Bookcase A Wealth of Reading

The Wealth of Knowledge
By: Thomas Stewart
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey
Price: $75

You can find out more about the author of this book by reading the Management interview on page 38 of this issue. Thomas Stewart is the champion of intellectual capital so it seemed reasonable that in an issue of the magazine in which we talk to the author that we should also provide little something on his book.

This book is written for the leader serious about understanding just what intellectual capital is all about. It is 336 pages plus another 40 pages of notes and index, but don’t be daunted. It is an interesting explanation of the move from intangible capital to real wealth.

Thomas’ first book, Intellectual Capital, made big impact on the business community back in 1997. He argued that in today’s information economy company’s most important assets are not its goods, equipment or financial capital but its intangible assets – its patents, the experience and knowledge resident in the skills and minds of its people, and the information locked up in its data banks.

The Wealth of Knowledge is much more practical than his first book. Stewart explains how to apply the concept of intellectual capital to manage knowledge assets and gain competitive edge. It is, as the dust jacket says, “a practical roadmap on how to use knowledge assets more effectively”.

Stewart explains the new set of business fundamentals that is emerging by taking three-step approach: the theory of knowledge business; the disciplines, including look at the culture, that are an important part of developing knowledge perspective; and, the performance of knowledge business and how to measure and account for it.

Stewart argues that in the past three decades, three big ideas have fundamentally changed how organisations run. The first was total quality management, the second re-engineering and the third is intellectual capital.

Stewart is very competent and insightful writer. His stint as editorial director at Business 2.0 magazine and on the board of editors of Fortune magazine and subsequent appointment to the editorship of HBR is no doubt reflection of the regard in which he is held by some well- credentialled US publishers.

21 Leaders for the 21st Century
By: Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Price: $59.95

“Leadership is more than just skill or technique. It is style, mindset.” Understanding the mindset of 21 of the world’s most successful contemporary leaders might be fascinating but I’m not entirely sure how much of it is transportable to New Zealand, unless of course you are thinking global. If your personal career mindset stretches further than Kaitaia then take the time to read this book.

What drives Michael Dell of Dell Computers; Virgin’s Richard Branson; Stan Shih of Acer Computers; Anders Knutsen of Bang and Olufsen; former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko or Sir Mark Moody-Stuart of Royal Dutch Shell? Some pretty good clues reside between the pages of book that’s been written to explain how innovative leaders manage in our digital age.

Like the other book reviewed on this page, it’s weighty tome but then so is the subject. Understanding effective leadership requires understanding effective behaviour and that’s not easy to encapsulate, 21 times.

Opening to chapter that introduces the reader to the “metatheory of leadership” is also bit off-putting. And I found some of the diagrams used to explain their theoretical concepts of leadership more distracting than helpful. But cut through that and there are valuable pointers and observations from some fairly impressive achievers in this book.

“Never go into an industry just with the purpose of making money,” advises Richard Branson. “You have to passionately believe it’s possible to change the industry, to turn it on its head, to make sure it will never be the same again. With the right people and with that conviction, anything is possible. Of course this is not pure altruism – there’s profit to be made too.”

A collection of case studies to be regularly picked up and put down. Not weekend’s reading for pleasure.

Books for these reviews supplied by Dymocks Atrium.
Available from [email protected]. Ph: 0-9-379 9919, Fax: 0-9-379 9555.

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