Now that 2021 is in full swing and we can see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, most business leaders are assessing next steps and making plans. We all long for the comforting rhythm of the normal, but does that mean heading back to the office, navigating traffic, and downloading those since-deleted parking apps on our smartphones? As for the office, we have questions: What will it look like? Who will be there? And do we really have to stop wearing comfortable sweatpants instead of just being presentable from the waist up? Important questions all and for answers, I’m advising my CEOs to turn to a few new and compelling books.
HBS Professor Tsedal Neely’s latest book: Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere, offers important learnings, perspectives, and collaboration tips. Remote work is not new, of course; many domestic and global companies have had virtual work arrangements for decades, and Neely covered important ground on global teamwork in her previous thoughtful book The Language of Global Success. What’s new is the mix and assessment of the digital tools companies use and also the critical recognition that leaders must be even more intentional and develop “cognitive” and “emotional” trust when managing global teams of talented people don’t speak the same language or share the same cultural understandings and cues. Neely’s terrific and usable “action guide” offers important exercises and must-dos for managers who might be leading teams across the globe or just across two states. Sadly, you won’t be deleting Zoom from your browser favorites anytime soon, but you can use it more effectively.
In fact, technologists Matthew Mottola and Matthew Coatney argue in The Human Cloud that many teams, jobs and new businesses can and should only live online. This is a lively, fast-moving and fun book, and every chapter embraces the authors’ clarion call to forget the buzzwords “virtual economy,” and “gig economy” and embrace a simple fact: “The human cloud is just how we work in the cloud.” I enjoyed their advice and examples for both entrepreneurial freelancers (a nod to Babson alum Mottola) and also established businesses on how to reach more markets and customers online than ever before. Their book recommendations at the end of each chapter also are spot-on and I’ve added a few to my online cart already.
Finally, if we can’t find humor amidst the tumult of the last year, we truly are lost and to that end, I strongly recommend Humor, Seriously: Why Humor is A Secret Weapon In Business And In Life, the new book by Stanford Business School profs Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, who teach the enormously popular course there: Humor: Serious Business, which covers the behavioral theory and application of humor in relationships and business. I enjoyed this from the first page, not only for the dry wit, snark and hilarious examples of what works and what doesn’t, but also for the advice on leading with humor while creating an appropriate “Culture of Levity.” As we all begin to sort out this new business normal, Aaker and Bagdonas advise us: embrace the “Yes, and” tool from improv comedy, play along, and don’t forget to put “your funny to work.”
Authors & Innovators is an occasional column by Larry Gennari, a transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator of Authors & Innovators, an annual business book and ideas festival. Gennari also teaches Project Entrepreneur, a business fundamentals bootcamp for returning citizens, at BC Law School.