Book Recommendations

TUNKU – An Odyssey of a Life Well-Lived and Well-Loved

Author:

Kobkua Suwannathat Pian

As many of you are probably aware, 20 March is declared as International Day of Happiness by the United Nations. This is primarily to recognise the relevance of happiness and well-being as one of its universal goals. There is also the World Happiness Report that ranked Malaysia 42nd globally in the 2017 report. One can always argue what ‘happy’ means to them, but as rightly pointed out by a famous poet: “Why should I be unhappy? Every parcel of my being is in full bloom”. Perhaps, given the choices in life, why not choose to be happy?

Publicly, Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia’s Father of Independence always comes into mind when one discusses happiness. Indeed, he once declared himself the happiest Prime Minister in the world. Earlier this year, University of Malaya Press published a book that focuses on how Tunku lived his life as a man, servant of the state, politician, Chief Minister, Prime Minister, and his private working life post-premiership.

Divided into three parts, this book broadly discusses Tunku’s perspective and outlook in life that could probably suggest the feeling of happiness within him. Firstly, his humility connected him with his people, irrespective of their backgrounds. Such extensive connectivity naturally broadens the horizon and creates appreciation of differences. There was one occasion where Tunku had an interesting encounter with an Indian barber who spoke to him in Tamil while giving him a haircut (The barber could have mistaken him as an Indian given his complexion)1. Such humility also made his friendship with the young possible. Despite a considerable age gap, among Tunku’s closest acquaintance when he was in England to study law2 was Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. It was to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Tunku confided his vision – a career in law and to enter politics.

Tunku was also noted for his compassion and generosity. As the old saying goes, “the more you give, the more you get”, which could include happiness. Tunku’s compassion, especially for the underprivileged, is legendary. For instance, during World War II, Tunku who was then a district officer took the initiative to build a shelter in Kulim, Kedah for neglected prisoners who had returned from the River Kwai Death Railway in Thailand. Tunku also displayed a forgiving nature that could have helped him move forward. He lost his wife, Mariam when he was a district officer in Padang Terap, Kedah. She passed away after being diagnosed with malaria soon after she gave birth to their second child – her life could have been saved had it not been due to the doctor’s negligence.

An active mind seemed to be another contributing factor to his happiness. His passion for sports, especially football, is well documented. Through sports, he saw the element of unity that could potentially bind a multiracial country like Malaysia. Apart from his involvements in non-governmental organisations, Tunku was also active in writing following his retirement.

Lastly, Tunku is known for what his friends described as “what-one-sees-is-what one-gets”. He would always be Tunku Abdul Rahman regardless of the hat he was wearing. He was also frank about his shortcomings. It was narrated in the book that given a chance to re-live his life, Tunku Abdul Rahman would have wanted it to be the same – except trying to complete his law studies earlier.

This book is highly recommended for aspiring and evolving leaders who want to explore the self-leadership that is crucial in leading organisations, country, and even family. Apparently, being happy is a sensible choice for a leader but to be one is evidently challenging as it requires substantial leadership qualities.

TUNKU – An Odyssey of a Life Well-Lived and Well-Loved is published by University of Malaya Press and can be purchased from leading bookstores at RM56.00

Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms 

Author:

David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first multisided platform began, but it is likely to have stemmed from the barter system when there was a growing need to have a common place where people could come and find their respective trading partner. Two millennia ago in Athens, the city-state operated a multisided platform that allowed people to trade around the Mediterranean. The platform further evolved into another designated place nearer to the docks where lenders could connect with each other to conduct business, traders could exchange merchandises, enter deals with ship-owners, and creditors could lend money and provide insurance. Closer to home, we have the maritime trading activities in the Malay Archipelago centuries ago where spices, languages, and intercultural marriages permeated the scene.

Since then, multisided platforms have evolved with the advent of technology and the volume of information. By definition, multisided platforms is a service, product, or technology that allows two or more participants or customer groups to have direct interactions. In 2015, three out of five of the most valuable companies in the world – Google, Microsoft, and Apple, have used this business model. Despite this, multisided platforms remain one of the toughest business model to execute correctly and Evans and Schmalensee who have done pioneering research on the new economics of multisided platforms, outlines how these matchmakers work best in practice, the benefits of multisided platforms, and its impact to both conventional single-sided businesses and multisided platforms.

The book attempts to cover the relevant aspects of multisided platforms in three parts. The first provides an overview of the new economics of multisided platforms by showing how modern technologies have propelled this business model with its ancient roots. Part 2 covers key concepts which matchmakers must deal with in building, igniting, and operating their businesses. The final part covers how multisided platforms are creating new opportunities, destroying old industries, and forcing existing businesses to reinvent themselves to survive. The authors shared that the distinguishing difference between multisided platforms with regular businesses is that multisided platform focuses on selling a group of participants the access to another group of participants, not merely products or services. This differentiation is key in making basic business principles outdated, such as never selling services or products at less than its cost – a code that no conventional businesses would attempt. At most instances, it is more profitable to subsidise one group of customers to be part of the platform and making more money by charging another group for the access to the platform.

A critical point in this book is how new technologies are being used to make old business model work better and add more value in a new environment. An example used was how Uber began its ridesharing platform by starting local, building up critical mass in targeted geographic markets, and eventually expanding itself. This was no different to how Diners Club did it in 1950s. The differentiation lies in information and communication technology utilised but the same old strategy was used to get customers on board. Thus, there are some lessons in this book that is applicable to the public service, especially on how to ensure information and communication technology can be leveraged strategically to address issues of efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. Some of the challenges faced by multisided platforms are no more complex than what the public service faces such as getting the stakeholders on board in any policy direction that is being implemented. The need to balance reaction from stakeholder groups, with either minute concrete information or vast disorganised data are also another problem faced by public service and multisided platforms alike.

Another crucial aspect of this book is that it leaves policymakers with some points to ponder on the surge of multisided platforms and the types of audience it attracts. Malaysia saw how Uber disrupted the public transportation industry’s status quo and how Airbnb posed challenges to both the hospitality industry and customer’s safety and legal rights. What kinds of interactions are being encouraged on the platform? What kind of rules or standards of governing should it have and would it affect the ability of value creation? Should governments regulate multisided platforms, or would it render the innovation obsolete with intervention? Before attempting to answer the abovementioned questions, an understanding of what this innovative matchmaking industry and its trends are offering through this book provides a fine starting point.

Matchmakers is published by Harvard Business Review Press and can be purchased from Kinokuniya Kuala Lumpur (RM176.75) and MPH Bookstore (RM176.90).

The Brand Advantage: Public Sector Branding in Asia

Author:

Dr Paul Temporal 2004 

A great look at nation branding and the challenges and benefits of using brand strategy in developing a country’s brand power. The book is based on collaboration of two of the world’s top brand builders. The first part sets a compelling, insightful tone and examines the Nation Brand Effect (NBE) through several case studies.

The rest of the book provides a good insight on the advantages of branding for the public sector in Asian countries. The author stressed on the importance of national branding that would affect Public Sector Branding and vice versa. Comparisons were made between countries highlighting progress made by countries such as New Zealand, Canada and Britain with regards to engendering change through branding.

The author argues that with a strong public sector and national brand in place, Asian countries will benefit from, among others, greater currency stability, development of stronger strategic partnerships and the ability to attract and retain talent.  With intense global competition for economic resources and influence, Asian countries must move quickly to establish their brands, and branding must, in fact, be given top priority in national planning.

Paul Temporal has written more than 15 bestselling books on brand strategy and management.  He regularly contributes his thought leadership in the global media, and actively participates in forums held by organisations such as The Economist and Business Week.

Highly recommended reading for an understanding of branding for public service.

 Status: Now available at RSOG Library

The Leadership Mystique-Leading Behavior in The Human Enterprise

Author:

Manfred Kets De Vries

In this book, Manfred shared his experiences from conversant with thoughtful management scientist to the likes of Henry Mintzberg to his own city culture ramifications based on personal accounts of a “time and motion” observation in a café in Puerto Rico. Overall, he maintained that our primitive impulses and defenses combat our “rational being”- making up our inner emotional life and perpetual inner dialog-sometimes pleasant other times- painful.

For leaders, the challenge lies in reconciling these inner forces. The author had also cleverly captured the dichotomy of modern day issues on organizational dimensions and culture; citing analogies of the Dilbert syndrome as an animated rendition to which people in today’s marketplace experience alienation and cynicism.

The book also brings forth new intrinsic qualities of leadership termed as the ‘teddy-bear factor’ portrayed in William Shakespeare’s play Henry V- as a charismatic leader whom knew how to create “mutual identification” through building alliances and display empathy via their actions. Counter intuitively, he identified leadership failure factors namely- tyrannization of subordinates; micromanagement- of not being able to let go of control; manic behavior being too hyperactive; inaccessibility-executives being lofty and unapproachable and game playing-“operators”-political animals whom are power master calculators. These patterns consolidated to the rise of two M’s of failed leadership: mistrust and malaise.

Thus the author argued that the acid test of effective leadership is the extent to which people in the organization trust their leadership. The book is unique as Manfred’s uses strong human narratives in unraveling the mystique-the leadership phenomenon. A must read for leaders own introspection by keying into the emotional spectrum in self and of others in facing the challenges of the 21st century workplace.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

Drive

Author:

Daniel H. Pink

Dan Pink explores the idea of what really motivates us in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Pink addresses his ideas critically in this interdisciplinary book that was intelligently written to include stories, case studies and examples from business, economics,  sociology, psychology and science to explain our paradoxical understanding of “behavioural physics”.

Pink says it bluntly that our current motivation system focuses way too much on reward and punishment but fails to recognise the bigger motivation inside all of us; our intrinsic need for autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Intrinsic motivation functions similarly to the Moslow hierarchy, everyone starts working for monetary incentives and as we progress we search for more cognitive stimulation. Beyond that, there’s the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves.

Common business practice has for decades dictate that the only way to motivate and bring out the best in people is by using the ancient “carrots and sticks” method. However, Dan Pink highlights the empirical mismatch of this traditional business practice to the new practices adopted in ‘21st century’ companies. The likes of Google, Zappo, Atlassian or even those adopting the open source business philosophy have been the biggest winners in recent years. Their main company culture is to grant more individual autonomy by encouraging creative, free-thinking projects of their mastery to fulfil their personal purpose.

Drive is a must read book for any managers wishing to improve productivity while bringing positive change in working attitude in their organisations.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

Mastering Business in Asia: Negotiation

Author:

Peter Nixon

All eyes and attention are diverting to Asia. The phenomenal growth of China and India, the technological prowess of Japan and Korea and the power base of the combined regional ASEAN bloc, has caused the rest of the world to want to know Asia and engage with its business and political community.

Peter Nixon, in his over 15 years studying and working with organizations Asia, has found negotiation in Asia to be more challenging and particular compared to anywhere else in the world. This is due in large part to the cultural and linguistic diversity that exists amidst a long and vibrant trading environment. In his observations, the author has uncovered the attributes of the most successful negotiators and shares this in great detail with the reader. Each chapter is packed with tips, tactics and tools to help in any negotiation situation, as well as references to thought leadership on related topics such as psychology, communication, power and influence.

The advice contained in this book has been applied in hundreds of negotiation scenarios by some of the world’s leading organizations. Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to negotiate better outcomes for themselves or their organizations.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

The Art of Public Strategy: Mobilizing Power and Knowledge For the Common Good

Author:

Geoff Mulgan

Lao Tsu once said, “governing a great country is like cooking a small fish: don’t overdo it.” This ancient comment typifies the dilemma in public management. The Art of Public Strategy: Mobilizing Power and Knowledge For the Common Good  by Geoff Mulgan attempts to shift the attention towards things that really matter in public service – providing societies with what is really needed and having the courage to withstand potential derailments by instability of an uncertain world. The weight of this book stresses on the importance of long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes and how the government should understand their environment and challenge their existing assumptions.

Divided into three parts, the book highlights both the importance and frustration of government strategies. The first part sets the scene of public strategy, the second part digs deeper into major issues facing contemporary government, and the final part – part three, ties up the themes and issues together, setting out some conclusions.

The structure of the book is written in such a way that it can be used as a practical guide or read in a go. If you are looking to find out about how governments think and act, this book provides a revelation on public management, government and strategy through real life examples and case studies.

Having worked as Head of Policy and Director of the Government’s Strategy Unit in the UK Prime Minister’s office and Cabinet Office between 1997 and 2004, Geoff Mulgan is able to fuse between on-the-ground experience and top-level decision-making and how public strategy is influencing or is being affected, both directly and indirectly. While the author consistently argues that modern governance has been shaped by heightened importance of three types of public good: democracy, knowledge, and connections, the recurring point throughout the book is that public strategy in itself is also public good.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

The Post-American World

Author:

Fareed Zakaria

“This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.” So begins Fareed Zakaria’s blockbusting bestseller on the United States in the twenty-first century. How can Americans understand this rapidly changing international climate, and how might the nation continue to thrive in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You – At Work and in Life

Author: 

Spencer Johnson

The publisher of this book puts a diamond shaped symbol on the front of this book labeled Gem: Small but Valuable” and I couldn’t agree more! This book is targeted at a fairly wide range of folks, but for the most part I would say the “business motivation” category. However, its not really a motivational book. It’s more like a philosophy book, let me explain…Peaks and Valleys presents, in narrative story format, how shifting our thinking about the ups and downs in our lives can change how long we dwell in the personal valleys or savor the personal peaks of life.

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

Innovation Nation

Author:

John Kao

Not long ago, Americans could rightfully feel confident in our preeminence in the world economy. The United States set the pace as the world’s leading innovator: from the personal computer to the internet, from Wall Street to Hollywood, from the decoding of the genome to the emergence of Web 2.0, we led the way and the future was ours. So how is it, bestselling author and leading expert on innovation John Kao asks, that today Finland is the world’s most competitive economy? That U.S. students rank twenty-fourth in the world in math literacy and twenty-sixth in problem-solving ability? That in 2005 and 2006 combined, in a reverse brain drain, 30,000 highly trained professionals left the United States to return to their native India?

Status: Now available at RSOG Library

That Used To Be Us – How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

Author: 

Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

America has a huge problem. It faces four major challenges, on which its future depends, and it is failing to meet them. In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, analyze those challenges globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption and spell out what we need to do now to rediscover America and rise to this moment.

They explain how the end of the cold war blinded the nation to the need to address these issues. They show how our history, when properly understood, provides the key to addressing them, and explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country needs. They offer a way out of the trap into which the country has fallen, which includes the rediscovery of some of our most valuable traditions and the creation of a new, third-party movement. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.

“As we were writing this book,” Friedman and Mandelbaum explain, “we found that when we shared the title with people, they would often nod ruefully and ask: ‘But does it have a happy ending?’ Our answer is that we can write a happy ending, but it is up to the country to all of us to determine whether it is fiction or nonfiction. We need to study harder, save more, spend less, invest wisely, and get back to the formula that made us successful as a country in every previous historical turn. What we need is not novel or foreign, but values, priorities, and practices embedded in our history and culture, applied time and again to propel us forward as a country. That is all part of our past. That used to be us and can be again if we will it.”

Status: To be available at RSOG Library soon

The Future of Power

Author:

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

In the era of Kennedy and Khrushchev, power was expressed in terms of nuclear missiles, industrial capacity, numbers of men under arms, and tanks lined up ready to cross the plains of Eastern Europe. By 2010, none of these factors confer power in the same way: industrial capacity seems an almost Victorian virtue, and cyber threats are wielded by non-state actors. Politics changed, and the nature of power defined as the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes you want had changed dramatically. Power is not static; its story is of shifts and innovations, technologies and relationships.

Joseph Nye is a long-time analyst of power and a hands-on practitioner in government. Many of his ideas have been at the heart of recent debates over the role America should play in the world: his concept of “soft power” has been adopted by leaders from Britain to China; “smart power” has been adopted as the bumper-sticker for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. This book is the summation of his work, as relevant to general readers as to foreign policy specialists. It is a vivid narrative that delves behind the elusive faces of power to discover its enduring nature in the cyber age.

Status: To be available at RSOG Library soon

Who Will Cry When You Die? Life Lessons From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Author:

Robin S. Sharma

Do you feel that life is slipping by so fast that you might never get the chance to live with the meaning, happiness and joy you know you deserve? If so, then this very special book by leadership guru Robin S. Sharma, the author whose The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari series has transformed the lives of thousands, will be the guiding light that leads you to a brilliant new way of living.

In this easy-to-read yet wisdom-rich manual, Robin S. Sharma offers 101 simple solutions to lifes most complex problems, ranging from a little-known method for beating stress and worry to a powerful way to enjoy the journey while you create a legacy that lasts.

Robin Sharma is one of the world’s premier thinkers on leadership, personal growth and life management. The author of the national bestseller The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari— 0062515675, sold 40,000 copies in US. Robin Sharma is in constant demand internationally as a keynote speaker by organizations seeking to develop the highest potential of their people for extraordinary results. Clients include Microsoft, FedEx, Nortel Networks, Arthur Andersen, General Motors and IBM. For more of Robin’s knowledge visit robinsharma.com. He is a resident of Ontario, Canada.

Status: To be available at RSOG Library soon

The Fat Tail

Author:

Ian Bremmer & Preston Keat

In recent years, investors have learned the hard truth that in the international economy, politics often matters at least as much as economic fundamentals for the performance of global markets. Too many companies and investors haven’t yet learned to read the warning signs: their expertise lies much more in economics than politics, and the temptation is to hope that highly volatile situations such as the 2008 Georgia-Russia confrontation will be few and far between. But as Ian Bremmer and Preston Keat demonstrate, these scenarios–and their catastrophic effects on business–happen much more frequently than we imagine. On the curve that charts both the frequency of these events and the power of their impact, the ‘tail’ of extreme political instability is not reassuringly thin but dangerously fat.

This groundbreaking book is the first to both identify the wide range of political risks that global firms face and show investors how to effectively manage them. Written by two of the world’s leading figures in political risk management, it reveals that while the world remains exceedingly risky for businesses, it is by no means incomprehensible.

Authored by Ian Bremmer (author of the bestselling The J-Curve) and Preston Keat, the president and research director (respectively) of Eurasia Group, the world’s leading political risk consultancy firm, The Fat Tail is an indispensable guide for anyone involved in the international economy.

Status: To be available at RSOG Library soon

The Emotional Life of Your Brain

Author:

Richard J. Davidson with Sharon Begley

This long-awaited book by a pioneer in brain research offers a new model of our emotions- their origins, their power, and their malleability.

For more than thirty years, Richard Davidson has been at the forefront of brain research. Now he gives us an entirely new model for understanding our emotions, as well as practical strategies we can use to change them.

Davidson has discovered that personality is composed of six basic emotional “styles,” including resilience, self-awareness, and attention. Our emotional fingerprint results from where on the continuum of each style we fall. He explains the brain chemistry that underlies each style in order to give us a new model of the emotional brain, one that will even go so far as to affect the way we treat conditions like autism and depression. And, finally, he provides strategies we can use to change our own brains and emotions-if that is what we want to do.

Written with bestselling author Sharon Begley, this original and exciting book gives us a new and useful way to look at ourselves, develop a sense of well-being, and live more meaningful lives.

Status: To be available at RSOG Library soon