The InfoPosse -- Inc's team of crack corporate librarians -- reports each month on what's good, bad, and ugly in the world of corporate information. The Posse's biographies appear at the end of this article.
FIELD GUIDES TO OPPORTUNITY SPOTTING: An entrepreneur is someone who recognizes an opportunity and grabs it. Many books and articles focus on the science of grabbing -- which we at Inc refer to politely as "company building." But far fewer address the art of recognition. That's one reason InfoPosse member Jean Mayhew was so pleased to discover The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty, by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan (Harvard Business School Press, 2000). "Starting from the premise that no market is so mature that you cannot further differentiate your offerings, the authors offer action-oriented, simple tools that help to assess opportunities for launching new products and entering new markets," says Mayhew. And those tools aren't just simple. They're also smart and unconventional, drawing upon the skills of cartographers and journalists, among others. Even better, the case studies of companies that have exploited markets plump with promise are fresh and actually worth studying. Consider Blyth Industries, which boosted sales from $3 million in 1982 to nearly $500 million in 1996 by exploiting a mature industry. How mature? More than 5,000 years old: Blyth Industries sells candles.
"Having an open mind means always exploring -- everywhere, all the time, and in multiple dimensions."
If opportunity spotting has an Audubon it might just be Gary Hoover. A former Wall Street analyst and retail executive, Hoover founded two rule-annihilating companies: Bookstop, which calls itself the nation's first book superstore chain; and Hoover's Online, which made getting information on companies and industries as convenient as a 7-Eleven burrito. His new book, Hoover's Vision: Original Thinking for Business Success (Texere, 2001), is "a guide to thinking about how we think," says Posse member Christine Klein. Hoover believes that "answers, solutions, and innovations are not where you expect to find them." Klein says that reading Hoover's Vision is "like having a conversation with an engaging and creative thinker who has realized visions of his own and inspires others to realize theirs."
UP WITH PEOPLE: "Social capital" sounds like the sort of thing Ben and Jerry would get behind if they ever got bored with the rain forest. In fact, the concept has nothing to do with doing good and everything to do with good management. Specifically, it is "the relationships that make organizations work effectively," according to " How to Invest in Social Capital," an article (copies of which are sold online for $6 each) in the June 2001 issue of Harvard Business Review that intrigued Posse member Genevieve Foskett. Authors Laurence Prusak and Don Cohen argue that relationships among employees and between employees and management are the mortar holding businesses together, and that companies should do whatever it takes to promote teamwork and morale. The idea that people are capital may be a touch off-putting, but the article's recommendations -- commit to retention and promotion from within, establish rules that encourage cooperation, give employees reason to trust management -- are anything but.
"A growing number of workers in cosmetology offer specialized services. ... [One] group of specialists is estheticians, who cleanse and beautify the skin by giving facials, full-body treatments, and head and neck massages, and offer hair removal through waxing."
TAKE THIS JOB AND EXPLAIN IT: Remember when people kept advising you to hire a Webmaster, and you were too embarrassed to admit you wouldn't know a Webmaster if you tripped over one in broad daylight? Such ignorance is ever more common in this age of narrowing niches and increasing specialization. But now the professionally challenged have a place to turn: Occupational Outlook Handbook, a resource from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics that is available at www.bls.gov/ocohome.htm. Need to know what a boatswain does? Or a geodesist? Or an esthetician? The site, as Posse member Lisa Zwickey explains, describes "hundreds of careers in practically any sector you can imagine, with details on working conditions, required training, and ballpark salaries." The site is invaluable for HR professionals or for anyone who has to write job descriptions or is assembling a résumé. "And," Zwickey says, "you can always check out the job you have to see what you're supposed to be doing."
STRAIGHT TALK: This month's column is so saturated with Harvard publications it ought to be printed on crimson paper. But Posse member Lisa Guedea Carreño won't rest until readers know about Harvard Management Update, a 12-page monthly newsletter that does for business topics what Joy of Cooking does for recipes: it demystifies them. "I like publications that don't shy away from buzzwords but instead pin them down and extract genuine meaning from them," says Guedea Carreño.
HMU (from Harvard Business School Press) is dedicated to helping business leaders be more effective. Each issue contains four to six brief articles, a handful of recommendations for readings from other publications, and a guest column. Guedea Carreño has perused the newsletter and has seen topics ranging from scenario planning and profit patterns to affiliate marketing and gender issues at work. "HMU may not tell you everything you need to know about a subject, but it will tell you when a subject isn't worth knowing any more about. And with time at such a premium that may be the most valuable thing of all," she says.
A CRY OF DE-STRESS: Speaking of time, few things are as stressful as staring at a towering stack of books and journals you know you'll never get around to reading. You can learn to blow off some of that tension by browsing Calm at Work, by Paul Wilson (Plume, 1999), or Undress Your Stress: 30 Curiously Fun Ways to Take Off Tension, by Lois Levy (Sourcebooks, 1999). Foskett says that a whiff of silliness accompanies some of the authors' ideas, like doing yoga hip rolls at your workstation and taking "reflexology" breaks. But the books also offer good advice about time-management and family-work-balance issues. And Calm at Work intelligently recognizes that different kinds of pressures (deadlines, lack of control, workplace problems) produce different kinds of stress.
Add 'em to the pile.
InfoPosse members are Genevieve Foskett, corporate librarian at Highsmith Inc.; Lisa Guedea Carreño, library director at Goshen College; Christine Klein, director of knowledge and information management at LifeCare Inc.; Jean Mayhew, director of information and learning at United Technologies Research Center; and Lisa Zwickey, senior research specialist at J.J. Keller & Associates.
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