This debut guide, penned by several professors, addresses contemporary threats that can face any type of business.
The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, arguably Canada’s leading business school, funded this intriguing book—a compilation of observations about various “strategic threats” to businesses, including failures of systems, escalating internal costs, or public relations debacles. Eleven Rotman professors tackle some of the most compelling issues in a far-ranging work that covers such topics as health care, gender diversity, corporate reputation management, and innovation. Each of the nine scrupulously researched chapters stands very much on its own; the book’s editors, professors Gans and Kaplan, provide an introduction and conclusion, stressing the essays’ commonalities. For example, they eloquently highlight “common organizational mistakes” in companies that fail to recognize threats. They also discuss the concept of “structured anticipation” as a way to understand and prepare for risks. Business leaders will likely find Gans and Kaplan’s content alone to be highly beneficial. They’ve carefully curated the other chapters to represent a broad range of subject matter, although each pinpoints a potential crisis area with precision, using specific examples and relevant research. One sobering chapter by Andras Tilcsik addressing catastrophic failures, for example, cites two divergent cases: the hardware failure that caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 and the software failure that caused Knight Capital Group, a large Wall Street trader, to lose $460 million in 2012. Tilcsik then offers six specific “interventions that can improve decisions, strengthen complex systems, and reduce catastrophic risks.” Another chapter, “The Challenge of Gender Diversity,” by Kaplan, explores “the underlying reasons that discriminatory outcomes occur even with the best of intentions” and presents several research-based solutions. Gans and Kaplan conclude by saying that they intend to update the work “as new research comes to light.” Overall, despite its multiple authors, this is a highly focused, elegantly written treatise.
Actionable solutions for senior corporate leaders that will also make engaging reading for others interested in business challenges.