Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Alliance: The Best Business Book I've Read in Several Years

On Tuesday, KQED's Forum program featured LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman talking about his new book, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. After listening to part of the program -- I had to get into a meeting -- I found that I was interested enough to head straight to Amazon to find out more about the book. One Prime membership and two days later, the book arrived this morning. I finished it by lunchtime.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best business books that I've come across in a long time. I highly recommend it.

The basic premise of the book is a redefining of the employer-employee relationship, designed to address the modern business environment. Gone are the days of lifetime employment, but we still carry residual assumptions that corrupt aspects of the employer-employee relationship. The Alliance provides for a better social contract, defining a framework for dealing with employment periods as tours of duty with goals for advancing both the company and the employee's interests.

The Problem with Most Business Books
It's not unusual to come across a business book that catches my attention. An interesting idea or an insightful look into a technology or trend -- if it's wrapped in a good story -- can usually spark my thinking, sometimes enough to buy the book. At the same time, for as many books as I've bought in the past couple of years, I've actually finished few of them. Mostly, that's because, once you work your way through the core premise and you understand the framework, the other content is typically provided as supporting information and it's rather tedious to work through. Usually, after a couple of days of hacking through a few pages here and there, I find myself drawn into other projects, then I stop carrying the book, and soon it's collecting dust on the cabinet.

The Alliance was far more successful. It's well documented, with anecdotes and examples from a variety of businesses. The examples used are typically brief, not more than a page or two, sometimes as short as a casual reference. The flow is fast, the chapters are short and it moves with the pace of a tight presentation deck. But it gets better:
  • More than just presenting a concept, the book provides a rough framework for implementing an approach. It's like reading a manual with exercises and example. There is some good take-away material here.
  • While it maps out the framework, it doesn't get bogged down in process details. It's almost more of an executive overview of a policy handbook, rather than a tedious policy handbook.
  • At the end of each chapter, the book provides links to a web site where you can get more content online. This is the way modern book publishing should be.
  • Even the appendices include example documents that help provide inside into the process and the strategy. 
In the end, this is one you definitely should read. It even provides a great context for how the social network should fit into the culture of the business -- but you could probably see that coming from the Linked In folks.

Not that they're reading my blog, but a hat tip to Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh. This is an exceptional book you've put together here.

No comments: