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The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy Hardcover – January 5, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


How are you going to get rid of your air sandwich if you don't even know what it is? Provocative and practical at the same time.
--Seth Godin, Author of Linchpin

Rubicon as always stood apart from other consulting firms because they engender true engagement across an organization. Adobe's first of many engagements with Rubicon was to develop the Education segment go-to-market plan. Adobe's Education market growth over the past decade is testimony to the value of a collaborative implementation of strategy, Merchant's signature, and the foundation of The New How.
-- Katie Keating, VP, WW eCommerce and NA Channel Sales, Adobe Systems

The New How is informative and provides exciting insights because the suggestions are practical and do-able. Merchant gets the new reality -- leadership fails not so much from flawed strategy as it does from failed processes of engagement from those responsible for implementing the strategy. In high-performing organizations everyone acts like a leader and they own the strategy and take actions to ensure its success. If you care about making a difference, read this book.
--Barry Posner, Author of The Leadership Challenge

In a world in which the pace of change is ever quickening, collaboration, not control, is the route to a successful organization. This book tells you how to make your organization collaborative. And Nilofer Merchant's writing is a model of clarity.
--Barry Schwartz, Author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Collaboration is a powerful competitive weapon; this book shows you how to use it to win markets.
--Mark Interrante, VP Content Products, Yahoo!

"Want to transform your organization into a collaborative enterprise? Nilofer Merchant provides insightful and practical strategies in The New How."
--Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems, Inc.

"Merchant's book is a practical guide for the journey from strategy to implementation. The collaborative tools described here can help companies reach strategic success--and avoid pitfalls along the way."
--Tom Kelley, General Manager, IDEO, and author of Ten Faces of Innovation

About the Author

Nilofer Merchant has gone from admin to CEO to board member of a NASDAQ-traded company along her 20 year career, gathering monikers such as "the Jane Bond of Innovation" along the way for her ability to guide Fortune 500 and startup companies through impossible odds.

She's worked for major companies like Apple (with Steve Jobs) and Autodesk (personally hired and fired by Carol Bartz) and startups in the early days of the Web (Golive/ later bought by Adobe). And Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMWare, and many others have turned to her guidance to develop new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors, and optimize revenues. And, Merchant is one of the few people who can say they've fought a competitive battle against Microsoft and won, for Symantec's Anti-Virus $2.1B annual business. She has personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18B in sales, with expertise in Europe and US markets. Today she serves on boards for both public and private companies.

The 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, published by Harvard Business Review in 2012 follows her previous book, The New How (Oreilly, 2010), on Collaborative work. She lectures on innovation, board governance, and marketing at Stanford University. You can follow her current thinking at nilofermerchant.com and follow her on Twitter @Nilofer.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596156251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596156251
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,234,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pam Fox Rollin on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I rarely say "must read", but this is a rare book.

Nilofer Merchant has accomplished what few business writers have:
- Implementing the ideas in this book will substantially transform organizations.
- These transformations will make the organizations simultaneously more competitive AND better places to work.
- Leaders at all levels can apply these learnings, although I most want this book to get into the hands of C-levels (the world hasn't changed yet!) and those that advise them.
- The book is so well-written that there's a good chance that readers will actually stay with it, remember it, refer back, and work toward the changes recommended.

Nilofer, former star performer at Apple and Autodesk, now strategy consultant to high-tech CEOs, has one foot grounded in the top-down reality of today's large organizations and another stepping forward into the more networked, collaborative, far more agile world of tomorrow's successful companies.

As an executive coach with roots in corporate strategy, I applaud Nilofer's theme that people at all levels in your organization have knowledge, insight, and solution-finding smarts that go largely untapped as companies currently set strategy and navigate fast-moving markets to deliver. For all the talk of "talent management" people at mid and front-line levels are seldom engaged in the decisions that matter most. This has to change, and here is your roadmap.

I rate this book, along with Heifetz & Lansky's "Practice of Adaptive Leadership", as highest-value reading that give me, at the opening of this perilous decade, the most optimism that people in big organizations can get their acts together and thrive.
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Format: Hardcover
Nilofer Merchant addresses a difficult topic: the common discrepancy between what is called "strategy" in the one hand, and what is labeled "execution," on the other. In between, you have what she calls the "air sandwich." The gap is not new whatsoever. Most companies reproduce a multi-millenarian dichotomy between the people who think in the stratosphere and the rest of the humans, bound to deal with the day-to-day weather in the troposphere. Too bad, because that's what is killing them from the inside!

This book offers an extensive description of a devastating disease - but even better, a solid methodology to stop it. Most strategies are doomed to fail from the start because of how they were formed. They are positioned as visions disconnected from implementation considerations - and therefore foster ad hoc measures and improvisation. The book shows how to rebuild and realign the connective pieces and synergies that drive successful businesses, i.e.:
* How people can engage with one another and create value together.
* How collaborative planning must rely on an efficient framework.
* How small acts rather than big announcements transform company cultures for the best.

"Incorporating collaboration into the company's dynamic" is not a pompous motto that comes from the top and fades away as you get lower into the hierarchy, but each employee's personal responsibility: "Think about your work not in terms of what you do, but in terms of the role you play. Your role is not just your title, but includes sets of behaviors, tools, and approaches to create value for and with your organization.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Transparency has always been an important management topic (how much, with whom, about what). But I think we're entering an era where transparency may have a chance of going mainstream. Nilofer Merchant relays vivid examples (often personal ones based on her rich career) of the flaws of top-down thinking and how this approach threatens strategy development and implementation. Her "Air Sandwich" is a clear and memorable way to describe the problem (p. 13):

"An Air Sandwich is, in effect, a strategy that has clear vision and future direction on the top layer, day-to-day action on the bottom, and virtually nothing in the middle -- no meaty key decisions that connect the two layers, no rich chewy center filling to align the new direction with new actions within the company."

I've assigned the introduction of The New How to my MBA class on Organizational Analysis and Design. I expect they will appreciate the clear voice and examples.
(Longer review available at: [....]
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Format: Hardcover
Why do so many strategies fail? Usually the fault lies with the strategy itself and/or how it was formulated, and/or how it was executed. In this book Nilofer Merchant offers what she characterizes as "a different approach that gets everyone to collaborate and create winning strategies." More specifically, this approach requires that everyone is able to participate in and contribute to the collaborative process, that allows decisions to be made based on insights gathered from throughout the given enterprise, that these decisions be in alignment with the vision, that there be "collective debate" with principled dissent, and that there be on-going, constant communication between and among those involved. Merchant also stresses the importance of taking an approach that utilizes conflict and tension to motivate creativity, one that focuses on what is most important (what "matters most"), and that enables those involved to move faster (i.e. get and better work done sooner) while tapping into (indeed leveraging) everyone's strengths.

That is the book's "what," clearly presented in the Preface. Most of the material that follows explains a "New How" to achieve those and other worthy objectives. Merchant is a passionate empiricist and diehard pragmatist, determined to understand what works, what doesn't, and why. I appreciate her focus on a combination of processes for strategy planning and execution but only after rigorous consideration of options versus objectives in terms of where and how to compete. Long ago, I began to view strategies as "drivers" and tactics as "nails." The New How suggests different and, Merchant insists, better ways to decide how to compete, whatever the nature and extent of the given marketplace may be. That is, how to drive high-impact results.
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