Book Review: Mavericks at Work (William Taylor & Polly LeBarre)

Written by a pair of journalists from Fast Company magazine, Mavericks at Work explores the frontiers of innovation among a variety of different industries and makes an impassioned plea that companies need to embrace change, dramatically, in order to thrive and prosper in today’s economy.

Overall, the book is very engaging, well-organized, and well-written, presenting a pantheon of inspiring case studies featuring the “maverick” thinking behind companies ranging from ING Direct USA to Craigslist to Southwest Airlines — with the premise being that each of these organizations had the courage to buck conventional wisdom and is now profiting mightily as a result.  Once this premise is established, the book then dives deep on a few specific topics, such as how powerful amounts of creativity can be harnessed through groups and open-source models, as well as how companies can differentiate themselves and win the war for customers, profits, and employee talent.   What’s more, at the conclusion of the book, the reader is provided with a series of helpful end notes to help guide them to a wealth of additional reading materials around the various themes presented.  Nice touch!

These benefits aside, however, there are some who might argue that the territory covered by Mavericks at Work has been thoroughly explored before by previous works, or that the book’s core argument is based on a biased sample of “maverick” entrepreneurs who have succeeded, without acknowledging the thousands upon thousands of creative, outside-of-the-box business leaders who have failed.   And yet, despite these potential weaknesses, we still believe M.A.W. is one of the most important business books of the year, and the quality of the writing and case studies alone makes it well worth the price tag…

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