The InfoPosse -- Inc's team of crack corporate librarians -- reports each month on what's notable in the world of corporate information.
The Greatest Stories Ever Told (Last Year Anyway): Most journalism aims at currency, but great journalism strives for understanding. That is especially true of business journalism, which -- at its best -- limns both the outsize frailties of men and the hidden drama of numbers. In The Best Business Stories of the Year: 2002 Edition (Vintage Books), editors Andrew Leckey and Ken Auletta have assembled 27 articles that explicate this often-opaque subject with zest and insight. Some stories feel big and important (like Paul Krugman's trademark-lucid warnings about the economic perils of fear and Wil S. Hylton's disturbing revelations about corporate ownership of genetic material). Others -- like Mark Leibovich's politically incorrect profile of Larry Ellison and Malcolm Gladwell's quirky biography of Ron Popeil -- simultaneously enrich and demystify the business world by observing the strange creatures that inhabit it. Sources for the stories are varied (such usual suspects as Fortune, Forbes, and Business Week appear cheek by jowl with The New Yorker, Mother Jones, and Harper's), and "the subjects are varied too," says InfoPosse member Lisa Zwickey. "All but two of the articles came out between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, but the book isn't just tales from the Internet bubble. Let's hope the 2003 edition shows the same restraint with corporate accounting."
" 'Oh, well, the reason we're doing software here at Oracle is because someday children will use this software, and we wouldn't want to leave a single child behind. If I could just make the world a better place, what I really care about is making the world a better place, and that's why I'm doing this.... ' At which point [Larry Ellison] gags himself again."
And Now for Something a Little Bit Different: A CIA operative who is assigned to read Soviet newspapers during the Cold War notices that a perennially losing soccer team in a small town suddenly starts winning all its matches. Curious, he asks for detailed photos of the area. Close scrutiny reveals a secret nuclear-weapons plant: the steady infusion of workers, it turns out, has been boosting the team's talent pool. While it would be comforting to think that today's intelligence community is similarly on the ball, that's not the point being made by Bradley Hoyt in his article "Early Warning: The Art of Inference" in the January/February 2002 issue of Competitive Intelligence Magazine. Hoyt's message is for business leaders, and it is this: seismic change often creeps in on little cat's feet, and the best way to spot it is to constantly scan for anomalies. Strategists, he insists, must learn both how to look (spotting change is a largely visual process) and where to look (early indications of change come not from within our companies or our industries but from the world at large -- your local Hallmark store is a good place to start). They must then learn to weave their observations into inferences on which they can act. "Hoyt lays out a system for detecting anomalies that can be adapted for any company that's serious about competitive intelligence," says InfoPosse member Christine Klein.
The Learning Point: Books cost money. Magazine subscriptions cost money. Seminars and postgraduate-level courses cost money. What's a cash-strapped, continuous-learning-starved executive to do? Well, for starters she can check out the CEO Refresher ( www.refresher.com/ceo.html), a collection of several dozen articles (with another 750 marking time in the archives) on subjects ranging from corporate boards to alliances to leadership lessons of the U.S. Marine Corps. The quality of the material is inconsistent, but there's good, concrete advice on subjects both basic (calculating market share, for example) and advanced (exporting goods to Germany), says InfoPosse member Genevieve Foskett. "There are also extensive reviews of business books, a list of upcoming conferences devoted to everything from the experience economy to good partnering, and links to other business sites," she says. "So if you're not satisfied with the articles provided here, you know where you can go pay for something better."
The InfoPosse members are Genevieve Foskett, corporate librarian at Highsmith Inc.; Lisa Guedea CarreÑo, library director at Goshen College; Christine Klein, a corporate librarian with more than a dozen years of experience; and Lisa A. Zwickey, senior research specialist at J.J. Keller & Associates.
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