It's often hard to tell, when reading a book like this one, whether the authors have really hit on an important insight grounded in solid evidence and research, or instead invented a marketable idea and cherry-picked instances and examples that "prove" their point. Although perhaps the passage of time is the only way to tell for sure, I argue "Mavericks at Work" really has seized on something important. That makes this a valuable read, not only for current and wannabe-future business leaders, but for anyone who ... well ... works for a living.
William Taylor and Polly LaBarre argue that the real head-to-head competition in business today isn't process versus process, or even idea versus idea, but rather "values system versus values system." The business leaders who inspire them and who, they argue, are leading the way into the future, are the ones who have rethought the very idea of business, the market, and both internal and external collaboration. A big part of their book applies the model of open-source software and technology-development to the business, and describes how various corporations have harnessed technology and the world's intellectual resources to solve business problems.
But the technological angle is only part of what makes someone a "maverick at work." Another major focus of the book is on companies that have created an energetic and innovative corporate culture that truly inspires employees and delights customers. Herb Kelleher's Southwest Airlines is always the darling of this sort of analysis, but Taylor and LaBarre also introduce us to Commerce Bank in New York, Anthropologie, the GSD&M advertising agency, and others. These places, the authors argue, are changing what "work" means, and so creating not only customer and employee loyalty, but also (and therefore) business success.
The word *maverick* derives from Texan rancher and politician Sam Maverick, who allowed his unbranded cattle to roam semi-wild instead of branding them and penning them in fenced-in ranges. That sort of independent spirit describes the companies and business leaders profiled in this book. It remains to be seen whether theirs is the way of the future, but Taylor and LaBarre have made a solid (and energizing!) case that it is.