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by Alan Hargreaves

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Alan's Bookshelf


The Big Book of Small Business

4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Andrew Griffiths, Allen & Unwin, 2011, 368pp, RRP$35

I first picked up an Andrew Griffiths book five years ago in tropical north Queensland. It was the only business book in the Port Douglas bookshop.

I know. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs. Instead of snorkelling and parasailing, I was in a bookshop, not even browsing the thriller section. Instead I was thumbing my way through a management text.

My wife, appalled, thought this behaviour uncool. My teenage daughter said it was not fully like wow.

In truth, I had just finished an Ian Rankin thriller. I was pretty relaxed, my head was clear and I was up for some ideas.

I got some in Griffiths’ 101 Ways to Build a Winning Business.

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3.5 out of 5 stars.

by Michael Lewis, Allen Lane, UK, 2011, RRP $40

Michael Lewis’ earlier book, The Big Short, was a widely acclaimed, definitive book on the sub-prime crisis and everything that followed.

It achieved that status not by telling the story from the heart of Wall Street. Rather he worked his way in via the actions of smaller players far from the financial epicenter.

That gave the work a context with which anyone could identify. It led readers gently into the complexity of what turned out to be a monumental scam. The world is still paying for that, along with the shenanigans of the countries visited in Boomerang, his latest book.

Lewis likes a good financial disaster. He is a crafty and at times eloquent writer. He gives you a point-blank view of what happened at the coalface.

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4 out of 5 stars.

by Henry Mintzberg, Prentice Hall, UK, 2011, RRP $24.95

“One damn thing after another.” For many a manager, that tidily sums up what they do.

It’s a quote from one of twenty-nine managers Henry Mintzberg studied in putting this book together. It’s simple title: Managing.

As pithy as that quote might sound, it will ring a realistic bell with a lot of people. Strategy, analysis and leadership models play a big role in business theories.

But in reality, it’s day-to-day action that defines their job. It’s also at the core of the author’s critique of management theory and practice.

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Great by Choice

4 out of 5 stars.

by Jim Collins and Morten T Hansen, Random House, RRP $45

Here we go again. Another management blockbuster from the Jim Collins camp. Few business writers have sold as many books as Collins. The titles are almost biblical: Built to Last; Good to Great; How the Mighty Fall. The sales are of a similar proportion. Good to Great has done over four millions copies to date.

So it’s no surprise that this is a good read. You don’t sell that many books if your prose is turgid. This is not like struggling through The Odyssey and The Iliad.

The messages, though, are somewhat the same: the struggle against the odds, the persistence despite adversity and ultimately, the triumph – in this case, a decent share price.

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The Black Swan (Second Edition)

4 out of 5 stars.

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Penguin 2010, $29.95

If you are not familiar with Taleb’s work, the central theme is simple: we don’t know what we don’t know.

All swans were considered white for a few thousand years before black ones were discovered in Western Australia in the 18th century. That’s the analogy behind the title.

The first edition firmly placed the term in the risk analysis lexicon. In this second edition, a 70 page addendum looks at what we can do about unpredictable events.

It’s still a book of mixed emotions. The practical suggestions are a touch disappointing compared with the robust, and at times uplifting, critique of modern risk analysis.

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