Saturday, May 12, 2007

Virtuoso Teams: Some Summer Reading

Summer, with all of its joys, is one of the great periods of the year where I can "squander" time on reading things that I normally wouldn't be able to devote sufficent time to. Few moments are as relaxing as being on the rocks along Italy's Ligurian coast, or the beaches of North Carolina, with a bag of books and not much else to do! Last summer, a British magazine entitled MBA Business asked me to share some thoughts on my recommendations for summer reading. I was fresh from the Virtuoso Teams project and recommended three great reads, which I think are still are a sure bet for both leisure and learning:

Last Place on Earth [UK publisher: Abacus, 2000], by Roland Huntford – The race to the South Pole in 1911 by Roald Amundsen’s small team of virtuoso performers against Robert Falcon Scott’s much better-endowed and bigger-branded organization, and the story of how they won, provides a host of insights into how to build a great team and then employ knowledge as a competitive advantage. This book is as much about leadership and team-building as any book on a business shelf, and much more enjoyable reading!

I’ve long thought that jazz groups are the perfect metaphor for project teams, and no one ran a jazz group better than Miles Davis. Despite being vilified as the “Prince of Darkness” for his personal ideosyncracities, Davis nonetheless revolutionized his business in three successive decades, with different teams. John Szwed’s biography, So What [UK publisher: Arrow, 2003], provides ample evidence of Davis’ leadership genius in a style that grooves to the music that Davis did so much to create.

A whole new generation of viewers have come to know Edward R. Murrow through the recent George Clooney-directed movie Good Night, and Good Luck, which chronicles Murrow’s principled-stand against the tyranny of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Red-hunting excesses. This alone should merit the attention of all of us, as it speaks directly to the centrality of personal values in the business world. Murrow’s other remarkable contribution to business, however, came in the creation of the modern broadcasting industry, and the redefinition of the organizational attributes necessary for timely global coverage and informed reporting. Veteran American broadcaster Bob Edwards has recently written a compact yet comprehensive book on Murrow and his work: Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism [John Wiley, 2004].

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