In this week's review of great business books: Why companies should start treating technology more like consumers do; and how to train yourself to focus. Also: a classic book on the soft side of change management.


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Inflection Point: How the Convergence of Cloud, Mobility, Apps, and Data Will Shape the Future of Business
Scott Stawski

Scott Stawski borrowed the title of his book from former Intel CEO Andy Grove, who described an inflection point as "a time in a life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change" for good or for ill.

An executive at Hewlett Packard, Stawski not surprisingly sees companies' current inflection point as technological. Specifically, he argues that cloud, mobility, software as a service, and data have joined forces to knock old business models off their footing and erect new ones.

But many companies ignore those changes and continue to buy software licenses and hardware that lock them into strategies headed for history's dustbin. In the process, they overspend on IT by 40%, the author estimates.

Stawski argues instead for a model in which a company's IT department becomes "a service broker of IT business enablers," much the way individuals use email, chat, and hundreds of apps without hosting servers in their basements. "Inflection Point" is instructive for entrepreneurs designing businesses based on this new relationship to technology.

If CEOs, CIOs and CFOs read it together, they may finally end up on the same page.


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One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness
Rasmus Hougaard with Jacqueline Carter and Gillian Coutts
Palgrave Macmillan

The monkey mind is a Buddhist term that describes capricious, distractible human consciousness. In One Second Ahead, Rasmus Hougaard explains how to cage those psychic primates through the practice of mindfulness: essentially clearing mental clutter and focusing full and clear on the matter at hand.

Mindfulness can also be described as trained attention, and Hougaard emphasizes that training--including self-training-is critical. (The book is based on the program taught by his Copenhagen-based consulting firm, The Potential Project, at engagements with companies like Accenture, Nike, and Google.)

One example gives the book its title: Hougaard worked with the manager of a financial services firm who agreed to participate in four months of intensive mindfulness training, including daily 10-minute practice sessions. When Hougaard asked him at the end of four months what he had gained, the manager replied "one second."

That second-used to step back, to consider, and to choose whether or not to react to an interruption-gave back to the manager a feeling of control over his overloaded life. In the newly robust mindfulness genre, One Second Ahead stands out for its practicality (lots of techniques and strategies--you can tell Hougaard's a teacher), and for its meta-message that success requires being mindful of your mindfulness.

Take one second and think about that.

And from the backlist:

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Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
William Bridges
DeCapo Lifelong Books (1991)

For decades William Bridges, president of an eponymous consulting firm, has been writing lucidly and insightfully about organizational and personal change. His people-centric approach distinguishes between external change-which in a business context might include new processes, job responsibilities, or leadership-and the internal "transitions" made by individuals as they adjust to those changes.

Perhaps Bridges' most profound advice for leaders is this "Never lose sight of the fact that it is not so much that you are starting something new but it is that you are stopping something old." Entrepreneurial leaders hungry for the next thing typically chafe at tradition and routine. But many employees cherish the old world and will need a psychologically soft landing in their bright new one.