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Quick and Nimble
Cover of Quick and Nimble
Quick and Nimble
Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation--Insights from The Corner Office

More than two hundred CEOs reveal their candid insights on how to build and foster a corporate culture that encourages innovation and drives results



In Quick and Nimble, Adam Bryant draws on interviews with more than two hundred CEOs to offer business leaders the wisdom and guidance to move an organization faster, to be quick and nimble, and to rekindle the whatever-it-takes collective spark of a start-up workplace, all with the goal of innovating and thriving in a relentlessly challenging global economy. By analyzing the lessons that these leaders have shared in his regular "Corner Office" feature in The New York Times, Bryant has identified the biggest drivers of corporate culture, bringing them to life with real-world examples that reflect this hard-earned wisdom.


These men and women—whose ranks include Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Angie Hicks of Angie's List, Steve Case of Revolution (and formerly AOL), and Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania—offer useful insights and strategies for creating a corporate culture of innovation and building a high-performing organization that unleashes the passion and energy of its employees.


As the world shifts to more of a knowledge economy, the winners will be companies that can attract and retain the best and brightest employees by creating an environment where they can grow, contribute, and feel rewarded. Through the wisdom of these leading chief executives, Quick and Nimble offers a keen understanding of leadership, recruiting, and the forces that shape corporate culture and a clear road map to bring success and energy to any organization.


More than two hundred CEOs reveal their candid insights on how to build and foster a corporate culture that encourages innovation and drives results



In Quick and Nimble, Adam Bryant draws on interviews with more than two hundred CEOs to offer business leaders the wisdom and guidance to move an organization faster, to be quick and nimble, and to rekindle the whatever-it-takes collective spark of a start-up workplace, all with the goal of innovating and thriving in a relentlessly challenging global economy. By analyzing the lessons that these leaders have shared in his regular "Corner Office" feature in The New York Times, Bryant has identified the biggest drivers of corporate culture, bringing them to life with real-world examples that reflect this hard-earned wisdom.


These men and women—whose ranks include Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Angie Hicks of Angie's List, Steve Case of Revolution (and formerly AOL), and Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania—offer useful insights and strategies for creating a corporate culture of innovation and building a high-performing organization that unleashes the passion and energy of its employees.


As the world shifts to more of a knowledge economy, the winners will be companies that can attract and retain the best and brightest employees by creating an environment where they can grow, contribute, and feel rewarded. Through the wisdom of these leading chief executives, Quick and Nimble offers a keen understanding of leadership, recruiting, and the forces that shape corporate culture and a clear road map to bring success and energy to any organization.


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  • Copyright © 2014 by Adam Bryant

    Introduction

    We aspire to be the largest small company in our space.

    When Dominic Orr, the CEO of the wireless technology company Aruba Networks, said those words, he crystallized a goal I had heard many leaders express during the more than two hundred interviews I've conducted for the "Corner Office" feature in the New York Times. And that idea ultimately helped frame the question that drives this book: How can a company foster a quick and nimble culture—with the enviable qualities of many start-ups—even as it grows?

    All leaders and managers face this challenge, regardless of the size of their companies. Even the founders of Google have worried about losing the start-up magic that helped propel the search engine's phenomenal growth. When Larry Page announced in January 2011 that he was taking over the CEO role from Eric Schmidt, he explained to reporters that the company needed to move faster and recapture the agility of its early days, before it grew into a colossus.

    "One of the primary goals I have," Page said at the time, "is to get Google to be a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion and speed of a start-up."

    Discussions of corporate culture can easily fall into platitudes, theories, truisms, and generalities. Cookie-cutter approaches don't work, either, for the simple reason that the culture of every organization is unique, just as every country is different. With those caveats in mind, I set out in search of practical tips and insights that would be useful and relevant for any organization—the kinds of approaches that would help cultivate the culture that Jenny Ming described at Old Navy, where she built the brand into a retailing powerhouse.

    "I was there from the very beginning," said Ming, who is now the CEO of Charlotte Russe, the clothing chain. "But later, I still considered it a start-up. I think when we were a three-billion-dollar company, someone said to me, 'Jenny, we're not a start-up.' And I said to them, 'I think we have to have that mentality of a start-up, because I think it's very healthy to think that way—"Resources are scarce, so what should we do?" ' I have learned that you always have to have a little bit of that. It's a state of mind. I think it makes you hungry. It makes you the underdog. You want to prove that you can do it."

     

    If you scan the list of CEOs at the start of this book, you'll notice that a large number of them run technology companies. That is no accident. Successful tech firms tend to grow quickly, giving their leaders a keen sense of the cultural challenges that crop up as they add more employees and layers of management.

    Tech CEOs also often apply the same innovative thinking to culture that they use to develop products. For example, Phil Libin, the CEO of the software firm Evernote, once asked his wife for advice on what he could do that would have a big impact on his employees' lives. Her response: free housecleaning twice a month for every staff member. Libin took her advice and also did away with a formal vacation policy, but to offset the pressure some employees might feel to not take a break, he gives each staff member $1,000 spending money to go away on real vacations. (Visits to the in-laws don't count.)

    And the leaders of technology firms have to think hard about culture because they are in a war for talent—not just to attract employees but also to hold on to them. After all, any decent software engineer gets e-mails every day from headhunters offering raises and new perks to jump to another firm. So CEOs have to create a place where employees want to stay.

    As the...

About the Author-
  • Adam Bryant is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed. He writes the popular "Corner Office" feature in The New York Times's business section and has served as the newspaper's senior editor for features, deputy national editor, and deputy business editor. He was previously a senior writer and business editor at Newsweek. He and his family live in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 14, 2013
    New York Times columnist Bryant (The Corner Office) interviewed more than 200 CEOs and other executives between March 2009 and May 2013 to answer this question: “How can a company foster a quick and nimble culture—with the enviable qualities of many start-ups—even as it grows?” Leaders such as the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, the CEO of JetBlue, chef Mario Batali, and the CEO of FourSquare provide thoughts on leadership, management, and innovation. Bryant has mined the interviews, hoping to provide practical tips to help companies move more like tech firms than like stodgy blue-chip companies. He breaks down the important elements of a successful corporate culture, and then describes the leadership strategies to build on it. Much of his focus is on culture, and the importance of building and retaining great teams; he then lets the interviewees speak to topics such as goals and strategies, values, constant learning, and most importantly, having fun. Though the big names lend the book a certain flair, there’s not much new or inspiring content here; the book does better when describing more whimsical lessons—one manager’s “user manual of me” or another’s “lightbulb or a gun” dichotomy. Unfortunately, the same information can be found elsewhere.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2013
    New York Times business reporter Bryant (The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, 2011) collects advice from CEOs on how to build a business culture that attracts and encourages the best employees. How do you keep that old magic of successful startup businesses? Maintaining the initial soul, passion and nimbleness of those first days is the author's aim in this chatty, anecdotally rich series of interviews with more than 200 CEOs, a stew of experience from which Bryant tries to spear the nuggets of wisdom. Culture is the key, writes the author: "[I]nnovation is the byproduct of an effective culture." Of course, that's not as easy as it sounds, for it requires much of the CEO: a free flow of ideas, a tempering of the ego and the encouragement of the development of new skills to keep things fresh. CEOs must live by and be responsible to the values of the business, be dependable and caring, keep meetings to the point and small in size so people can participate, develop a culture of respect, solicit input by talking directly with the person involved. With so many business professionals weighing in, there is bound to be some static: One CEO extols giving employees "space and rope," then emphasizes teamwork. There are also plenty of bromides--"A successful culture is like a greenhouse where people and ideas can flourish"--and some less-than-helpful tidbits, but the majority of the tips are useful. Some of the more notable contributors include the CEOs of Zappos, eBay, Stetson, Atlantic Records Group, Accenture, Tesco, ING Direct, United Entertainment Group, Saks, Hilton Worldwide and The Container Store. Reams of practical advice for and from business leaders, most--thankfully--with a human, caring touch.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2014

    Featuring interviews with more than 200 CEOs from a variety of backgrounds and companies, this book seeks to delve into how to create a culture of innovation in any workplace by listening to what seasoned professionals have learned over the years. Bryant (senior editor, New York Times "The Corner Office") organizes the title into two parts: the essential elements involved in workplace culture and leadership strategies for fostering innovation. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular topic and set of issues leaders commonly grapple with in office culture and is filled with many excerpts from Bryant's conversations. This approach allows for patterns to emerge, and the author's natural, conversational tone is compulsively readable. Unlike business expert and consultant Jim Collins (Good to Great; Built To Last), Bryant does little analyzing or interpreting of data. The emphasis is on the CEOs who communicate their philosophies and advice by relating their experiences and anecdotes. While some may fall prey to buzzwords and jargon that offers little help, the majority of the content presented is illuminating. VERDICT A valuable text for those seeking aspiring and current leadership in any business model. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]--Laurel Tacoma, Strayer Univ. Lib., Washington, DC

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Adam Grant, professor of management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and bestselling author of Give and Take "Quick and Nimble is the definitive book on organizational culture. Adam Bryant offers an expert guided tour through the minds of the world's most innovative CEOs, sharing insights that are both enlightening and immensely practical. This is a book that every leader needs to read--and reread."
  • Eric Ries, bestselling author of The Lean Startup "Adam Bryant identifies the most important challenge facing business leaders today: how to achieve innovation at scale by building a culture that will marry the energy of a startup with the discipline of a veteran organization. In Quick and Nimble, he has assembled an all-star team of CEOs to share--in their own words--how they have taken their companies to the next level."
  • Nancy F. Koehn, James Robison Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School "In today's nonstop turbulence, innovation is critical to success. In Quick and Nimble, Adam Bryant distills important lessons from a range of leading CEOs about how to create and sustain a productive culture that nurtures not only innovation but also respect, engagement, and teamwork for everyone involved. And he does so in a lively, grounded voice that resonates with experience and perspective. A 'must read' for any leader serious about the company he or she is building and the difference it makes in the world."
  • Bill George, professor, Harvard Business School, and former chair and CEO, Medtronic "In Quick and Nimble, Adam Bryant unlocks the secret to creating and sustaining a culture of innovation: Leadership. Bryant has translated his in-depth interviews with innovation leaders into lessons on how to build a creative, open, and ultimately innovative culture that will enable every organization to thrive and grow."
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Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation--Insights from The Corner Office
Adam Bryant
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