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Mavericks At Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win [Paperback]

William Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 18 2007

Business as usual is a bust . . .

In industry after industry, organizations that were once dismissed as upstarts, wildcards—mavericks—are making serious waves and growing fast. From high-profile innovators such as HBO and Google to funky sandwich shop chains, the truly imaginative and unconventional businesses are changing the way things are done—providing new approaches, strategies, and outlooks, as well as better ways to compete, lead, and succeed in the twenty-first century.

The first book to document this change, Mavericks at Work is business "edutainment" for a smart, ambitious readership, profiling some of the most exciting—and often eccentric—CEOs in the United States, while detailing their remarkable strategies for success

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A collection of case studies featuring the same formulaic ebullience endemic to business books since blurber Tom Peters' seminal work In Search of Excellence, this reader from FastCompany magazine cofounder Taylor and influential business writer LaBarre profiles some of the more interesting companies doing business today: Cirque de Soleil, Commerce Bank, Pixar, Anthropologie, Southwest Airlines, Jones Soda, Apple Computer and Craigslist among them. Such companies may have disparate cultures, but what unites them is originality, self-knowledge and passion. Whether by remaining small, recruiting zealously, or functioning like a kind of cult, such businesses succeed by imbuing the corporate rank and file with an entrepreneur's vision, avoiding the twin vices of mediocrity and complacency. Conversational but rigorous, Taylor and Labarre's chipper exploration of imagination at work holds value for novice and journeyman business leaders.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Although the title sounds like a self-help guide to the dysfunctionally employed, the aim of this book is actually to challenge business leaders to think bigger and aim higher. Those are certainly not new challenges, so what makes this book different from all the others that encourage entrepreneurs to "break the mold"? The authors have identified positive developments in a business environment that is struggling to emerge from slow growth, dashed expectations, and corporate scandal. Although they show how big-name innovators such as HBO, IBM, and Proctor & Gamble are finding new ways to stand out, a new breed is emerging that is proving that smarter can beat bigger. Companies such as Netflix, Google, and craigslist really are reinventing the wheel and have caused the business community to stand up and notice. The authors' vision is that these new innovators, once dismissed as upstarts, hold the key to reinstituting business as a source of inspiration and progress, creating a path for others to follow. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't just think different - BE different March 1 2009
If you like Fast Company magazine, you're sure to enjoy this title by William Taylor, the founding editor of Fast Company. In Mavericks at Work, Taylor and LaBarre investigate companies who have succeeded because they went against the grain, in terms of their business models, and stayed true to their values.

Taylor and Labarre tell the stories of companies like Jones Soda, ING and Goldcorp, who were bold enough to turn a deaf ear to critics, and to forge their own paths, because they believed in their vision. You'll be astounded by the choices some of these companies had to make that would have led to short term gains, but resulted in a deviation from their core values. It's where I learned the phrase: "You don't have principles until they cost you money."

Reading this book will inspire you and at the same time make you scrutinize your own business practices.

Going against the grain isn't easy. That's why they call it being a maverick.
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As William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre explain in this book, Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70) was a wealthy land speculator in southwest Texas who cared little about cattle. "When someone repaid a debt with 400 head of cattle rather than cash, Maverick's caretakers allowed them to wander unbranded. Over time, locals who saw unbranded cattle would say, `Those are Maverick's' - and a term was born that today refers to politicians, entrepreneurs, and innovators who refuse to run with the herd." Until reading this book, I did not know the origin of the term and tended to define it too narrowly as a descriptive of those who are by nature unconventional, eccentric, odd, etc. One of the basic arguments in this book is that, "when it comes to thriving in a hypercompetitive marketplace, `playing it safe' is no longer playing it smart [and in business] mavericks do the work that matters most - the work of originality, creativity, and experimentation. They demonstrate that you can build companies around high ideals and fierce competitive ambitions, that the most powerful way to create economic value is to embrace a set of values that go beyond just amassing power, and that business, at its best, is too exciting, too important, and too much fun to be left to the dead hand of business as usual."

That is certainly true of the decision-makers in the 32 organizations on which Taylor and LaBarre function in this book. The strategies, practices, and leadership styles may in some respects seem "unconventional, eccentric, odd, etc.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War of the world-views Dec 3 2006
By Andrew S. Rogers - Published on
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.
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mavericks inspire - but they don't offer the only recipe to success, Oct. 5 2006
By D. Stuart - Published on
The role of Mavericks within the world of business is a seductive area for study, and here two founder journalists for Fast Company take us on a whirlwind tour of some outstanding examples; some well known and others making for fresh and inspiring copy for the jaded business reader. There's an underlying theme here - that old school business methods will lead to financial quagmires. In that context the likes of Ford (yesterday's hero company in books like Built to Last) look like today's losers.

From this readers point of view the authors may have logged thousands of hours researching their subject but still took the easy route: pointing to dozens of examples of successful maverick firms in order to posit that these people have the attributes, the corporate cultures, the sense of difference, that make them true winners. But it would be just as valuable to find Mavericks Who Failed - and I wonder if these original minds could also teach us something. I think this is biased sampling.

Make no mistake, this book is inspiring - but in making it case it reads mostly like an affirmation for today's managers who want to shake off the dust from 90s buisness excess. The writers swing the pendulum too far, and as an instructive business book I found it underplays the other factors that make for the business successes identified here: systems, (the man from Procter & Gamble would have had systems drummed into him) cash-flow, customer service and also the obscene element of luck that business writers too often forget about. Much as they like to be, managers - whether Jack Welch or Steve Jobs - are not masters of the universe.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading for business people Jan. 8 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on
(Also available as CD)

Anytime I hear the word "Maverick," I think either Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun (before his couch-jumping days on Oprah) or a rebellious outcast in the workplace--so of course I was drawn to this book. The lime-green cover calling to me from the airport bookstore didn't hurt either.

Authors Taylor and Labarre, former editors of Fast Company magazine, encourage us to "think bigger, aim higher, and win more decisively" by following the maverick methods of 32 organizations including Southwest Airlines, Cranium (makers of popular board games), Commerce Bank, Craigslist, and others highlighted in this book. Their goal for Mavericks At Work is to open the reader's eyes, engage his imagination, and equip him with the tools to act boldly by sharing "next" rather than "best" practices relevant for the 21st century. After reading this book, I believe they've succeeded.

In 12 chapters, the authors discuss the value of disruptive points of view. By shunning traditional strategies, maverick companies like Cranium and Southwest Airlines have completely revitalized mature industries in order to reconnect with customers. The authors also highlight the value of open-source innovation in helping companies like Goldcorp tap into new ideas from external sources. Subsequent chapters emphasize the importance of innovation networks, continuous learning, emotional branding, and the power of people. The Appendix offers valuable resources for follow-on reading.

The writing is engaging and upbeat although I found it very difficult to follow the flow of the content and organization of this book. Chapters didn't transition smoothly so I had to re-read previous sections in order to figure out how the next chapter applied. It's possible that this follows the "maverick" style the authors are promoting. In other words, the authors are practicing what they preach by challenging the reader through a non-linear and original thought process. Still, Mavericks At Work is the treatise on how to be unique and profitable in a sea of copycat competitors.

This book is for corporate executives, entrepreneurs, or anyone desiring to break the mold by applying unconventional ideas and unusual strategies in order to reshape an industry, revitalize products and services, or even reinvent one's own perspective.

Armchair Interviews says: Highly recommended.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent information backed up with solid, real-world examples Jan. 28 2007
By Joe Wikert - Published on
I generally rate business book by two factors: How many pages I've highlighted by folding them over and whether it causes me to stop and think about how the content applies to my world. Mavericks at Work scores very high on both points.

Here are some of the more interesting excerpts I flagged as I read this one:

* Southwest didn't flourish just because its fares were cheaper...Southwest flourished because it reimagined what it means to be an airline.

* If you want to renew and re-energize an industry...don't hire people from that industry.

* If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you and why?

* The most effective leaders are the ones who are the most insatiable learners, and experienced leaders learn the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experiences are the least like theirs.

* We must begin all things in ignorance...otherwise we never start at the beginning.

* The next frontier for making products more emotional is to turn them into something social -- to create a sense of shared ownership and participation among customers themselves.

* Why would great people want to work here?

You could (and probably should!) spend hours thinking about the answers to those two questions (If your company went out of business... and Why would great people want to work here?). I also found the authors' thoughts on the use of ad-hoc teams to build new products/services within an existing business, and thereby avoid The Innovator's Dilemma, to be very helpful.

The authors have a very readable style and provide loads of examples from companies and executives they interviewed for the book. Highly recommended.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Brilliant!! Jan. 4 2007
By Darren J. Prior - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What good is a book full of insightful and exciting information if it's too boring and complicated to read? This book gets to the point and does it in an entertaining way. Awesome details on what makes great companies stand out in an overcrowded me-too, over-supplied world. Thank God for authors who not only want to make a great point but want to do it in a plain and easy to read manner. Best book I've read in years!
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