathbreaking idea of staggering genius (say, reengineering); the next, you're scorned for brokering a fad that sucked the life out of workers (say, reengineering). These days, results are more important than thought leadership, and more than a few gurus are looking for a new gig.

This is the reality that informs two new books on gurus in our midst. What's the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), by Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak, seeks to resuscitate the reputation of "idea practitioners" (aka internal change agents) and gurus (aka management writers with a two-book deal). According to the authors, new business ideas aren't the problem — it's the indiscriminate application of those ideas that gets companies into trouble.

James Hoopes, on the other hand, has no patience for learning organizations, grassroots leadership, or self-directed teams. In False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management and Why Their Ideas Are Bad for Business Today (Perseus Publishing, 2003), he sets out to pillory the pioneering gurus — from Frederick Winslow Taylor to Mary Parker Follett to Peter Drucker. His semiheretical argument: We've been laboring under a guru-assisted delusion crafted to gloss over the fact that business organizations are driven by two things: money and power. Our religiously held ideals are gu-rubbish.

- Polly LaBarre

Gear: Just a Bag

Sometimes less really is more. Andy Spade, husband of fashion maven Kate and founder of Jack Spade, knows this. True to its roots — the brand emerged from a SoHo basement and was originally sold to hardware stores — Jack Spade prides itself on designs with a "reason for being." The Tech Brief, rolling out this spring from Jack Spade's informal Greene Street line, is built to tote a laptop and a few files — but is free of redundant pockets, zippers, straps, and bungee cords. The nylon Tech Brief retails for $145. Visit Jack Spade on the Web (www.jackspade.com).

- Lucas Conley

Web: May Days

Action! www.hypnotic.com You might not find Hypnotic's filmmakers at this month's Cannes Film Festival, but Hypnotic did bring Reebok's "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" to life. Other projects include a contest sponsored by Chrysler that will award $1 million to an aspiring filmmaker.

Memorial www.thevirtualwall.org Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, might approve of TheVirtualWall.org. The site contains the full list of names that are chiseled into the Memorial's reflective black granite. And each day, the site displays different names from the Wall.

Hot stuff www.tabasco.com/html/taste_cincorelease.html Cinco de Mayo may be a national holiday in Mexico, but for many Americans, it's just an excuse to eat spicy tacos and knock back a few beers. Knowing that Tabasco is a must have for any proper Cinco de Mayo feast, the makers of the hot sauce created a Web site that offers recipes as well as a primer on the history of Cinco de Mayo.

Randall Rothenberg | Ad of the Month

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's "Wedding"

In his 1998 book, Life, the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Neal Gabler argued that people are increasingly constructing their existence around the conventions of cinematic storytelling. The new ad for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is a delightful application of this principle. The campaign plays with Rat Pack stereotypes, but the roles are taken by allegedly real folk who have fallen prey to the city's Ocean's 11 - style nobody-gets-hurt wickedness. "Only Vegas" is the mischievous tag line. The campaign's best execution is "Wedding." Framed by the arched window of a gaudy chapel, a disheveled woman is trying to break free of a much younger man who is entreating her in Spanish. "I have to go back to my convention," she pleads. "I know," she responds to his appeal, "but I have a convention." The screen blacks; against the sound of a morning breeze appear the words, "What happens here, stays here." Regional agency R&R Partners coaxes lovely performances from its cast of two, right through to the post-blackout coda: her passionate, last kiss on her husband for a day. Ironic? Only if you want it to be. Contact Randall Rothenberg by email (rrothenberg@fastcompany.com).