Category Archives: Book Insights

Mr. Selfridge’s Philosophy is Timeless – And Still Valuable

Photo: PBS.org

Photo: PBS.org

Thanks to the PBS Masterpiece series Mr. Selfridge, viewers on both sides of the pond have been introduced to the world of retail marketing and merchandising innovator Harry Selfridge.

In 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge launched his eponymous London department store Selfridges, which today is an iconic landmark.  The store revolutionized the shopping experience for British consumers, and observers credit it for helping to propel major societal changes in pre-World War II Britain.

The current Selfridges store pays homage to its namesake founder:

“Harry Selfridge was the first in the UK to allow customers to touch and interact directly with the store’s products and the first to sell a broad mix of inexpensive and extremely luxurious items under one roof.  Effectively, he wanted for every customer to feel welcome at his store.  He was also the only one to relentlessly use his store as a theatre, an exhibition space and a playground to delight customers with unexpected experiences.  Retail theatre was born.”

While the TV series is outstanding, I’ve especially enjoyed learning about the business philosophy that underpinned how Selfridge operated the store.  More than 100 years later, his breakthrough thinking remains spot-on and valuable to today’s marketing and business practitioners.

In 1918, Selfridge published The Romance of Commerce, in which he articulated his philosophy and explained his business ideas.

Photo: Adams Media

Photo: Adams Media

Last year, Adams Media released an abridged and updated version, from which I’ve selected and organized some of his timeless marketing and business ideas.

Take a few mid-summer reading minutes and soak-in the timeless wisdom of Harry Selfridge.

 


Leadership

  • This ability, therefore, to organize, to breathe into others that fire of enthusiasm, that quality of judgment, that spirit of progress, has long been considered by thinking men of commerce as the final and greatest of all qualities, the test of supreme commercial genius.
Photo: Selfridges.com

Photo: Selfridges.com

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Nuclear Sub Commander Transforms Leadership, Gets Winning Performance

TurnTheShipAround Book CoverA nuclear submarine commander has written a must-read book about how to achieve great performance at every level of your organization.

David Marquet’s  Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders is terrific for all team players in your company.  It’s especially powerful for those entrusted with leading direct reports.  

I loved the book.  Marquet has distilled his philosophy into a concise, attention-keeping,  easy read filled with examples of how he and his crew turned the worst performing nuclear sub into the best.

You, too, can apply this philosophy, but first you’ll have to adopt a new mindset that will lead to different actions.  Marquet’s thesis is that we need to transform leadership from a “leader-follower” mode to one of “leader-leader.”  That’s how he transformed the USS Santa Fe from a dysfunctional “one captain and 134 crewmen” into a high-octane operation of “135 thinkers.” Continue reading

HBS Professor: Time to Rebrand & Reimagine Strategy

When it comes to strategy, the force should be with you, says a Harvard b-school professor:

“Talk about strategy as the animating force of a company, the energy that directs everything that a company does.”

The Strategist - Cynthia MontgomerySo says Cynthia A. Montgomery (video interview below), the Timken Professor of Business Administration and author of The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs.

Montgomery has formed new thoughts about strategy based on years of teaching and coaching global business executives.  She writes:

“I came to see that we cannot afford to think of strategy as something fixed, a problem that is solved and settled.  Strategy – the system of value creation that underlies a company’s competitive position and uniqueness – has to be embraced as something open, not something closed.  It is a system that evolves, moves, and changes.”

The professor advises executives to consider four basic questions when it comes to strategy:

  1. What does my organization bring to the world?
  2. Does that difference matter?
  3. Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate?
  4. Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?

Watch Montgomery discuss why strategy needs to be reimagined. Continue reading

What the Marines Can Teach Business Leaders

“I wish there was a book I could read that would tell me what to do.” (former brand management colleague)

As soon as I heard these words, I knew her days at our company were numbered.

They were, and it was a shame.  She was a new, junior marketer with an MBA from one of the best universities, and clearly a bright person.  At the same time, though, she was not cut out for the rough and tumble world of brand management, at least not in that company at that time.

One of the most prized business capabilities is being able to think on your feet, to take basic knowledge and principles and to be able to apply them in new and challenging situations.  As my former colleague learned, magic instructions rarely exist.  Notwithstanding training and coaching, you’ve got to figure it out!

The challenge is how to develop these capabilities.

Corps BusinessThere’s much good learning from the book Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines (David H. Freedman).  It’s an easy read and contains excellent lessons and/or reminders for marketers and business leaders.

Consider this.  If you were given an inside opportunity to learn from this company, wouldn’t you want to?

[They] “have specialized in operating under chaotic, fast changing, high-intensity conditions that provide not only little way of knowing what the opposition is going to throw at you but perhaps no way of knowing exactly who the opposition is going to be.”

Hell yes!

I’ve previously written about Principle 1, Aim for the 70-Percent Solution:  “It’s better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it’s too late.”

You can learn all 30 principles and more in the book.

In the meantime, I’ve organized 8 Key Nuggets and highlighted 3 More Principles that particularly resonated for me.

1.  Keep Getting Better

“No matter how good the Marines get at any aspect of their mission, they never consider themselves to have reached a pinnacle.  They always suspect that somehow there’s a better way to do things.”

2.  Foster a Climate of Action

“But it does want its people to be bold – that is, to take initiative and, when in doubt, to act rather than mull things over while critical events are unfolding.” Continue reading