Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation
I have a shelf of business books. Some of them have even been read by me. The world of books is odd, in that there are more printed than sold and more sold than read. Many years ago, before the internet, when printed books were the goto form of books, I worked as a planner for a large book printer and binder. The figure banded about was that 60% of all the production was eventually recalled from shop stock and binned. I suggested, jovially, to the production manager one day, that we should put a skip at the end of the binding line and cut out the middle man. He wasn’t impressed.
Business books can be useful, dull, self-serving, or egotistical. The market is crowded and inevitably attracts a lot of ‘how I made my millions’ by people who forget to mention that their pluck, drive and amazing business acumen was given a healthy kick-start by inheriting a business, being part of a wealthy family, or having a well-connected relative who introduced them to the head of lending at a major bank.
Call me cynical, and yet it’s good to be aware that not everything is as it seems.
So then, which business book is being reviewed here?
One of my all time favourites: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by the much missed Douglas Adams.
But hey! I can hear people shouting. That’s not a business book!
Well, what is a business book? For me, it’s one that has valuable lessons which we can apply to business.
H2G2, as it’s known, is full of useful lessons. If you’ve not read it, here is the essence of it:
Arthur Dent is the sole survivor of the destruction of planet earth, thanks to the Vogon constructor fleet clearing the way for a new interstellar bypass. Pitched into the vagaries of an uncaring universe, with Ford Prefect as his guide, he navigates through ambiguity and scare, always craving a decent cup of tea. Which the galaxy steadfastly refuses to supply him with.
The book is witty, pacey and full of creative brio. It’s also the first of a trilogy of five books (Adams loved to poke fun at convention) and followed on from a ground breaking radio show.
In a poignant twist, I decided to write this piece and then noticed that the death was announced today of Stephen Moore, the talented actor who supplied the resonantly dour voice of Marvin, The Paranoid Android, in the radio and tv series. If you don’t know Marvin and his one liners then check him out.
I’m sure Douglas would laugh at H2G2 being referred to as a business book. It isn’t of course. In the way that a trilogy isn’t five books.
However, it is about resilience. We have to be resilient in business and deal with what is thrown at us. Arthur Dent has to make sense of his new world and survive, despite the lack of tea.
The book was written as a continuous stream of narrative, as Adams famously refused to plan it. He would sit and type whatever came into his head, creating a problem for his characters and then solving it. I think that’s an excellent metaphor for business.
We have to continue with our narrative and be creative to find solutions to issues. We can do some planning, never a bad thing, but we have to react and face the reality of our situation.
When the business Earth of our lives is destroyed by the Vogons (unpleasant creatures with a fondness for excruciating poetry) we have to deal with it.
Are there Vogons about, creating mischief? Perhaps there are …the banks are too big to fail (leading to handsome bailouts in the last recession), dotcoms are more powerful than many countries and Brexit is going to reshape the business landscape. Our business narrative flows before us and we can embrace these things and find ways to be resilient.
Any book that we read and enjoy and find inspiration in is a better business book than one sitting on the shelf gathering dust. We can all draw useful lessons, that serve us well, from a wide range of resources.
Which books inspire you in the world of business? Winnie the Pooh, maybe? A classic.
This week, have fun searching for the perfect cup of tea and pondering what resilience means to you and your business. The Vogons may be just around the corner.
Next week: USP Or Bust
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