Another April Fools’ Day, another opportunity to make a creative connection between an amusing date on the calendar and the business world. I thought about plotting some type of online prank so you could say that you were Punk’d by me. Then I realized that wouldn’t be prudent.
I’m not aware of any strange rituals or customs performed by businesses both small and large on April 1st. You’ll have to settle for an eclectic mix of (mostly) business-related books for your reading consideration. I’ll wager you’ve never heard of a few of these foolish titles…
Orbiting the Giant Hairball Is No Foolish Task–It Will Unleash Your Creativity: Originally self-published in 1998, Gordon MacKenzie’s book is subtitled A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. If you’ve never heard of it, I implore you to add it to your business-related reading list. Try starting it this spring or summer–it’s only 224 pages.
Mr. MacKenzie worked for 30 years at the almost-mythological Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Missouri. In his book, he cleverly dissects the methods corporations both large and small use to squash innovation and creative thinking. The author also expresses the idea that employees who don’t conform to the rules aren’t necessarily oddballs or malcontents. Some of them are “creators” merely trying to fan a spark into a profitable flame.
I guarantee you’ll be motivated to unleash your inventive impulses for improving your business or job once you absorb the author’s “pyramid versus plum tree” (scroll to the bottom) organizational model. This book is an underground cult classic–you must read it!
Fortune’s Fool Is a Bittersweet Profile of Edgar Bronfman Jr.: This authorized biography by Fred Goodman about the Seagram Company heir is subtitled Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis. Although Mr. Bronfman was born into a mega-wealthy family, he’s worked every day of his adult life. But his wildly ricocheting reputation regarding acquisitions and mergers has caused the Bronfman family much angst.
He led the company into the music and entertainment arenas by purchasing MCA in 1995, followed by subsequent acquisitions (Interscope and PolyGram). But then a disastrous merger with French company Vivendi Universal set in motion problems that would destroy the family’s business by the early-to-mid 2000s. Mr. Bronfman’s successful bid for the Warner Music Group in 2004 was an attempt to rebuild his family fortune after the Vivendi fiasco.
Edgar Jr. shouldn’t be confused with his father, Edgar Bronfman Sr. The older gentleman was a valiant champion of Holocaust victims who doggedly pursued restitution on their behalf. (He died in December 2013). If the music industry’s metamorphosis from a “bricks and mortar” business into a digital, online experience fascinates you, give Edgar Jr.’s biography a try.
Learn How J.P. Morgan Turned Credit Derivatives Into Fool’s Gold: For those of you who like your business books bloody and raw, this one is a must-add to your reading list. The book was written by award-winning Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett. You may not remember, but Ms. Tett irked many Wall Street titans by trying to warn the American public about the possibility of a subprime mortgage crisis before it ripped wide open in 2008.
One of the (U.S.) subtitles for Fool’s Gold is quite demoralizing: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe. My fingertips hurt just from keying it in…
Perhaps you’re already judging this book as too financially dry for your taste. Be advised the story begins with a “Morgan Mafia” (I’m not making this up!) brainstorming session in 1994 (in tony Boca Raton, Florida, poolside) that birthed J.P. Morgan’s ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl of credit derivatives. You already know how the story ends.
When Searching for a Philosophical Read, Reach for The Moral Fool: The author of this book, Hans-Georg Moeller, is a follower of Nietzsche. He pushes the following premise: Western morality is a “sickness” that doesn’t always result in the proper behavior. Hence the book’s full title (The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality).
This is not a book you would consider a traditional read regarding business theory. But its provocative discussion of ethics and morality as the basis for many “just wars” in history will make you think.
Lest you doubt you can apply the author’s discussion of human amorality to the business world, here are some of the other topics covered within its chapters: righteous anger; slavery; the enslavement of women; laws and the legal system; civil rights; the death penalty; the mass media.
This is the book to reach for when you’re approaching a deeply philosophical phase regarding your business or career.
Read This One Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self: This is not a corporate tome from a prolific business consultant, but I couldn’t resist the memorable title. It’s a collection of short stories by a relatively young “wunderkind” author, Danielle Evans. While the book offers you eight slices of youth-oriented anxiety seasoned with bits of sarcastic humor, the short story I recommend you read first is Harvest (scroll down to 12/15 entry).
This story’s sharp needle of societal commentary is threaded by a group of (intelligent, talented) African-American female students at Columbia University. These bright gals mock and debate a particular type of ad in their campus newspaper. Infertile couples in search of (human) egg donors are willing to pay up to $15,000 for an “Ivy-League harvest,” but girls of a certain color need not apply.
To tell you anymore would be wrong. Trust me, there is a business angle to the story you will recognize and react to, especially if you’re a woman and not Caucasian. Borrow it from your local library if you can’t compel yourself to buy the book. (But please consider supporting a young and original literary voice.)
Have you read any of these books? If so, what was your assessment regarding the one(s) you read? As you can see, there are no foolish jokes contained within this blog post–only “fool” books. May this April Fools’ Day treat you well and leave you in peace. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your business friends near and far. Thank you!
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or email By All Writes LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation project quote today!