While you choose your holiday gifts, and also plan for some personal reading time, you might be interested in recommendations from CSR and nonprofit leaders. You can also check back to What CSR and Nonprofit Leaders are Reading Part I and Part II from summer’s end.
William A. Hawkins, Chairman and CEO, Medtronic; Chair, Board of Visitors, Duke University’s School of Engineering; Board Member, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts; Board Member; University of Minnesota Foundation Board; whose company made a commitment at Clinton Global Initiative Sixth Annual Meeting 2010: “I’m reading Start Up Nation, by Saul Singer. This is a truly inspiring book on how nations and their culture can directly influence innovation. I recently had the opportunity to visit Israel and experienced first-hand a remarkable innovation ecosystem, which is outlined in great detail in the book. A long-term commitment from the Israeli government to foster innovation coupled with a culture that encourages risk and discipline has combined to create one of the world’s fastest-moving economies. Singer points out throughout the book a key tenet that we all should recognize and work toward: When the public sector and private sector are aligned, amazing innovation happens.
“Another book I’m well into is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. While change is necessary, it turns out it is also not altogether natural. We need to realize and appreciate that there are subliminal forces at work when an organization, or an individual, commits to making a dramatic change. The authors demonstrate how we can harness the power of subliminal thought to enact profound, sustainable change.”
Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder and President, GlobalGiving; Chair, Global Business School Network (effective January 2011): “Lost Books of the Odyssey, by Zachary Mason. The literary equivalent of the Goldberg Variations. I usually don’t like derivative works (I thought Cunningham desecrated Mrs. Dalloway.) but this took the spirit of the original and extended it. My favorite quote: ‘I realized that I had told the stories of the cyclops, the sirens and the duel with Ajax so many times that I no longer remembered the actual events so much as their retellings and the retellings’ retellings.’
“Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet, by Joseph Menn. An alarming book to read if, like me, you have never really tracked the potential for havoc in the cyberworld. From e-commerce to the security not only of information but commands over physical systems, this book made it clear that it’s child’s play (and frequently is) to bring entire systems down. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have read the book if my friend Joe hadn’t written it, but I’m glad I did.
“Obliquity: Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly, by John Kay. One of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time. It suggests that the more complex the change you seek to bring about, the harder it is to achieve by focusing on it single-mindedly. So in John’s world, a company that keeps hammering home to its employees and stakeholders that it’s all about shareholder value will ironically fail at sustainable delivery of shareholder value–while a company that is focused on delivering the best product will in fact deliver long-term shareholder value. Once you read it you start seeing obliquity everywhere.”
Daniel J. Lee, Executive Director, Levi Strauss Foundation; Vice President, Funders Concerned About AIDS; Board Member, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Co-Chair, San Francisco Bay Area, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy: “2010 is the year of Stephen Sondheim, with a rightful slew of tributes, retrospectives and even the renaming of a Broadway theatre commemorating his 80th birthday and towering influence in American theatre. In his new book Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges and Anecdotes, the greatest lyricist of our generation deftly parses and rigorously critiques his own corpus, along with those of other iconic songwriters.
“Sondheim offers three guideposts for effective communication: ‘(1) Content Dictates Form, (2) Less is More, (3) God is in the Details–all in the service of Clarity.’ This work is a delight, bringing readers intimately into his tutelage. Philanthropy is, after all, about the art of framing: tailoring a specific idea to a particular audience–and with intended results. We have much to learn from this master about mobilizing passion, tenacity, discipline and imagination–no doubt, all in the service of clarity.”
James Kristie, Editor and Associate Publisher, Directors & Boards, and blogger: “I receive hundreds of review copies of books from publishers and read very few cover to cover. Two that I did read are The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane, an appalling tale told wonderfully well by Randall Lane, a former publisher of magazines for a well-heeled crowd that showed what heels these money folks really were.
“On a much more elevated scale, I was totally absorbed by Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership by Warren Bennis, one of the truly renowned tracers of ‘the DNA of leadership,’ a term this much-credentialed USC professor uses to describe his research into the rulers of the corporate and nonprofit worlds in his decades-long quest to understand what it is that makes these leaders tick. Bennis was no slouch as a leader himself, having served as president of the University of Cincinnati, among other positions in academia–and even earlier in life, as demonstrated in this excerpt from my blog. This is his 30th book, and when you finish it you marvel at what a life well lived his has been.
“And on my holiday reading list when I catch up on some unused vacation time is Felix Rohatyn’s memoir, Dealings: A Political and Financial Life, and Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch by Julie MacIntosh, which has been highly recommended to me as a real page turner of gutsy deal making and board decision making.”
Stay tuned here for more this week on What CSR and Nonprofit Leaders are Reading. You’ll be hearing from additional CSR leaders, including Michael Green, co-author with Matthew Bishop, Philanthrocapitalism and The Road from Ruin.