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The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success Hardcover – Apr 7 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 7 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118829425
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118829424
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #168,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

“As we shift from the rigid ‘ladder world’ of scale efficiencies to the nimble ‘lattice world’ of scale agility, mastering the soft edge becomes a hard reality. Karlgaard sharpens our grasp of this elusive though vital topic and offers pragmatic, accessible solutions.”
—Cathy Benko, vice chairman and managing principal, Deloitte LLP, and bestselling author of Mass Career Customization

“As a teacher and student of leadership, I’ve long believed the relevance and power of ‘soft side’ economics. (Trust, for example, is a measurable economic driver that makes organizations more profitable and people more promotable.) With The Soft Edge, Karlgaard joins the conversation and makes the bold statement that the soft side is now the only remaining competitive edge in our new economy. Leaders, I recommend that you take full advantage of Karlgaard’s advice— so you can start to reap the dividends.”
—Stephen M. R. Covey, New York Times bestselling author of The Speed of Trust and Smart Trust

“At a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher, many leaders are searching for new ways of competing—with resilience as a top priority. Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard, a longtime voice for ‘hard edge’ business practices, argues that ‘soft edge’ advantages have enduring power in our knowledge economy. Anyone with a stake in tomorrow’s bottom-line outcomes should take a close look at Karlgaard’s cutting-edge book.”
—Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School, and author of Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy

“The Soft Edge is an eye-opener: Rich Karlgaard makes the utterly convincing argument that the soft side of business makes all the difference to a company’s ability to thrive in the long run. Leaders, it’s time to stop polishing your strategy and fine-tuning your execution. Instead, read this critical book—then start investing in the very soul of your company.”
—John Gerzema, bestselling author, including The Brand Bubble and The Athena Doctrine

“Leaders have never had so many opportunities—and pressures. Get to the heart of it with Rich Karlgaard, who has distilled his significant experience into a single argument that works for every organization in today’s times: if you want innovation and lasting success, you must develop your ‘soft edge.’ Exactly. The soft edge is truly as vital now as strategy and execution. So whether you’re a tireless chief, a rising star, or a ‘hard-edged’ business veteran, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Karlgaard’s compelling new book. Why? Because The Soft Edge will help you find the future—and the future is now.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers 50 Top Ten Global Business Thinker and top-ranked executive coach

 “Management and leadership thinking has reached a crisis point. The great irony of our age is this: the faster technology progresses, the more crucial it is to organize around timeless human truths. Rich Karlgaard shows the way in his compelling new book, The Soft Edge.”
—Gary Hamel, director of the Management Lab and author of What Matters Now

“At a time when strategy and execution can be bought, your company’s core values are the very accelerators you need for differentiation and innovation. Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard knows which organizations are now winning the endurance race, and why. He shines a light on an often-overlooked driver: values. The Soft Edge is for forward-thinking leaders dedicated to rising above the competition.”
—Sally Hogshead, author of How the World Sees You: Discovering Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination and creator of HowToFascinate.com

“The best companies enchant us with purpose, affection, empathy, coolness, and grit. Rich Karlgaard’s book shows you how to achieve this lofty goal.”
—Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur and former chief evangelist of Apple

“Rich Karlgaard puts the entire subject of culture and corporate character into a totally new context—a powerful framework proven with example after example. A great read for any business leader.”
—John Kennedy, senior vice president of marketing, IBM Global Business Services

“For decades I have witnessed the power of teams, trust, and smarts in the most disruptive startups in Silicon Valley. The Soft Edge makes a powerful argument for why great businesses and products repeatedly derive from the creative friction, small teams, and minimally invasive management which the best leaders employ to achieve breakout success. I want to thank Rich Karlgaard for a wonderfully readable and actionable exploration of these too often overlooked skills.”
—Randy Komisar, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield, and Byers lecturer, Stanford Business School

“The Soft Edge is crystal clear, deeply substantial, and alarmingly concrete. It illumines what an organization might be—what it must be if it is to impact the world and elevate the human spirit (and run a profit). To read it is an exercise in conviction.”
—John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of Who Is This Man?

“I love this book. From the first page to the last it’s a real pleasure to read, and without a doubt the most enjoyable business book in a very, very long time. It’s smart, intelligent, and fun. That’s because Rich Karlgaard understands the craft of writing and the art of business. He treats us to great stories and in-depth case studies that often read like edge-of-your-seat thrillers. And don’t let the title fool you. Sure, it’s about things like trust and teams and taste and stories, but it’s rich in tangible, hard evidence that proves the power of these qualities. The Soft Edge is on my short list of best business books of the year. I think it’ll end up on yours, too.”
—Jim Kouzes, coauthor of The Leadership Challenge and Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

“The workplace is facing unprecedented global challenges. Tomorrow’s leaders must inspire their teams across a host of new boundaries—geographic, generational, economic, cultural, and technological—to name a few. The greatest will be those who can leverage their soft skills to motivate. In the world of big data, human skills will be the big differentiator! Learn more about twenty-firstcentury leadership in The Soft Edge—a wonderful, easy-to-read, and insightful corpus by longtime business innovator Rich Karlgaard. It’s hard to find a more experienced, intelligent guide to help you and your company make the necessary leaps.”
—Ross Smith, director of test, Skype Division, Microsoft

“I find the style to be completely refreshing and unique. It feels like Rich Karlgaard is actually having a conversation with his readers. The analogies are astute and crisp. The Soft Edge is a marvelous work! Definitely destined for ‘classic’ status—something to reread and savor.”
— Karen Tucker, CEO, Silicon Valley Churchill Club

“Entertaining, magnificent, enlightening, and so relevant to the future.”
—Vivek Wadhwa, vice president of research and innovation at Singularity University; fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Corporate Governance; research director at Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization

“There has never been a more challenging (but potentially rewarding) time to lead. As is often the case, Rich Karlgaard once again successfully ‘zigs’ with his clever premise of The Soft Edge. Flush with innovative ideas collected from his unique vantage point, he offers countless refreshing tips for tomorrow’s leaders. Net—a terrific blueprint for a wide range of executives who are serious about leading teams to victory in the new frontier. A must-read!”
—Greg Welch, senior partner, Spencer Stuart, marketing and board recruiting practice

From the Inside Flap

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET AHEAD NOW—AND STAY THERE?

High performance has always required shrewd strategy and superb execution. These two factors remain critical, especially given today’s unprecedented business climate. But Rich Karlgaard—Forbes publisher, entrepreneur, investor, and board director—takes a surprising turn and argues that there is now a third element that’s required for competitive advantage. It fosters innovation, it accelerates strategy and execution, and it cannot be copied or bought. It is found in a perhaps surprising place—your company’s values.

Karlgaard examined a variety of enduring companies and found that they have one thing in common: all have leveraged their deepest values alongside strategy and execution, allowing them to fuel growth as well as weather hard times. Karlgaard shares these stories and identifies the five key variables that make up every organization’s “soft edge”:

Trust: Northwestern Mutual has built a $25 billion revenue juggernaut on trust, the foundation of lasting success. Learn how to create an environment that engenders trust and propels high performance.

Smarts: In most technical fields, your formal education quickly becomes out of date. How do you keep up? Learn how the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University women’s basketball team, and others stay on top by relentlessly pursuing an advantage through smarts.

Teamwork: Since collaboration and innovation are a must in the global economy, effective teamwork is vital. Learn how global giant FedEx stays focused and how nimble Nest Labs relies on lean teams with cognitive diversity.

Taste: Clever product design and integration are proxies for intelligence because they make customers feel smart. But taste goes further into deep emotional engagement. Specialized Bicycles calls it “the elusive sweet spot between data truth and human truth.” How can you consistently make products or services that trigger these emotional touch points?

Story: Companies that achieve lasting success have an enduring and emotionally appealing story. What’s your company’s story? How do you tell it your way when customers, fans, and critics insist on telling your story their way? Gain the ability to create a powerful narrative in a world where outsiders often exercise the louder voice.

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Format: Hardcover
According to Rich Karlgaard, an organization must have a hard edge, a soft edge, and a strategic base to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success. I agree. It is by no means a coincidence that the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly-respected and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment.

The most valuable insight in Karlgaard's book is that these companies have achieved and sustained an appropriate balance and coordination of two mindsets: One is "hard-edge" and the other is "soft edge." He explains that there are five "pillars" that undergird the Hard Edge: Speed, Cost, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Capital Efficiency

Obviously, they are essential to operations... but insufficient. That's why he includes five "pillars" of the Soft Edge, a portion of the equation that tends to be neglected, if not ignored: Trust, Smarts, Teams, Taste, and Story. Having both a hard edge and a soft edge is obviously important. However, long-term business success also requires a strategic base, one that enables a company to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success.

As Karlgaard explains, the Strategic Base also has five "pillars": Market, Customers, Competitors, Substitutes (i.e. indirect competitors), and Disruptors. Here's the challenge for business leaders: Find their company's "sweet spot" at which its hard edge and soft edge become interdependent with its strategic base. Some decisions are best-made with hard-edged thinking, others with soft-edged thinking, but all decisions must directly or indirectly strengthen an organization's strategic base.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa2430a14) out of 5 stars 58 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa24e92cc) out of 5 stars Trust, the Force Multiplier of Everything Good; Why It Takes Courage to Build It May 29 2014
By Thomas M. Loarie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Rich Karlgaard's "The Soft Edge" will resonate with those who have had an opportunity to participate in a "Soft Edge" culture and with progressive leaders. Unfortunately, participants from, or in a "soft edge" culture make up a very small segment of the U.S. workforce... and even less outside the U.S. We live in a "hard edge" dominated global business culture, one that does not appear to be going away anytime soon. But one that Karlgaard urges us to displace so we can take the prize - continual innovation and lasting success.

Karlgaard, a veteran 30 year business reporter (Forbes), has covered a wide spectrum of companies - large and small, makers of products and services, privately held and publicly-traded. In "The Soft Edge," he shares what he has observed and believes are the five attributes that provide the foundation for lasting success in any organization. And they are not the attributes of a "hard edge" dominated company.

He begins with a metaphor - the three keys to long-lasting individual health: mental & emotional health, social health, and physical health. (As a Notre Dame graduate, I would also add spiritual health) And then draws a parallel with the three keys to organizational health - a great strategy, a hard edge (precise execution), and the soft edge. The latter is an expression of our deepest values:
1. Trust
2. Smarts
3. Teams
4. Taste
5. Story.

Trust is the force multiplier of everything good and provides the foundational soft edge advantage. External and internal smarts have little to do with IQ and everything to do with organizational smarts, learning from mistakes, grit, and perseverance. Teams provide the context for collaboration and innovation, creating an environment for making one another better. Taste is maximizing the "yin and yang" of science and humanity to land in the sweet spot between data truth and human truth. And story is how we create brand and purpose that shapes all internal and external relationships.

Each chapter of "The Soft Edge" is designed to be self-contained, with its own merits, techniques, and well-defined terms. Readers can choose to dig into all or only a few of the soft edge advantages. Karlgaard weave four recurring themes throughout the book: grit, courage, passion, and purpose. These contribute to and result from a "soft edge" culture.

As a reader and reviewer of business books, I found several new insights in this book not discussed in other management/leadership/innovation books. I was particularly interested with the sections on Trust and Teams.

I believe, as does the author, that trust is the foundation of greatness. But it is rare which explains why there are so few great companies. The lack of trust can be found in both small and large companies and is not limited to management and employees. It also involves the board of directors. Ram Charan's recent "Boards That Lead" touches on the importance of trust at the board level. Distrust emanating from the board level will filter down into the organization.

On the subject of teams, Karlgaard makes a brilliant case for diversity, not the diversity of forced ratios, but true diversity. Only a fool would make excuses for the lack of diversity in today's global economy. This has been a problem in Silicon Valley and is now being addressed openly. Google this month led the way with transparency on its workforce demographics.

Developing companies excelling with a "soft edge" takes grit, courage, and resilience. It is much easier crunching numbers than building trust or driving learning. Taking a long-term perspective over short-term profit maximization requires an abundance of courage in today's "hard edge" global economy.

The real question raised by Karlgaard - will you be the one to adopt a soft edge approach, and build an organizational legacy that provides lasting success?
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa22dc498) out of 5 stars An Alternative Perspective on Organizational Health April 10 2014
By Michael S. Malone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A book that talks about happiness, trust and taste may seem a surprise coming from the publisher of a hard-nosed business magazine like Forbes, but if you have followed Rich Karlgaard's career, a book like The Soft Edge seems more like a summing up of a lifetime of investigating the 'other' factors that make companies into successes and failures. Karlgaard, after all, founded Silicon Valley's most influential speech-and-debate association, the Churchill Club, then looked at the dark underside of high tech with his brilliant and snarky Upside Magazine. Then, in founding Forbes ASAP he created a magazine that, despite its tech-business orientation, nevertheless published Tom Wolfe, John Updike and others -- and remains legendary as one of the best 'writing' magazines of its era.

In each case, Karlgaard went beyond the balance sheet and the product lines of companies and looked at their 'intangible' assets: did employees trust each other, was the CEO an arrogant fool, did the company have a collection of stories and myths to help it through hard times, was the organization's culture healthy or destructive? With The Soft Edge, Karlgaard has written a kind of valedictory to all of his years looking at this 'other' side of the business world, and put it all into a systematic model of what he describes as the often-forgotten 'third' element of business success.

The result is a revelation -- perhaps especially so here in Silicon Valley. We always give lip service to the 'HP Way', that most perfect realization of Karlgaard's Soft Edge achieved by Hewlett-Packard under its founders in the 1970s -- but we also usually honor it in the breach. After all, who cares about employee happiness or a healthy culture or pleasing product design, when we are changing the world and getting rich in the process? Besides, we'll probably get bought by Facebook in a year or two. But, in the Soft Edge, Karlgaard reminds us that great companies endure, they have lasting success, and they can't do that with just good technology and a strong strategy . . .they also need to be human, and they need that third, 'soft', edge.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa26539d8) out of 5 stars What an organization must have to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success April 24 2014
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
According to Rich Karlgaard, an organization must have a hard edge, a soft edge, and a strategic base to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success. I agree. It is by no means a coincidence that the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly-respected and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment.

The most valuable insight in Karlgaard's book is that these companies have achieved and sustained an appropriate balance and coordination of two mindsets: One is "hard-edge" and the other is "soft edge." He explains that there are five "pillars" that undergird the Hard Edge: Speed, Cost, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Capital Efficiency

Obviously, they are essential to operations... but insufficient. That's why he includes five "pillars" of the Soft Edge, a portion of the equation that tends to be neglected, if not ignored: Trust, Smarts, Teams, Taste, and Story. Having both a hard edge and a soft edge is obviously important. However, long-term business success also requires a strategic base, one that enables a company to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success.

As Karlgaard explains, the Strategic Base also has five "pillars": Market, Customers, Competitors, Substitutes (i.e. indirect competitors), and Disruptors. Here's the challenge for business leaders: Find their company's "sweet spot" at which its hard edge and soft edge become interdependent with its strategic base. Some decisions are best-made with hard-edged thinking, others with soft-edged thinking, but all decisions must directly or indirectly strengthen an organization's strategic base. Here's another way to look at the workplace culture he endorses: It is defined by highly developed emotional intelligence combined with sustained efficiency and productivity at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Karlgaard's coverage.

o The Triangle of Long-Term Company Success (Pages 4-15)
o "In the Future, the System Must Be First" (23-27)
o Hard-Edge Advantages Are Wonderful But Fleeting" (32-34)
o Trust Is the Foundation of Greatness, and, Building Trust Is Strategic -- and Rare (39-45)
o How to Build a Culture of Trust, Inside and Out (53-59)
o Grit Accelerates Learning (71-74)
o Learn Fast from Your Mistakes (83-86)
o The Mighty Power of the Two-Pizza Rule (105-109)
o Why Cognitive Diversity Works (115-118)
o Sociometrics: The Hard Science of Teamwork (131-135)
o The Big Three: Function, Form, Meaning (141-148)
o Where Taste Meets Data, and, Finding the Sweet Spot (165-172)
o Why Stories in Business? (179-184)
o Good Stories and Storytelling (191-198)
o Data Storytelling (205-207)

I agree with Karlgaard: "Technology and competition are constantly raising the bar of high performance in our companies. But funnily enough, as the bar goes up, it's the ancient values of trust and smarts, teamwork and taste and storytelling that become even more important." Leaders who seek to achieve lasting success for their companies, whatever their size and nature may be, would be well-advised to keep Karlgaard's observations in mind. Also, to keep a copy of The Soft Edge near-at-hand whenever problems emerge -- and they certainly will -- especially now when conflicts and crises seem to occur more often and faster than at any prior that I can remember.

Hard-edge issues should not be addressed with a soft-edge mindset, nor should soft-edge issues be addressed with a hard-edge mindset. I presume to one final suggestion to leaders: keep in mind also this brief passage in Lao-Tzse's Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

Without mutual respect and trust, that can't happen.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa22da7f8) out of 5 stars Rich Karlgaard's The Soft Edge Is Brilliantly Simple April 10 2014
By Bruce Rogers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Simple is hard. Writing a book that presents a profoundly new way to think about how businesses succeed or fail in a simple framework devoid of buzzwords and obfuscating jargon is even harder. Rich succeeds where most fail or dare to tread. Rich is a straight shooter and master story teller born of his Midwestern roots and the good fortune of having placed himself at the center of technological innovation through his journalistic exploits from Silicon Valley.

I admit some bias here. I've had the pleasure of working with Rich at Forbes for more than twenty years. As the co- author of three books and a column for Forbes.com, I am envious of his effortless prose. The book reads just the way Rich speaks and I can hear the words spoken as I read it. Anyone who has seen his keynote presentations can attest to this.

The book is a quick read, but I found myself returning to it often. My only criticism is that it made me yearn for more case studies and real world anecdotes. But don't let that stop you if you are serious about helping your company find its way to lasting success
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa22dc0b4) out of 5 stars Great book April 19 2014
By Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Soft Edge is an excellent book. Karlgaard has many interesting and relevant stories from a diverse group of companies to support his theory that the "Soft Edge" is a critical part continued success at all companies. Karlgaard's examples range from stable companies that have been around for decades to new businesses developing the cutting-edge technologies of tomorrow. I highly recommend the Soft Edge no matter what business you work in.


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