December 21, 2014  
 
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Business Books Worth Reading

 

Denial by Richard S. Tedlow

Business books, like movies, are often hit or miss. If you are looking for business books worth reading, here's a great read for you.

DENIAL: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face -- And What to Do About It by author Richard S. Tedlow, a professor of business history at Harvard Business School, is going to end up being on all the lists of the best business books for 2010.
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Think about everything you hate in a bad business book. They are a chore to read. One idea is beaten incessantly into your head page after page. You are subjected to monotonous repetition of things you already know, that have been covered by twenty other similar business books.

DENIAL is the antithesis of that. Every single page is a pleasure. Seriously, you can flip to almost any page in the book and just that read that page, and you'll be amazed at what you just learned.

The main premise is that companies get stuck in denial while their challenges escalate into crises. Tedlow describes Denial as the unconscious belief that a certain fact is too terrible to face and therefore cannot be true. Under the hypnotic spell of denial, senior executives and company founders hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe, even in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The end result? Denial has gutted many good businesses, large and small and even some that seemed invincible just before their collapse.

Tedlow skillfully makes the case that even the smartest business leaders, folks like Henry Ford, refuse to accept the realities that threaten their companies and their legacies. Intermixed in a series of stories about denial in business are references to research on the human tendency to deny things, as well as counsel on how each of us can find the courage to resist denial when facing new trends, changing markets, and tough new competitors.

In addition to loving the coverage on the role of denial in bringing down industry giants, I absolutely love the business histories that Tedlow uses to illustrate his points.

He does in-depth historical case studies of companies that didn't keep their eye on the prize, falling prey to denial. From Ford to Sears to Coke, we learn how senior executive became myopic about their business, ultimately resulting in poor performance, or worse, outright failure.

Each chapter reads like a great short story, giving you insights on industries and key players, who won and who lost, and how denial brought down industry goliaths. On the flip side, Tedlow offers another set of chapters highlighting firms, such as Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and DuPont, that fought against denial and won.

Each chapter is jam-packed with interesting facts. Who knew that the Ford Model T is still the second best selling car ever in terms of volume? Who knew that when shopping carts were introduced that men and women shunned them because only sissy men wouldn't carry their groceries in their arms and because women thought that shopping carts looked like baby carriages?

After reading this book, you'll be able to impress your friends and family with all sorts of fun business facts.

More importantly, you will be inoculated against the perils of denial. Don't think for a moment that only big companies have this problem.

If you own a small business, it's very easy to lose perspective on what's happing in your market. You can't escape the human tendency for denial, but you can learn to identify when it's happening and take steps to counter it.

The cost for this book is $17.79, although prices will vary depending on where you buy it. The book is published by one of my favorite business book publishers, Portfolio Hardcover. The ISBN number for the book is 978-1591843139.

Again, we highly recommend this book. It's a great read!

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