Saturday 16 December 2017

Some nice yarns but not many business insights

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Angel Cabrera's and Gregory Unruh's book, despite its premise that it will teach readers to "think, act and lead" in a "transformed world", is ultimately unfulfilling and falls short of its aim.

Cabrera and Unruh -- the president and a professor respectively at the prestigious US-based Thunderbird School of Global Management -- say at the beginning of their book how they'll delve into examples of global leaders who succeeded because they embraced local complexities of foreign markets and took time to understand how to best approach doing business in those geographies.

But too often those supposed insights are largely nothing more than ho-hum yarns that fail to really provide any meaningful revelations.

They relate the example of Toyota management from Japan when they first arrived at a manufacturing plant in the US. They were prone to directing tantrums at workers who may not have carried out specific tasks as had been directed.

The US plant manager had a quiet word and the Japanese executives subsequently softened their tone and worked better with the factory employees. Hardly earth-shattering.

The authors continually tell us that the world needs global leaders. But the book appears to have a closed circulatory system. The same ideas and notions appear to be recycled throughout.

There are also the somewhat gushing mentions of Barbara Barrett, wife of former Intel boss Craig Barrett. Without doubt, she has achieved much. A former US ambassador to Finland, she's also an entrepreneur and has had a varied business life. She's also a "devoted friend" to the authors.

"Time spent with Barrett is not networking," they say. "It is meeting with a friend." She and her husband are also donors to the Thunderbird Institute.

She's extolled as a global leader and thinker. Intel also gets a chunky mention related to its positive experiences in Costa Rica, where it has a plant.

"Being global -- by leading and acting globally -- requires that you first master the ability to think globally," the authors say.

You probably don't need this book to tell you that.

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