- Colleen Watson
The Century Plant Business Library for 2022
I know what you're thinking, great, more books to add to my TBR list. Like I'm not busy enough? Guilty, but as a former librarian and lifelong reader, I cannot resist it as much as I could deny myself chocolate (hint: not at all). Hopefully, my list will give you some lesser known titles with great ideas. I'm making you a promise, one book a month and, no, I'm never hosting a book club. Have enough on my plate. However, as a supporter of life-long learning, here we go.
March 2022: Authenticity by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II
Sometimes you need so surrender to the reality of a hyphen book, and this one demands it. A philosophy-business-social service thesis, and though dated, it came out in 2007, the basic argument holds. The point, that authenticity is the crucial element in every business enterprise is even more true in 2022.
That said, this isn't an easy book to digest. It feels like an academic work, which I assume it was given the qualifications of the writers, that they attempted to transform into a general business book. Given that, they try to explain these slippery concepts in everyday language, a feat accomplished with limited success. The ideas, though necessary, demand. You take this book in nibbles, digesting the ideas slow and with deliberation. It could also use a refresh (it did just turn 15! I could get it's drivers permit) with more recent examples.
To write about authenticity, you first need a baseline understanding of what it is. From there, you need pratical steps that companies can take to move toward this essential quality. The standard to meet can be summed up in two basic premises:
Be true to yourself
Be who you say you are to others
So far, so good, but as they got deeper into their ideas, I got more and more lost. After all, these simple concepts are two of the most difficult and demanding to define, much less life up to for yourself, much less your company. Recognizing this, they break things into four categories that most businesses fall into: real-real, real-fake, fake-real and fake-fake.
Real-real businesses manage to meet both standards. I think you can guess how rare this is, and how easy it is to fall from grace. Gold standards are hard to keep shiny. A fake-fake business fails at both ends. Members of this group have the difficult tasks of both instilling values internally and rebuilding trust with their client base.
Most businesses, however, fall into the middle two descriptions: real-fake and fake-real. This means they succeed at one element of the above while failing at the other. Despite the many examples, I find I still have a slim grasp on the nuances of it all. That, however, did not stop me from doing a lot of reflecting. When you promise writing that 'sounds authentic' you'd better have a handle on what that means. This gave me a firmer grounding in the concept, one that I can and will take forward with me into the future.
*Oh, and in case you're wondering, to the best of my abilities, I think I fall into the fake-real trap, but don't quote me on that