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Featured Books

Shaping the Adaptive
Organization: Landscapes,
Learning and Leadership in
Volatile Times

Change Management for
Information Services

eBrands: Building an Internet
Business at Breakneck Speed

Total Exposure: Controlling
Your Company's Image in the
Glare of the Business Media
Explosion







Recommended Reading

ONLINE, July 2000
Copyright © 2000 Information Today, Inc.

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This issue's column offers four books to help you lead your organization into a new future--whatever that future might be. The books examine how to manage change and create a learning organization--designing an organization with the flexibility to quickly adapt to future situations. They also cover how to manage your image, whether it's marketing your products and services or your organization as a whole.

* * *

Shaping the Adaptive Organization:
Landscapes, Learning and Leadership in Volatile Times

by William E. Fulmer

ISBN: 0-8144-0546-0; Published: 2000
Pages: 294; hardcover; Price: $29.95
Available from: AMACOM, American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 212/903-8315; http://www.amanet.org.

There are a number of business books that compare biological organisms and businesses, evolution and business development, but this one takes it one step further and looks at complex adaptive systems as a more accurate model for today's businesses. The author draws upon years of business analysis and uses examples from leading high technology companies to develop his principles.

The first part of the book focuses on the scientific models, and clearly explains how business behavior should be thought of as a collection of adaptations, alliances, and rule-following. In essence, complex adaptive systems are composed of agents (an individual, a division, or an entire company), and agents follow a known set of behavior patterns. However, their own actions and reactions to other agents and external environmental stimuli may change the set of rules, or their response to them. Thus the system depends on prediction, feedback, and adaptability.

The second part of the book talks about the landscape in which your organization operates. As with biological organisms, a flat landscape results in great predictability and slow evolution. Today's landscapes are full of peaks, requiring faster response and greater adaptability. The uncertainty principle applies, and those organizations that best "fit" their landscape will thrive.

The learning part of the three Ls (see the title) is explained in part three. The author suggests that a successful organization is continually learning and sharing that learning through all levels of the company. A strong information infrastructure facilitates this learning behavior.

The last part of the book talks about leadership, and how you can help your organization become more adaptive. The key concept seems to be developing an organization that thrives on change and is comfortable with constant innovation.

Information facilitates a learning and adaptive organization. Information professionals and executives should read this book to learn how to see their role in a new light and help their organization succeed in today's rugged environment.

* * *

Change Management for Information Services
by Sharon Penfold

ISBN: 1857392817; Published: 1999
Pages: 205; hardcover; Price: 35.00
Available from: Available from Bowker-Saur, Windsor Court, East Grinstead House, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1XA, UK; +44(0)1342 326972;
http://www.bowker-saur.co.uk.

If you have trouble applying general business books to a library environment, this is the book for you. Drawing upon an extensive list of references (included in the Appendix), the author puts the general theories of change management and business adaptability into a more familiar setting.

The first three chapters of the book set the stage, describing the current status of the information profession, the "Information Age", and knowledge management. The author tries to note the differing perspectives of who should manage the information flow within an organization, between business, technical, political, and skill level considerations. The fourth chapter summarizes the current information environment and calls upon the reader to identify his/her own place within this quagmire.

The next chapter highlights the implications for information professionals, drawing from the list of competencies developed by SLA. This is basically a set of desirable skills and attitudes that the information professional needs to develop to lead a changing organization.

There is only one chapter that focuses on change management theory, which is not enough if you have no background in this area. However, there are several books listed in the appendix to provide you with further information. Finally, the last few chapters tell you how to implement change management, and provide some real life examples. This is a fairly practical section, with a specific framework suggested for starting the change process in your own organization.

We all know change is everywhere. Read this book to help determine how to manage the change in your environment rather than simply react to it.

* * * *

eBrands: Building an Internet Business at Breakneck Speed
by Phil Carpenter

ISBN: 0-87584-929-6; Published: 2000
Pages: 256; softcover; Price: $25.95
Available from: Available from Harvard Business School Press, 300 North Beacon Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617/783-7410; http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu.

Branding is an important concept whenever consumers are faced with many choices. Thus, in an online environment when a brand is all you have, the ability to differentiate your service from others and to build a loyal customer base becomes paramount. This is true whether you are an information producer, an information intermediary, or a manager of information for an organization supplying a product or service.

The author of this book has several years of experience in marketing Internet companies, such as PointCast and RemarQ. He uses this knowledge to dissect the marketing strategies of six very well-known Internet companies: iVillage, CDNOW, Barnesandnoble.com, Yahoo!, Fogdog Sports, and Onsale. For each company, he focuses on what they are doing right and why, as well as what they are doing wrong and how they could do better (in his very forthright opinion).

In particular, for each company he covers why it is "Best of Brand", the steps it took to build brand awareness, and how its strategy fits into the overall corporate strategy. He also includes a "chinks in the armor" section that points out major weaknesses, and an "on the horizon" section that highlights future trends, dangers, and opportunities.

What I particularly liked about this book is the author's insight into the how and why of the different strategies. This is not a collection of Internet success stories. Rather, it goes to the heart of the matter to help us understand why building a brand name is important, and gives some key lessons to help us increase our own marketing impact.

* * *

Total Exposure: Controlling Your Company's Image in the Glare of the Business Media Explosion
by Gustav Carlson

ISBN: 0-8144-0484-7; Published: 2000
Pages: 225; hardcover; Price: $27.95
Available from: Available from AMACOM, American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 212/903-8315; http://www.amanet.org.

Do you know the difference between marketing and public relations? The contrast between eBrands and this book is striking. While name recognition is key in brand marketing, getting your message across in the appropriate way and time is the focus of this book.

The author draws upon many examples of media exposé (such as the Intel Pentium chip, the TWA crash, etc.) to point out why you need to have a media strategy within your organization. The first part of the book highlights the difference in media today--the speed of breaking a story, 24/7 news, and a low level of reporter talent and ethics--from the more respected institution of the past. This is to heighten your awareness of just how quickly things can go wrong.

The second part of the book is more practical. Here the author gives suggestions for what you can do to control your media image. He suggests hiring an outside online monitoring company to watch for company mentions in newsgroups, chat rooms, etc, as well as the traditional clipping services. (No mention of a library, for such services!) He also provides guidelines for choosing your company spokesperson, and providing media training to help he or she more effectively communicate the corporate message.

Although many of the examples focus on the financial community (the author was formerly with PaineWebber), the lessons are universal. As information professionals take over the role of knowledge management, an understanding of all aspects of information related to the organization is vital. This book may help heighten your awareness of the role of media communications within the corpus of an overall corporate information strategy.


Deborah Lynne Wiley (deb@consultnw.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.

Comments? Email letters to the Editor to editor@infotoday.com.

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