FT Business Books: March Edition


“The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America”, by Deepa Purushothaman

Despite promises made by the Black Lives Matter movement nearly two years ago, many non-white professionals still see the corporate world as a good old boys club.

This book is a poignant look at what it’s like to find yourself there as what the author’s clueless friend from law school calls a “twofer” – a woman who also happens to be a person of color. The book argues that women of color possess the multifaceted perspective to solve any range of professional puzzles, yet many of their accomplishments are attributed solely to affirmative action.

Deepa Purushothaman uses her personal experience of being one of the first Indian women to rise through the ranks of professional services firm Deloitte and anonymous interviews with other professional women to help readers see their own businesses through this lens. and to understand that not fitting in has both social issues and career implications.

This book is not so much a textbook on diversity, equity and inclusion – although it certainly provides plenty of food for thought on the latest initiatives – as much as a critique of corporate America’s view of it. -even as a pure meritocracy.

Purushothaman uses a seemingly endless supply of vivid metaphors to bring abstract and politically charged concepts of race to life. It’s the rare book that can both make professionals of color feel seen and give their white male colleagues a well-rounded education.

“Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Isolated Teams to Everyone”, by Ryan Jenkins and Steven Van Cohen

After two years of isolation induced by the pandemic, the rules of social distancing, loneliness is topical. This latest book seeks to examine its impact on work and well-being, and how to combat it.

Authors Ryan Jenkins and Steven Van Cohen, who advise companies on reducing workplace loneliness and strengthening connections, say technologies like ATMs, Alexa and self-checkouts are not just replacing jobs, but also eliminate vital human interactions. In doing so, they follow the work of professors Noreena Hertz and Jean Twenge, who have focused on loneliness.

They are especially worried about the entry of young people – Generation Z – into the labor market, complaining of being isolated. But everyone is susceptible to episodes of loneliness, such as being the sole parent of young children on a team, or someone who is thrust into a leadership role earlier than their peers. The implication for businesses is that the workforce is less engaged and less productive.

The authors offer advice in areas such as how to create psychological safety for employees and cultivate connections across teams (in person or remotely).

Yet while the advice for creating a sense of belonging seems sound, the statistics they cite – there has been a 7% increase in loneliness among Americans since 2018 – strikes me as a testament, in fact, of the endurance of human connection.

“Taking Charge: How Self-Coaching Can Transform Your Life and Career,” by David Novak and Jason Goldsmith

Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, the market is becoming increasingly competitive and dynamic. With lifelong learning becoming a skill in itself, if you don’t know how to develop, you could fall behind.

Here coaching can help you and you can learn how to train yourself. With decades of experience, David Novak and Jason Goldsmith present a simple method for readers to take charge of their personal growth and professional development.

The book is divided into five sections: the self-coaching conversation, the mindset, the plan, the journey, and the habit. It offers an interactive experience with exercises, tips, questions and tools to take you from where you are now to where you want to go.

Any coaching session begins with a conversation and in the first chapter the authors guide the reader through a dialogue with themselves. The goal is to better understand how to best coach the unique individual that you are. The first question: “What hinders my joy?”

The book contains concrete examples and suggestions for developing your self-awareness, getting into a coaching routine and turning advice into an action plan.

Some of the strategies seem obvious, but it ends with a good conclusion: “You never know exactly what you are capable of until you are tested. Events will occur throughout your journey that will cause you to question some of your ideas or re-evaluate your path. That’s okay.”

“From breakthrough to blockbuster: the business of biotechnology”, by Donald L Drakeman, Lisa Natale Drakeman and Nektarios Oraiopoulos

Medtech, pharmatech and biotech are firmly entrenched in the start-up lexicon thanks to more than 50 years of innovation and risk-taking by pharmaceutical entrepreneurs. The most obvious example of recent times is BioNTech, which has partnered with Pfizer, the multinational pharmaceutical company, to generate a breakthrough Covid vaccine. But this type of innovative start-up behavior was not always a foregone conclusion in the health sector.

The 208-page book, written by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Donald and Lisa Drakeman and Nektarios Oraiopoulos, associate professor of operations management at Cambridge Judge Business School, tells the stories of a diverse group of start-ups, some of which are become international companies – although others have failed – and have outstripped Big Pharma in bringing innovative new drugs to market.

The authors explain why this happened, through a biotechnology ecosystem of academic research, venture capital groups, contract research organizations, capital markets and founding teams.

They write with authority given that the two of them have built successful biotechnology companies in the United States and Europe, raising billions of dollars in the process and creating several new FDA-approved treatments for cancer and other diseases. Their co-author, who has spent years analyzing the innovation process, is an advisor to entrepreneurial start-ups and has worked closely on research projects with numerous executives in the biopharmaceutical industry.

There is an undertone to this book: that the development of innovative medicines is most effectively carried out by a large number of small companies, nurtured by an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The authors end with a manifesto, proposing government policies and market structures needed to support and foster innovation by medtech start-ups.

“Stress-Free Productivity: A Personalized Toolkit for Becoming Your Most Effective and Creative Self,” by Dr. Alice Boyes

The story goes that Lin-Manuel Miranda came up with the idea for his hit musical hamilton during a well-deserved vacation, when he read a book about Alexander Hamilton. We know the rest.

In Stress-Free Productivity, Alice Boyes offers a guide to rethinking productivity and achieving it in a different way, encouraging the reader to explore new strategies for being creative and producing work that has more value. According to the author, who has a doctorate in psychology, the modern culture of productivity advocates strict habits and efficiency. But to be the most productive, she thinks we actually need to set aside time to not focus and let our minds wander.

However, to do this, we have to trust ourselves to walk away from our work. We need to feel comfortable letting our minds drift and explore other areas – whether it’s just for half an hour or a fortnight on the holiday – because we’ll end up somewhere insightful.

Along with quizzes and other exercises, Boyes, a former clinical psychologist, has crafted a book that, through three sections, offers ways to help develop the tools to overcome the guilt that comes with walking away and those little voices that tell us that we are wasting time. “There is an art to letting your mind wander productively, and a science,” she writes.

The first section is about being a self-scientist – becoming a better observer of yourself, which she says is “the single most important productivity tool you’re underutilizing.” The second section – improving your repeatable systems – is about effectiveness and efficiency.

The third section – how to be a more creative visionary – examines how various interests can increase our creative capacity, how we can be more courageous in terms of where we go when we explore our minds, and devote our mental energy to longer-term projects. term.

Essentially, Boyes encourages the reader to see that what he Choose to do will influence what is achieved far more than the speed at which they work.

“Going Digital: What It Takes for Smoother Transformations”, by Lyndsey Jones and Balvinder Singh Powar

This is a quick little guide to achieving digital transformation. Today, we live in a world of near-permanent uncertainty and change. Businesses large and small are finding themselves grappling with changing consumer habits, new technologies and nimble digital competitors entering their turf.

The authors write that “as a manager in this environment. . . You may need to transform one or more departments. Perhaps you need to change the business operations or work practices of an old company. Or maybe you’re trying to change customer behavior to embrace digitization and increase revenue. »

Taking insights from a wide range of companies and industries, from Google to asset manager BlackRock, it seems that whatever the challenge of digital transformation, the problem must first be identified. Then, when solving the problem and implementing the solution, a systematic approach to planning is essential. The authors point out how the best-laid plans will help you sell your idea and such a framework will also help track progress.

The book also touches on the resistance any “change agent” is likely to face: what the authors call the “dark side” because leading change is “exhausting.” “Dealing with transformation can take a lot of time and mental energy, so you’ll need to weigh the project carefully to make sure it’s worth it,” they write.

But despite all the digital talk, the authors point out that some of the most critical attributes for success in this space are soft skills: understanding your team; build trust; be able to influence and persuade; and taking care of you too.

All in all, this is the perfect primer for those who may be new managers and need to get up to speed quickly with digital transformation, what it is, what to expect during the process and how to make it an attractive – and perhaps even profitable – opportunity for your organization.


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