The Pursuit of Mediocrity

“Today, even critical books about ideas are expected to be prescriptive, to conclude with simple, step-by-step solutions to whatever crisis they discuss. Reading itself is becoming a way out of thinking.”

William Henry wrote this in 1994 in his book, In Defense of Elitism. I have to report that he was accurate but may have miscalculated how quickly and, to what extent, this has taken hold in society. One only has to see the headlines in once-respected newspapers and magazines or take in the astonishing range of poorly written blogs or view scrolling tweets of perpetuating nonsense to conclude that we are losing the ability to search for, develop, and discover knowledge. This morning I was greeted with the following headlines from various sources “7 Things You Need to Know About …”, “13 Do’s and Don’ts of …”, “The 9 Most Common …”, “Top 10 Tips for …”, “5 Ways to …”. Read more

‘Top-Drawer’ Business Books 2011

Books are highly subjective – what appeals to some may not appeal to others. Business books specifically tend to resonate best when they address a pressing issue or interest and when they provide inspiration. In previous years, I have contributed lists of the “best” business and marketing books. I have assembled my own and conducted podcasts to share them. Those opportunities were cool but I was never completely comfortable labeling any book “best”.

So I opt to call my selections ‘Top-Drawer’. This slightly tongue-in-cheek honor is meant to describe books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. Life is too short to drink cheap scotch – equally so there is precious little time to tolerate books that are not ‘Top-Drawer’. Thirteen make the list this year and are in no particular order. Enjoy and I look forward to feedback on the selections.

Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition by Stephen M. Shapiro

The author introduces a great premise … it’s time to innovate the way we innovate. Innovation tends to be episodic but Shapiro emphasizes the need to consistently produce fresh ideas and implement them with passion. He makes suggestions that are great in theory (a little harder in application but valuable) like hire people you don’t like, define challenges you want your employees to overcome, and create an environment that tolerates experimentation and failure. The bottom-line…reward success and failure equally, punish inactivity. Read more