The Three Big Ideas in 2004

By Paul B. Brown  |  Posted 12-01-2004
Juice: The Creative Fuel that Drives World-Class Inventors
By Evan I. Schwartz
Harvard Business School Press, Aug. 2004 224 pages, $24.95

IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results
By Peter Weill and Jeanne W. Ross
Harvard Business School Press, May 2004 320 pages, $35

Seeing What's Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change
By Clayton M. Christensen, Scott D. Anthony and Erik A. Roth
Harvard Business School Press, Sept. 2004 352 pages, $29.95

Stretch! How Great Companies Grow in Good Times and Bad
By Graeme K. Deans and Fritz Kroeger
John Wiley & Sons, Dec. 2003 272 pages, $29.95

The Business of Software: What Every Manager, Programmer, and Entrepreneur Must Know to Thrive and Survive in Good Times and Bad
By Michael A. Cusumano
Free Press, March 2004 352 pages, $28

Heads Up
By Kenneth G. McGee
Harvard business school press, april 2004 245 pages, $29.95

One of your New Year's resolutions will no doubt be to keep up with everything that will be published in 2005. Good for you. But before looking for new titles, make sure you have learned all you can from the books published this year.
With that in mind, here's a quick look back at what you may have missed this year. The best books addressed three big ideas.

No. 1: Growth is always possible. In Stretch!, A.T. Kearney consultants Graeme K. Deans and Fritz Kroeger point out that no matter what is going on in the economy, or in your industry, there is always at least one company that is growing—and if it isn't yours, you're losing ground. They outline how various parts of your company—operations, strategy and even organizational structure—can contribute to growth. But the key, as Evan I. Schwartz argued in Juice, is to take advantage of the creative fuel that drives world-class inventors: Make a commitment to growing the top line, rather than focusing exclusively on how to cut costs.

No. 2: Execution remains vital. Commitment to growth is one thing. Getting it done is another. In fact, the most important decision you may ever make, contends Michael A. Cusumano in The Business of Software, is determining how you want to do business. In other words, strategy is useless unless you have the organization to execute it.
And no matter how you set up your organization, say Peter Weill and Jeanne W. Ross, the IT department needs to be thoroughly integrated within the corporate structure. In IT Governance, they argue for managing IT holistically, so that it is linked not only to overall corporate objectives, but also to the operating divisions it is designed to aid.

No. 3: You can control the future. In Seeing What's Next, Clayton M. Christensen, Scott D. Anthony and Erik A. Roth demonstrate that it's precisely because the future is unknowable that you need a framework to help you think about it. And if you want to create such a framework, Kenneth G. McGee's Heads Up offers an excellent starting template: Capture changes in relevant information; analyze what those changes mean; give the analysis to the right people; and have the organization act. If you follow this strategy, you not only anticipate surprises, you will be prepared to benefit from them.
Let's see: Commit to growth. Execute in all levels of the organization and be ready to adapt. Sounds like a winning plan.

Paul B. Brown is the author of numerous business books including the international bestseller Customers for Life (written with Carl Sewell), published by Doubleday.