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|VOLUME 26 • NUMBER 3 • MAY/JUNE 2002|
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.
we get inspired to innovate, learn to
test the usability of our Web sites, pick up some hints on e-business strategies,
and gain knowledge of international business resources.
Leading for Innovation and Organizing for Results
edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and Iain Somerville
Although you may get tired of reading the word innovation, this collection of essays, sponsored by the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, will help you understand the value of it and the ways to encourage it within your organization.
The book is divided into four parts: leading people who make innovation happen, creating an environment that encourages innovation, changing how you think about leadership and innovation, and the practice of innovation. Each section contains essays from a variety of authors; some present case studies from their own experience, others report on research or observations from consulting work or academia, and a few just present ideas or new ways to look at things.
In the first section, the authors focus on the problem of cultivating creativity and diversity in the workplace as the keys to innovation. My favorite essay in this part is by Marshall Goldsmith, who talks about how to change the behavior of successful people. This is crucial, as innovation needs to occur within a successful organization, and the usual traits that make a CEO successful tend to discourage innovation.
In the second section, creating an environment that encourages innovation, the authors are all in agreement that the culture of the organization must emphasize and nurture innovation, and somehow that message must be conveyed to every person in the organization. Part Three contains the essays that really make you think—challenging your notions of leadership and innovation. And the last section presents some examples of how innovation within various types of organizations has really made a difference. These case studies can help you see the practical results that can be achieved when you encourage and plan for innovation.
This book is aimed at leaders at all levels of an organization and will inspire you to really think about the ways you do business.
Usability Testing for Library Web Sites: A Hands-on Guide
by Elaina Norlin and CM! Winters
Most libraries collect all kinds of statistics on the number of users and the pages accessed on their Web sites, but never bother to check that the users are actually finding the information they seek. With this short and simple guide, put together by librarians from the University of Arizona and the University of Illinois at Chicago, you no longer have an excuse to put off the testing of your users.
The book begins with a short introduction to usability testing and why you want to do it. The authors then talk very briefly about the basics of good Web design—presumably to help you get a decent Web site up before you start testing. The next two chapters are the most useful in the book. They cover getting buy-in and planning for the Web usability testing. Having worked with a number of organizations to establish Web site effectiveness, I concur with the authors that getting buy-in for the whole idea is crucial to having anything useful happen with the data you are about to collect.
Although the brief description of how to conduct a usability study will probably be enough for those with some knowledge on the subject, or for those wanting just a quick and dirty study, some may need to look elsewhere for detailed guidance in the design and implementation of the usability test. The list of additional readings at the end of the book will help, but many good references are missing from it.
The last chapter
of the book walks you through a fictional example of a Web usability test
from start to finish, which serves as a summary of the rest of the book.
But since the entire book is only 69 pages long, I found this rather redundant,
as I think the space could have been better used to further develop some
issues barely mentioned. Still, this brief guide will help any organization
to conduct basic, low-budget usability testing of their Web sites.
Super Searchers Cover the World: The Online Secrets of International Business Researchers
by Mary Ellen Bates
Available from: CyberAge Books, 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 800/300-9868; 609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com
Yes, these "Super Searcher" books are addictive. Maybe that's why we are in this industry—for the love of the quest and knowledge on how to find things. It doesn't even matter if we are interested in that exact subject area right now, the techniques and tips are stored away for future use.
In this book, expert searcher Mary Ellen Bates conducted 15 interviews with super business researchers from around the world. Some of the difficulties of global research become clear right from the outset—the researchers chosen had to be able to converse in English, because that is the only language the author can understand. And in finding the researchers, one quickly realizes that it is not possible to be familiar with "global" resources. One becomes familiar with resources within a region or industry, and then develops contacts to help with questions pertaining to other parts of the globe. That's why choosing researchers from different countries is so important. The most useful information is often local or regional—nothing provides comprehensive coverage of "international" information.
I find it striking that the same questions can be asked 15 times and still be interesting. The author and the editor, Reva Basch, must take a lot of the credit for putting slightly different spins on the questions. And, of course, the interviewees seem to have so much information to share that there is always something unique to add. The range of resources available is staggering, which explains why nearly every interview stated that personal contacts are crucial. It is not always what you know, but who knows it.
All of the 216 resources mentioned are compiled in an appendix at the end of the book, with short descriptions and URLs. A handy index then helps you find who mentioned a particular resource.
My only complaint
about this book is that it was too broad in coverage. Perhaps we can look
forward to regional "Super Searcher" books in the future.
Internet Prophets: Enlightened E-Business Strategies for Every Budget
edited by Mary Diffley
342; softcover •
OK, the title of this book confused me. I was thinking I would hear from real people about e-business strategies for different size organizations and budgets. Instead, I met Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe—characters used to help differentiate the four levels of strategies presented. Eenie represents the low-end, do-it-yourself for as little money as possible strategy, and the scale goes up to Moe who is spending many thousands of dollars for his e-business strategies.
The book is aimed at those with little knowledge of the Web beyond using it, and basically provides links to Web sites and dot-com services to help organizations develop their e-business strategy, at the four different cost levels. Each chapter starts with a few pages describing an e-business concept, like digital delivery, affiliate marketing, or e-government, and then ends with a paragraph or two by each "prophet" describing a way for the concept to be implemented. The "strategies" primarily consist of describing a company on the Web that can implement that particular service for you, in the designated price range. Since it is rare that there is only one company that offers any given service, I wondered how the included companies were chosen.
The book is "supported" by a Web site [http://www.internetprophets.com] that does not appear to even follow the author's own advice. When I checked the site while writing this review, the first thing that caught my eye was an ad for this book saying, "Coming soon." Checking the publisher's Web site, I was assured the book was available. A link offering to "list your company" was a form that asked for credit card information, told me there is a fee for listings, but never actually mentioned the price. It does make one question the validity of anything in the book.
Still, since the main focus of the book is to provide you with Web-based services that can help you implement your own e-business strategy, the URLs that are provided are useful. I thought there was a handy appendix to the URLs listed, but it turns out that many of the URLs listed in the chapters are not included in this appendix. The book tries to cover too many topics and ends up doing justice to few. With so many books available on establishing true e-business strategies, I'd give this one a miss.
Deborah Lynne Wiley (email@example.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc.
Comments? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.