Magazine article Management Today

Books: The Unsung Business Heroes

Magazine article Management Today

Books: The Unsung Business Heroes

Article excerpt

It's not just Silicon Valley firms that should be lauded. This book analyses other innovative companies, which start-ups could learn a lot from, says Cameron Stevens

Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways

William C Taylor

Portfolio Penguin, pounds 14.99

Business literature usually holds up the super-creative, super-growth tech firms of Silicon Valley as examples of best practice, where plucky young entrepreneurs dream up radical new business models and where employees nap, do their laundry and get a massage without leaving the comfort of their office. It's obsessed with the 'new economy' - the Googles, the Amazons and the Apples.

Not so in Simply Brilliant, the latest book from Fast Company founder William C Taylor. It draws insights from lesser-known but highly successful organisations, from the Indian Health Service in Anchorage, Alaska, to Lincoln Electric in Ohio, a globally successful producer of welding equipment founded in 1895. Taylor spent long days touring factories, visiting retail outlets and sitting in on meetings at 15 organisations - all from different fields and with wildly different histories - to discover the traits of companies that do ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

He consciously avoids his comfort zone of tech, travelling thousands of miles to find uncelebrated companies that demonstrate a way of doing business that is genuinely remarkable; from a car park that also serves as a wedding venue to a military insurance company that puts salespeople through simulated overseas development. 'The thrill of breakthrough creativity and breakaway performance doesn't just belong to the youngest companies with the most cutting-edge technology,' he says. 'It can be summoned in all sorts of industries and all walks of life, if leaders can reimagine what's possible in their fields.'

Being good at what you do is no longer enough, states Taylor early on in the book. Average is 'over' and you must be the only one doing what you do. In a business climate defined by globalisation and constant breakthroughs, this is increasingly relevant.

Taylor draws on the example of Metro Bank, one of the buzziest financial services brands in the UK, attracting more than pounds 1bn in capital from some of the world's best-known investors. Metro Bank locations are open 362 days per year and it vows that new customers can walk into a branch, open an account, and leave with a working debit card and full access to online banking within 15 minutes. …

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