November 2013
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TD Magazine

Too Much of a Good Thing (Books)

Friday, November 8, 2013


Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues

By Jake Breeden

Jossey-Bass, 215 pp., $25.95

There are mountains of books that tout the virtues of innovation, excellence, collaboration, and passion. But every now and then, a contrarian comes along who questions the things we value most.

In Tipping Sacred Cows, author Jake Breeden sets out to reveal the "dark sides" of seven top workplace virtues—balance, collaboration, creativity, excellence, fairness, passion, and preparation. But he isn't just rattling cages. Breeden draws on his years of experience as an executive coach at some of the world's top companies to thoughtfully examine these qualities and their hidden pitfalls.

Calling forth real-life examples that will resonate with many readers, Breeden explains why too much of a good thing is bad for everyone. One by one, each virtue is tipped upside down, exposing how it can result in dangerous behaviors, unintended consequences, and subpar performance.

Breeden is especially keen to overturn the virtues of creativity and innovation, in an age when business leaders don't sit still for fear of being left behind. Breeden (daringly) writes, "often an old idea will do just fine."

Business leaders overvalue creativity, he claims, attempting to churn out innovative ideas more for the purpose of leaving a legacy than to solve an actual business problem. Using published research and powerful examples, Breeden shows readers how to use creativity as a problem-solving tool to accomplish larger goals.

The engaging tone, practical approach, and solid foundation of Tipping Sacred Cows make it a pleasant, informative read—no matter what your sacred cows are. And if you are eager to find out, Breeden offers a free, five-minute assessment on his website ( to identify the virtues you may worship, not wisely, but too well.

The theme of the book is captured in a quote from the famous biologist Steven Jay Gould: "The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best—and therefore never scrutinize or question." Breeden writes, "Gould was a great tipper of sacred cows and I admire his courage and hard work to support his points of view with evidence."

Refreshingly provocative and scrupulously researched, Tipping Sacred Cows helps readers cultivate keener self-awareness and more effective behaviors in the workplace.

Solving Problems With Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works

Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Barnett

Columbia Business School Publishing, 232 pp., $29.95

"Design thinking," the ability to use design principles to turn abstract ideas into tangible business results, has been much discussed in business circles. The authors first explored the concept of design thinking in Designing for Growth. Now, they are back with a collection of case studies that demonstrate the practical application of design thinking. Solving Problems With Design Thinking details how managers in a range of organizations used design skills such as visualization, storytelling, and experimentation to solve business problems. Find out how even those without a background in design can use these principles to enable product development, sales growth, and employee development.

The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World's Greatest Management Thinker

William A. Cohen

Amacom, 288 pp., $25

Known as the inventor of modern management, Peter Drucker (who passed away eight years ago) continues to shape the study and practice of management. His keen observations, simple and succinct truths, and insightful predictions are distilled into short, actionable chapters in The Practical Drucker. If you've ever admired Drucker's ideas but were at a loss on how to apply them in your immediate working environment, this is the book for you. Cohen shows readers how to implement Drucker's advice on critical business processes, such as doing more with less, leadership mistakes, process improvement, employee engagement, innovation, and decision making.


Winning From Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change

Erica Ariel Fox

HarperBusiness, 320 pp., $28.99

Featuring best practices from Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, this book shows readers how to understand and develop their intrinsic leadership abilities so that they can glean positive results from high-stakes interactions. Fox, a Harvard Law lecturer and executive coach, explains how leaders get in their own way, obstructing critical negotiations without realizing it. Readers will learn how to audit their inner monologues and tailor their resulting behavior during these interactions. Combining insights from psychology and examples from the business world, Fox leads readers to make surprising self-discoveries about what may be holding them back.

What's on Bill Wiggenhorn's Bookshelf?

Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache. Long before others were writing about the integrated organization, Rummler and Brache provided a model to ensure training was reinforced by the measurement system and the flow of information across functions and geographies.

The Idea of Ideas by Robert W. Galvin. This book helped shape my approach to developing leaders on a global basis: Make leadership education challenging, practical, and customized to each situation and individual.

Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald. This book helped me understand the importance of diversity in an organization for solving complex problems and taking advantage of missed opportunities. Again, a book that has influenced how we coach and design leadership experiences.

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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