Books: A Healthy Workplace

Want a happy and productive staff? Take these lessons from Marriott International’s success.

Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into a Global Hotel Company

By J.W. “Bill” Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown; Luxury Custom Publishing LLC; 204 pages; $19.99

Like father, like son. That’s the folksy, matter-of-fact tone of J.W. “Bill” Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown’s latest book, Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into a Global Hotel Company, in which the recently “retired” CEO of Marriott International, Inc., welcomes readers to tour through the company’s timeline of practices, values, mistakes, and goals.

Much of the attraction in any good tale is its characters. Marriott—with his 300,000 global employees, many of whom seem to have shared coffee with him or shaken his hand—identifies plenty, relying on their experiences to support his commentary.

Unsurprisingly, the first chapter focuses on his associates and how he tries to keep them happy, productive, and focused on the company’s vision of holding the top hospitality spot in the world—forever. From wellness programs to tuition assistance, Marriott’s initiatives confirm what his dad taught him: Workplace culture is “the keystone” to success.

Building on his father’s credos, Marriott structures the $12 billion company’s culture—and this book—around five values: Put people first. Pursue excellence. Embrace change. Act with integrity. Serve our world.

Within each, he defines and depicts purpose, value, strategy, and success measures. Associations could use this model as a template during any strategic session, while leaders will find good fodder on, well, leading.


Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses

By Gary Shapiro; HarperCollins; 256 pages; $25.99

Innovation is not the first concept most think of when hearing the word ninja, but Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and a tae kwon do black belt, proves this wrong.

He kicks off by describing three types of business innovation: evolutionary, revolutionary, and disruptive. Next he shows how medieval warrior ninjas mirror successful modern innovators. Parsing this metaphor into 10 chapters, he connects each ninja innovation characteristic to top companies.

Few leaders have such rich anecdotes to draw from when talking about innovation. Especially fascinating is CEA’s transformation of the once-fading Consumer Electronics Show into a “killer ninja tradeshow.” An interesting exercise in possibilities.


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

By Chip and Dan Heath; Crown Business; 362 pages; $26

Here’s an easy decision—buy this book. The Heath brothers have pulled off another practical, thought-provoking read that inspires better job performance and life enjoyment.

Association leaders are well represented in this exploration of why even smart people choose poorly and how to reduce such nonsense through adoption of the duo’s new WRAP process: widening your options, reality-testing your assumptions, attaining distance before deciding, and preparing to be wrong.

Awareness and active purging of four “villains of decision making” (narrow framing, short-term emotions, overconfidence, and confirmation bias) also are critical.

You’ll spot your own tendencies, so post the table of contents as a reminder to WRAP using its excellent, easy tools.

Kristin Clarke, CAE

By Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is books editor for Associations Now and president of Clarke Association Content. MORE

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