Friday, May 11, 2007

Booknote: Mavericks at Work

Taylor, William C. and Polly LaBarre. Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win. New York: William Morrow, 2006. ISBN: 0060779616.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Entrepreneurship, business leaders.

While I am not one to read business books on a regular basis, once in a while I will pick one up if it seems interesting. The title of this one seemed interesting, so I picked it up. Add to that the fact that I just like mavericks. Anyone can follow the party line, but it takes a special person to see beyond the ordinary. I think we could use a few more mavericks in our profession, and no, I don't just mean the usual technogurus. Those are not mavericks. In a way, they follow a certain party line with a fervor unmatched by few. I think we know a maverick when we see one. This book may help you know what to look for.

Throughout the book, I found myself making note of various passages because I thought there were a couple of things that libraries could consider. For example, some questions to ask in your organization:

"What ideas is your company fighting for? What values does your company stand for? What purpose does your company serve?" (12).

Replace the word "company" for "library," and I think it opens the possibility for some interesting conversations. Needless to say, if you can't even give a tentative answer to those questions, then you really need to sit down and think things over.

Then there is the observation about the language of the workplace. I think I recall reading a while back something about language in our profession. (I'll have to see if I find it again. It was something along the lines of using different words in discussing information literacy). Anyways, the authors discuss how mavericks create their own vocabulary.

"One sign that a company is pursuing a truly original competitive strategy is that it has created its own vocabulary. Not buzzwords, acronyms, and the other verbal detritus of business-as-usual, but an authentically homegrown language that captures how a company competes, how its people work, why it expects to succeed, and what it means to win" (39).

As I look at that, I see that also involves an element of assessment. They don't call it that, but when they ask what it means to win, it means what indicates that we have been successful. How do we know? I am not about to put something like "Grand Poo Bah of Instruction" on my business card, but how we say things, how we express ourselves is important as well.

The book combines looks at various maverick businesses and organizations with advice and ideas on how to compete as a maverick. The advice often takes the form of question and answer sections. The book also features an appendix with an annotated reading list where the authors highlight other books and materials for further reading. For business readers, this may be a book to pick up. For me, it was just ok overall.

No comments: