Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

Market Place 3.0, Hiroshi Mikitani Palgrave Macmillan. €24.99

Mikitani is the billionaire boss of Rakuten, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies, a rapidly growing firm with a valuation of $14 billion.

This book sets out his business philosophy which puts a strong emphasis on empowering vendors to be individual and to manage their relationships with customers.

Some readers may find Mikitani’s tone pompous at times. He prides himself on breaking the rules. Employees are forced to learn and use English or risk demotion. We also learn how he made a big play of resigning from the revered Japanese business organisation Keidanren.

He has plenty of advice to offer companies wishing to establish a global presence.

Acquiring a global mind-set requires that managers consume foreign media regularly and they should concentrate not only on what applies directly to their businesses but on wider trends and ideas that could lead to creative breakthroughs.

Media consumption should be complemented with having primary source information on those markets . Community involvement and charitable giving are valuable tools and managers should seek innovative ways of using them.

Europe's Hidden Potential, Burkhard Schwenker and Thomas Clark. Bloomsbury. €25

Europe doesn’t have to be mere bystander as the torch of global leadership is passed from the United States to Asia. Instead, if Europeans continue to work together and recognise what they have in each other, there is every possibility that Europe’s greatest period of history is yet to come.

That is the optimistic assessment from the authors in this interesting title.

The world is in a state of flux and it is obvious that the American management model, on which much of the world’s business is based, has reached its peak and needs to be revised, they say. The question arises as to which continent will best meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Schwenker and Clarke present data showing the resilience of European companies in key performance indicators, suggesting that Europe’s enterprises are frequently underestimated by analysts.

Much emphasis is placed on Europe’s culture of skilled craftsmanship and no other region has understood the days of the carbon economy are numbered and the moves towards a sustainable economy based on renewable energy provides it with a competitive advantage.

Guide to Project Management, Paul Roberts, The Economist. €16.99

There is much to learn from projects that have failed to meet expectations, notes Roberts. He cites examples such as the Hubble Spacecraft, the Scottish parliament building and the infamous “sinking” Kansai airport.

The sponsors of such projects fail to recognise how project management could affect business.

A number of fundamental questions need to be addressed. These include: who needs to be involved in managing a project, what should the project deliver, when and at what cost, and why the project is necessary? If the last question cannot be answered authoritatively and persuasively, it is doubtful that the project is justifiable, Roberts says.

For a project to thrive it must exist in surroundings that are congenial to its delivery.Unless projects are discretely and efficiently scoped, planned and resourced, the workforce will remain focused on the normal operation of the business.

Projects will be funded by goodwill rather than the ring- fenced budget they deserve.

Written in a highly practical style, the book is rich in models, charts and checklists to help managers embarking on large scale projects.