January 30, 2008

Book Review - Mavericks at Work

Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win
William C. Taylor & Polly LaBarre
HD 38.25 .U6 T39 2006

Taylor and LaBarre conclude that because many businesses are downsizing, cutting back, or loosing ground in the market, "business as usual" is an untenable strategy. In its place, they argue that innovation and originality are the pathways to continued success. Organized into four parts, this book offer areas for business examination and possible reinvigoration. The authors suggest rethinking competition, reinventing innovation, reconnecting with customers, and redesigning work. Most importantly, however, they are clear from the beginning that each individual or company must define for itself what it means to be successful.

Book Review - Bioregional Assessments

Bioregional Assessments: Science at the Crossroads of Management and Policy
Edited by K. Norman Johnson, Frederick Swanson, Margaret Herring, and Sarah Greene
GE 310 .B56 1999

As demand grows and resources diminish, there is increasing conflict over the use, development, or protection of natural resources. This book offers a framework that can be used to assess these resources, both from a scientific point of view as well as a policy point of view, so that decisions about their use can be reached before conflicts develop. These authors suggest conducting bioregional assessments--they gather together knowledge about a region, its ecosystem, and its regional context and integrate it with a broad range of information about the social, economic, and environmental characteristics about the region as a whole. This research is then used as a basis for study, analysis, evaluation, and policy planning concerning this region and its resources.

After describing the bioregional assessment framework, this book analyzes the role that science has played in these decisions in the past and puts forward a model of how it should be included in future decisions. The bulk of this book consists of case studies and their corresponding reviews. Each ecosystem case presented here is discussed by presenting the bioregional assessment knowledge, then reviewing the issue from scientific, management, and policy perspectives respectively. Only when all three of these points of view are taken into consideration, the authors assert, should decisions be made and plans developed.

January 29, 2008

Book Review - Katrina: State of Emergency

Katrina: State of Emergency
HV 636 .L8 K37 2005

Through the voices of CNN reporters, this report chronicles the events of Hurricane Katrina beginning August 28, 2005 and its immediate aftermath. In addition to reporting the daily events and capturing them in images, this report captures important quotations by federal and local officials. While offering no analysis, this report strives to be an authoritative first-hand account of the storm and its devastating effects.

Book Review - Dream Manager

The Dream Manager
Matthew Kelly
HF 5549 .K3494 2007

This book is perhaps inappropriately titled. Instead of being a list of qualities that a perfect manager might possess, it is instead an analysis of what makes employees happy and productive. Kelly asserts that what motivates employees most is knowing that they are working toward fulfilling their personal dreams. When their work life and personal dreams become aligned, Kelly argues, the workplace becomes dynamic, collaborative, and wildly successful.

Book Review - The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court: An Essential History
Peter Charles Hoffer, Williamjames Hull Hoffer, and N.E.H. Hull
KF 8742 .Z9 H64 2007

Hoffer, Hoffer, and Hull offer this historical analysis of the Supreme Court because they believe that each new interpretation of historical events offers new understanding of past events and shifts the emphasis to reflect the history that lead to contemporary controversies. This study divides the history of the Supreme Court into three phases: the Heroic Courts, the Classical Courts, and the Modern Courts. Within these era, chapters address groups of decisions made during the period of each Chief Justice. Particular attention is paid to those decisions that paved the path toward the issues that are important today, cases that referenced precedents set by earlier courts, and issues that called into question the intention of the constitution and its framers. Any or all of the cases referenced here could certainly fill up their own monograph, but the authors goal was to use these case studies to show the role of the Court in the American political system without oversimplifying its often obscure work.

January 25, 2008

Book Review - Hell and High Water

Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
Joseph Romm
QC 981.8 .G56 R66 2007

Scientist and policy advocate Romm writes in order to alert readers about the imminent crisis that will result if American environmental and energy policies do not change. He asserts that the United States has ten years at most to make drastic reductions in its production of greenhouse gases. At the same time, he believes that is the role of the United States to persuade the rest of the world, particularly China and India, to do the same. Romm argues that the government spending and policies necessary to produce these sharp reductions have been blocked by conservatives who deny the warnings of scientists. This politically charged critique is grounded by references to scientific studies and government documents, but also includes references to news and other general interest materials for non-experts.

January 24, 2008

Book Review - Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Chip Heath and Dan Heath
HM 1033 .H43 2007

This book analyzes what makes new ideas catch on. From urban myths to television commercials that everyone seems to know, messages that "stick" share several characteristics. The Heath brothers have made the same observations from different perspectives--one looking at the behavior of businesses and organizations and the other looking at teaching and learning. Using numerous, often funny examples, five characteristics of sticky messages are identified. The Heaths conclude that sticky messages are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional. This book will be of interest to nearly everyone, but is particularly useful for professionals involved in advertising and all aspects of outreach.

January 23, 2008

Book Review - African American Environmental Thought

African American Environmental Thought: Foundations
Kimberly K. Smith
E 185.6 .S63 2007

While African American intellectuals such as W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and others are well known for their thinking on civil rights and American politics, Smith reveals in this book that they also have a considerable amount to contribute to the relationship of people to their environment. Emerging from discussions of scientific racism, slavery, and primitivism, Smith observes that ideas about freedom and equality in African American thought spill over to ideas about the relationship between humans and nature. Drawing on literature from the abolition movement through the Harlem renaissance, Smith brings to our attention African American ideas around owning and farming land to the politics and social conditions around urban development. This book is clearly an overview of a long-standing collection of ideas about nature and the environment that have been a part of African American thought, but one that has been previously unexplored by scholars. This opens up new avenues for consideration by American environmentalists.

Book Review - Something Really New

Something Really New: Three Simple Steps to Creating Truly Innovative Products
Denis J. Hauptly
HF 5415.153 .H38 2008

Hauptly takes the mystery out of creating products that have a lasting impact on the market. He discusses three avenues to innovation--novelty, appearance, and utility--but quickly concludes that only utility truly matters in a product's long-term market impact. The key to developing innovative products is to identify what they do, linking the product's basic functionality with many potential uses in daily life. Effective products, Hauptly argues, are those that make these tasks simple and efficient. This book is clearly written and full of examples of products that users will easily recognize from their own daily lives.

January 22, 2008

Book Review - Rivers and Floodplains

Rivers and Floodplains: Forms, Processes and Sedimentary Record
John S. Bridge
GB 1203.2 .B75 2003

Bridge uses a geological perspective in this textbook-like study of rivers and floodplains. After a quick overview of river systems and the origin of water, chapters in this book seem to follow the flow of water through the system. Bridge examines how water flows, how sediment is carried through the system, and what sorts of structures are formed once this sediment comes to rest. Half-way through this book, he turns his attention to floodplains, again contextualizing, before he details the flow of water along channels and floodplains and cross-floodplain movement mechanisms. The final two chapters take a systemic approach of river-floodplain systems, analyzing evolutionary processes within them and discussing the resulting fossil record. Detailed appendices demonstrate methods to measure and interpret the data used throughout this work. An extensive bibliography of research articles grounds this work in experimental literature and serves as a starting point for those interested in further research.

January 18, 2008

Book Review - A Journey into the Heroic Environment

A Journey into the Heroic Environment: A Personal Guide to Creating Great Customer TransActions Using Eight Universal Shared Values
3rd ed.
Rob Lebow
HF 5549.5 .J63 L43 2004

The premise of this book is that an individual's job satisfaction is entirely dependent on their work environment. Lebow believes that this environment is created by individuals who agree on definitions of a set of shared values. Beginning with the Golden Rule, Lebow explains how values are the backbone of how individuals "walk the talk" or behave toward one another. Throughout the book, Lebow describes the creation of the heroic environment as a process which involves understanding personal behavior, an individual's work style, they way someone thinks, and how this process is "tracked" by the individuals who participate in it. Lebow conveys his ides using storytelling, portraying the relationship of a mentor and mentee who share their understanding of the hero idea with each other and the readers.

January 17, 2008

Book Review - Bush, the Detainees, and the Constitution

Bush, the Detainees, and the Constitution: The Battle over Presidential Power in the War on Terror
Howard Ball
KF 5060 .B35 2007

Law school professor Howard Ball examines the legal issues that have arisen as a result of the War on Terror, beginning with court cases brought in 2004 and 2006 by detainees at Guantanamo, Ball dissects the legal arguments that set the human rights of the detainees against Bush's proclamation that only he has the authority to decide their fate and the actions taken by the Courts and Congress to assert their own authority. Ball asserts that the presidential administration has repeatedly taken actions that undercut both the letter and the spirit of the law by proposing new legislation, issuing presidential statements, and even redefining the detainees to change their legal status. Ball also argues that use of military force, the Patriot Act, and wiretapping programs, as well as Bush's claims to "state secrets privilege" have provided a context in which the outcome of these cases is subjected to more than purely legal scrutiny. Ball, unabashedly a critic of the Bush administration, concludes that it has undermined the protections of individuals under the law. He recognizes that in times of war, tension and conflict will always exist between the need for national security and those individuals who attack the nation. However, Ball challenges readers to look beyond the immediate conflict to the shift away from a "balance of power" structure within the United States government and the erosion of representative democracy that is occurring.

January 16, 2008

Book Review - The New American Workplace

The New American Workplace
James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III
HD 6957 .U6 O86 2006

O'Toole and Lawler have collaborated to produce this follow-up analysis to Work In America, which captured the essence of the American work environment three decades ago. Three themes organize this work. First, the authors look at the workplace itself, examining the nature of organizations, the work being done now, and the relationship of employers to employees. Second, the authors look at the effects on and consequences for American workers. This large section addresses the balance between work and life, job satisfaction, pressures to perform, how employees are compensated for work, training, and personal involvement in the workplace and in communities. Third, the authors discuss the future of American work, including decision points. Chapters discuss individuals, organizations, and public policy. This book will be of particular interest to those who do strategic and future planning and those who manage organizational change.

Book Review - Leading Change Toward Sustainability

Leading Change Toward Sustainability: A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society
Bob Doppelt
HC 79 .E5 D66 2003

Doppelt is primarily concerned with why some sustainability efforts fail and how this can be avoided. The first part of this book is concerned with describing both successful and unsuccessful sustainability programs. In the process, Doppelt provides a definition of sustainability and describes its implications in socioeconomic terms and consequences for organizations. The second part of the book addresses individual components of sustainability programs. Doppelt asserts that these are like building blocks. One must be accomplished before another. However, he arranges them in a "wheel," signifying that even in a successful program, it is always possible to repeat steps taken earlier to move to a "higher level" of sustainability. Primarily concerned with organizations, these steps often have to do with organizational mind-set, structures, communication, feedback, strategic vision, and guiding principles. He is clear that these may represent significant changes for many organization, explaining the high failure rate among organizations who implement sustainability initiatives. This book is well grounded in the sustainability literature as well as in the experiences of organizations.

January 15, 2008

Book Review - The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers
Phil Rosenzweig
HD 30.19 .R67 2007

This book is meant as a wake-up call and cautionary tale for businesses and organizations. His primary point is to caution managers about the halo effect. Essentially, when business is going well and the company is successful, managers conclude that they have a winning strategy. When business declines, they immediately conclude that the strategy must change. This overarching cautionary tale includes several others: that nearly all events have multiple, often interrelated causes or explanations, that not all research data is valid, and that a company's performance is not absolute, but is dependent on several often uncontrollable factors. Managers may not like this book because it is intended to be critical of their thinking, but it can help them to avoid these traps and to better understand the complex causes and effects that affect their business or organizational environment.

Book Review - The Big Red One

The Big Red One: America's Legendary 1st Inflantry Division from World War I to Desert Storm
James Scott Wheeler
UA 27.5 .W485 2007

Wheeler, himself a combat veteran, chronicles and analyzes the combat engagements and peacetime duties of the longest continuously serving division in the United States Army. The 1st Division was first to see combat and to achieve success during World War I. It was one of few divisions to survive intact between the wars and often led attacks during World War II, where it saw action in the major battles in the European and North African theaters. Although not deployed to Korea, the 1st Division fought extensively in Vietnam and again took a leading role in the liberation of Kuwait and peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo. Wheeler asserts that the 1st Division pioneered or practiced many of the strategies and innovations that are characteristic of today's Army. In the 1930's, the 1st Division was one of the first to train for amphibious warfare. By the end of World War II, it was successfully using Regimental Combat Teams and running night operations. Similarly in Vietnam, the 1st Division pioneered air-mobile operations. While this certainly is a history that focuses on this one proud unit, Wheeler's book is reflective of trends, innovations, and the trajectory of American military development over the past century.

January 14, 2008

Book Review - How Toyota Became #1

How Toyota Became #1: Leadership Lessons from the World's Greatest Car Company
David Magee
HD 9701 .J34 T6528 2007

Toyota enjoys a unique position within the automobile manufacturing industry. While some car makers are collapsing or struggling financially, Toyota is thriving. What are they doing so differently to make this happen? This book is filled with lessons, some of them just common sense, that have been implemented at Toyota contributing to its success. Some of these include getting rid of everything that does not add value, learning about the customer and focusing on their wants and needs, learning from past failures, favoring long-term strategies over short-term fixes, and practicing continuous improvement and always evolving.

January 11, 2008

Book Review - The Enemy of My Enemy

The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right
George Michael
HV 6432 .M52 2006

Michael posits that a collaboration between the racist extreme right in America and Europe with Islamic extremists in the Middle East is not as far fetched as it might seem initially. In spite of their origins from nearly opposite perspectives, Michael observes that they have developed similar critiques on American foreign policy, the media, and the modern world. He analyzes both movements, seeing to understand their appeal, and demonstrates how globalism and technological improvements have made interactions between the factions much easier. He particularly notes the stand that both groups have taken against the American political establishment and its war in Iraq. Both have publicly expressed admiration for Al Quaeda's attacks on 9/11, so Michael extrapolates that joining forces in opposition to the United States War on Terror is a possibility.

January 10, 2008

Book Review - Seeds for the Future

Seeds for the Future: The Impact of Genetically Modified Crops on the Environment
Jennifer A. Thomson
SB 123.57 .T494 2007

For years, scientists have been genetically modifying agricultural crops. Often, this has been done to increase resistance to pests, improve the nutritional profile, or enhance ripening qualities. Thomson, a microbiologist, examines how and why plants are genetically modified. She evaluates numerous "enhancements" that are made--insect resistance, pesticide tolerance, and decreased water requirements--and discusses the effects on the environment, the consequences for biodiversity, and what happens when genetic manipulations have unintended consequences. She also discusses the safety and ethical issues surrounding genetic modification in plants and suggests how these modifications could be used in the future.

Book Review - CIA and Congress

The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy
David M. Barrett
JK 468 .I6 B38 2005

Barrett hopes to clarify misunderstandings and false assumptions about the relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and Congress. While many people believe that the CIA is allowed to act nearly independently, Barrett proves that since its establishment, Congress has exercised a tremendous amount of oversight of the agency and has, in fact, pushed the CIA to expand its intelligence gathering and even spying activities against American adversaries. Barrett documents Congressional criticism of the CIA in its failure to anticipate Soviet weapons testing, space program advances, and expansion of Communist thought. This book, extensively researched and fascinating in its own right, provides historical background for American intelligence activities today.

January 9, 2008

Book Review - Military Reform

Military Reform: A Reference Handbook
Winslow T. Wheeler and Lawrence J. Korb
UA 23 .W4135 2007

Wheeler and Korb assert that as the United States military has shrunk in size, its equipment has become older and more expensive to maintain. Although they acknowledge recent military successes, they argue that if the United States faced a "competent foe," it would certainly loose. Wheeler and Korb overview the military reforms that were undertaken by Congress and at the Pentagon since the 1970's. Much of this is based on both author's personal experiences as civil servants working for the Defense Department, though a few citations are provided along the way. In the last of seven chapters, Wheeler attempts to define military reform, but does so primarily by defining what he believes it is not. Approximately half of the book's pages are devoted to reprinting four essays written by military officers or defense analysts for other venues, but which offer reform recommendations that contribute to Wheeler's definition of military reform. This book is of interest to all those within the Department of Defense, but it's basis in personal experience and opinion rather than research should be noted.

January 3, 2008

Book Review - Leadership Lessons from West Point

Leadership Lessons from West Point
edited by Doug Crandall
HD 57.7 .L4342 2007

Drawn from lessons that have emerged from developing leaders at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Crandall's book is intended to help guide leaders in all types of businesses and organizations. Current and past instructors at West Point offer insights on what leadership means to them and how they have observed it in action among their students and fellow soldiers with whom they have served. Crandall divides these lessons into three groups: how to develop leadership and values, leadership styles and situations in which leadership is called for, and how to use these lessons in leading organizations. While these lessons have been gleaned from a military context, their universality is evident through the focus on mission, self-development, and the value of communication.

Book Review - Peak

Peak: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow
Chip Conley
HF 5548.8 .C5955 2007

In a memoir about his own experience as a CEO, Conley combines business strategy with psychology. He asserts that particularly in times of crisis, effective businesses apply the idea behind Maslow's hierarchy of needs to their relationships with stakeholders. In the first part of his book, Conley explains the psychological theories developed by Maslow and shows how they relate to business situations. In the next three parts, he addresses interpretations of this theory as it relates to emploees, customers, and investors respectively. Finally, he summarizes his thoughts into actionable items and advocates that businesses search for success and through satisfaction and happiness of the individuals involved.

January 2, 2008

Book Review - General Walter Krueger

General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific War
Kevin C. Holzimmer
U 53 .K78 H65 2007

General Walter Krueger served under Douglas MacArthur in command of the Sixth U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater. Holzimmer echos MacArthur in calling Krueger as an outstanding leader at the operational level, one not given sufficient credit by military historians. Krueger has been ignored by historians largely because he avoided the media, left no diaries or memoirs detailing his efforts, and was considered by many who served close to him as rather abrasive. Using the opinions of his contemporaries and histories written about the Sixth Army, Holzimmer shows how Krueger's early career assignments prepared him uniquely to face the tenacious and flexible Japanese. He also articulates Krueger's philosophy and style of command, placing it in the context of his contemporaries and prevailing thought during World War II.

Book Review - New Geographies of the American West

New Geographies of the American West: Land Use and the Changing Patterns of Place
William R. Travis
HT 384 .U52 W48 2007

In this book, Travis posits that the western part of the United States is at a developmental turning point. Originally pursued as a frontier for American expansion and as a source of natural resources, the western United States is now experiencing urban sprawl and post-industrial development that is unrelated to its resources and landscapes. In some parts of the west, environmental resources have been preserved as public lands or national parks. As human habitats become increasingly dense, however, these preserved landscapes are of interest to developers, perhaps with little regard to biological diversity or ecological health. Travis argues that the development of the American west is still small compared with that in other regions of the country, providing an opportunity for future development to be guided in ways . This book follows Travis's own thoughts, guiding the reader through the past, present, and possible future of the development of the American west.