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INNOVATE

Why Some Bureaucracy Is Good for Business
 

A Skimmer's Guide to The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan.

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The book: The Org: The Under­lying Logic of the Office, by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan.

The big idea: Organizations work the way they do for a reason. Accepted signifiers of office dysfunction, such as endless meetings and rigid policies, are often the result of necessary tradeoffs between such factors as innovation and coordination. Understanding those tradeoffs can help leaders make decisions as their companies scale.

The backstory: Fisman is a professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School. His last book, Economic Gangsters, was about the corruption that prevents economic aid from reaching the world's poor.

If you read nothing else: Chapter Five wipes some of the luster from creative types while polishing the reputations of the much-maligned suits who oversee them. Among other cases, it cites a study of video-game companies that attribute far more revenue to the work of project managers than designers. Chapter Six reassures leaders that their meeting-packed schedules are good for the company, because that's where CEOs gather information and cut through the spin that managers embed in one-on-one conversations and reports.

Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). The Org effortlessly blends the history of management theory with current best practices. Though the authors cite mostly secondary sources, they display a comprehensive grasp of academic literature and the popular business press.

IMAGE: Kelly Kollar
Last updated: Dec 5, 2012

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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