Book Smarts

How to Be a Fierce Competitor: What Winning Companies and Great Managers Do in Tough Times

by Jeffrey J. Fox Jossey-Bass, $19.95 (256 pages)

Fox (How to Become a Rainmaker) explores the best practices of fierce competitors and how they gain market share, seize opportunity, and win when the stakes are the highest. With multiple bulleted lists of key action items, he swiftly covers a wide array of timely topics, including why bad times are actually good times, the benefits of piling up cash in tough times, and being cautious while showing fearlessness. He also encourages executives to play relevant “what if” games, always have a plan, stay off magazine covers, and be obsessive about execution. Of particular value are the sections on employee relations, which offer counterintuitive actions that reap big rewards on reserved executive parking spots, unionization, nurturing those hired and acquired, pruning dead wood, and cutting out all bureaucracy. This concise book will give motivated managers and executives the guidance they need to successfully bring their organizations to the next level.—Publishers Weekly

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink Riverhead, $27.95 (272 pages)

According to Pink (A Whole New Mind), everything we think we know about what motivates us is wrong. He pits the latest scientific discoveries about the mind against the outmoded wisdom that claims people can only be motivated by the hope of gain and the fear of loss. Pink cites a dizzying number of studies revealing that “carrot and stick” can actually significantly reduce the ability of workers to produce creative solutions to problems. What motivates us once our basic survival needs are met is the ability to grow and develop, to realize our fullest potential. Case studies of Google’s “20 percent time” (in which employees work on projects of their choosing one full day each week) and Best Buy’s “Results Only Work Environment” (in which employees can work whenever and however they choose—as long as they meet specific goals) demonstrate growing endorsement for this approach. A series of appendixes include further reading and tips on applying this method to businesses, fitness, and child-rearing. Drawing on research in psychology, economics and sociology, Pink’s analysis—and new model—of motivation offers tremendous insight into our deepest nature.—Publishers Weekly