I have oft quoted, on this blog, and in countless presentations, from The Looming Tower: Al-Queda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 2007). And Inside the Kingdom by Carmen Bin Laden.
Here is s link to a reading list, all books that were highlighted on PBS, with links to interviews with the authors: A Reading List for the Post-9/11 Era, posted by Molly Finnegan , May 3, 2011. From the intro:
The NewsHour has featured conversations with many writers over the past decade on books that address, directly and indirectly, how 9/11, bin Laden and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have influenced how we live today. After the jump, find a sampling of some of these featured titles with links to the full conversations.
The list is a good one, and, yes, it includes The Looming Tower. Here is the quote lifted from the full interview (link on the page) with Wright on the book list page:
From the conversation:
“Humiliation is one of the most common words in bin Laden’s vocabulary. Certainly there have been many Muslim men who have been physically humiliated, especially Arabs and Egyptians in those prisons. For instance, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two guy in al-Qaida, experienced three years of torture in Egyptian prisons, as was true of many people who are in al-Qaida today. I think that accounts for the appetite for bloodshed that’s so characteristic of al-Qaida and so unusual in many respects for a terrorist movement, which is normally just interested in theater….When he uses that term, it resonates with many Muslims who feel that Islam has been in retreat for hundreds of years and been displaced from his proper place in the world.”
“Starbucks’ touchstones, the source of our pride” Howard Schultz
In January 2008, chairman Howard Schultz resumed his roles as President and CEO of Starbucks eight years after he relinquished them, replacing Jim Donald, who took the posts in 2005 but was asked to step down. Schultz’s immediate objective was to restore what he characterizes as the “distinctive Starbucks experience” after years of rapid expansion that had compromised it. The bulk of this book’s material covers the period since then, although Schultz (in collaboration with Joanne Gordon) does include valuable perspectives on the events that preceded his joining Starbucks as director of retail operations in 1982 and his subsequent purchase of the company from its three co-founders in 1987.
Others have their own reasons for praising this book, Here two of mine. First, Schultz is a skillful raconteur and the dramatic narrative that he provides is compelling as he introduces various characters, develops a lively plot filled with crises as well as triumphs, and meanwhile examines several themes that invest the narrative with structure and direction. For example, how to accelerate but manage growth so that the company (however large it may become) retains its entrepreneurial spirit? As Starbucks expanded into new locations, states, and even countries, how to preserve the ambiance of an Italian café (i.e. coffeehouse) while take full advantage of modern technologies? This book is a great read because Schultz has a multitude of fascinating stories to share.
My other reason is that the book anchors in real-world situations, involving real people, a number of business principles that are relevant to all organizations, whatever their size and nature may be.
1. Don’t “fall in love” with loyal, devoted workers who no longer measure up. By all means employ them and find useful work for them to do (if at all possible) but keep in mind that business development (especially when growth is rapid) frequently creates new demands that some people cannot handle. Schultz acknowledges that he waited too long to respond to earnest and willing but clearly under-performing employees of whom he is obviously fond and for whom he feels genuine appreciation.
2. Do not confuse investments with costs. Schultz was (and remains) a passionate advocate of frugality but eagerly made (and makes) substantial investments in people (e.g. generous benefits for part-time workers) and equipment (e.g. purchasing only the very best beans, state-of-art onsite brewers). Compromising quality to save money is never a “bargain.” On the contrary, the total cost of a so-called “bargain” is often prohibitive.
3. No matter what, always preserve and nourish your core business. For Starbucks, its core is the multi-sensory experience that offers a “third place” renowned for its hospitality, ambiance, indeed its panache. Offer, serve, and sell only what enhances each patron’s experience. Also, hire only those who will be evangelists as well as facilitators of that experience. There is no reason why where they work can’t be as enjoyable for them as it is for those whom they are privileged to serve.
With regard to the title of the book, it refers a process, not a destination. Schultz stepped down when he thought the company could continue to improve, returned when he realized that it hadn’t and couldn’t without him, and since then he makes certain that the process continues into an otherwise uncertain future.
This is among the most entertaining as well as informative accounts by a CEO that I have read thus far, worthy of inclusion with those written by Alfred Sloan, Andrew Grove, Sam Walton, John Whitehead, Jack Welch, and more recently, Danny Meyer and Chip Conley.
Thank you, Howard Schultz, for the pleasure of your company!
Here is an excerpt of an article co-authred by Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee in which they discuss the results of a research study conducted by McKinsey & Company. To read the complete article, please click here.
* * *
Women have been a growing factor in the success of the US economy since the 1970s. Indeed, the additional productive power of women entering the workforce from 1970 until today accounts for about a quarter of current GDP. Still, the full potential of women in the workforce has yet to be tapped. As the US struggles to sustain historic GDP growth rates, it is critically important to bring more women into the workforce and fully deploy high-skill women to drive productivity improvement.
McKinsey & Company undertook this research over the past three months to understand how women contribute to the US economy; how their work benefits individual corporations; what prevents women from making greater contributions to their companies; and what approaches can help companies unlock the full potential of women.
Creating the conditions to unlock the full potential of women and achieve our economic goals is a complex and difficult challenge. At a macro level, there is significant potential to raise the labor participation rates of women across the country. At a corporate level, where many high-skill women are employed, the opportunity is to continue to advance women into leadership positions where they can make the greatest contributions. Despite the sincere efforts of major corporations, the proportion of women falls quickly as you look higher in the corporate hierarchy. Overall, this picture has not improved for years.
We believe, however, that there is an opportunity to make substantial progress in developing and advancing women on the path to leadership. Companies have become very good at recruiting women—many major corporations recruit their “fair share” or more of women. Moreover, many companies have introduced structural mechanisms such parental leaves, part-time policies and travel-reducing technologies to help women stay the course. While the many barriers that remain are substantial, interventions at critical career points can have outsized impact.
For example, with a focus on middle management to increase the number of women who advance to the vice-presidential level, corporations could substantially improve the odds of achieving real gender diversity in top management. We found that more women in middle management roles are focused on leading than their colleagues at the entry level. And they have already demonstrated enough to advance and acquire managerial skills. Moreover, many are younger women with relatively light work/family concerns. If companies can win their loyalty at this stage of their careers, they will be more likely to stay the course. These women are ours to lose.
* * *
If the US is to achieve a level of economic growth to sustain or improve living standards, and if US-based corporations are to remain globally competitive, we can no longer simply have good intentions about gender diversity. Now, we need good results.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Joanna Barsh is a director in McKinsey’s New York office and Lareina Yee is a principal in the San Francisco office.