Business thinking between the covers, compiled by FRANK DILLON

The Intention Economy

by Doc Searls

Harvard Business Review Press €24.99

The shift in power to consumers in the market relationship is the theme of this book from Searls, a US-based author, journalist and widely-read blogger. He envisions a world in which customers no longer go online to browse the offerings of various businesses, hoping to find a product or service that meets their needs.

Instead, they let their favourite businesses know what they are looking for and wait for businesses to come to them with offers. Consumers will be able to control the flow of personal data, build their own loyalty programmes and dictate terms of service, including price. Searls is part of a team writing computer code to create Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) software, a consumer take on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

The old model of advertising could soon disappear, Searls suggests. However, he sees benefits in this new paradigm for companies which are alive to new opportunities. Instead of having to guess what consumers want and competing for their attention, firms can respond directly to customer intentions, eliminating wasted effort.

This is a thoughtful, well researched book with a compelling thesis and call to action for marketers.

Going South – Why Britain Will Have a Third World Economy by 2014

by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson

Palgrave Macmillan €14.99

There is a yen at the moment for introspective, gloomy books about the state of Britains economy and its declining status in the world order. This latest title is of this ilk. Once the workshop of the world, the UK is now deeply in debt with a poorly educated, unproductive workforce and downward mobility is inevitable, say the authors.

Using detailed analysis of historical events, the book traces Britains gradual decline from 1914 onwards and says that 2014 will be a defining date – not just a convenient 100-year bookend. Other respected commentators, including the investment bank Lazard, have identified a huge wall of banking and commercial debt due for refinancing at about this time and there are serious doubts whether this will be achievable.

The authors are also concerned about declining standards in education, with Britain slipping down the international OECD performance league tables. Despite education spending increasing during Labour’s 13 years in power, there has been a decline in the number of students studying foreign languages, the quality of science teaching and in numeracy and literacy skills.

Britain has been living beyond its means for decades and it needs to get its finances back in order.

How to Decide

by Jonathan Herring

Pearson €14.99

‘What to do when you dont know what to do’ is the subtitle of this book. Often the problem is not a straightforward one involving a simple either/or choice, the author notes. Defining the question itself is the key. This helps break the problem down into smaller pieces with a more specific focus.

Information lovers tend to make better decisions because they have more facts to base their decisions on, but Herring cautions that too much information can overwhelm you to the point where making a decision becomes harder. If your decision involves a relatively small amount of money, it is more efficient to make it quickly and spend the time saved researching information for a bigger decision.

Herrings imparts plenty of practical advice in this book. You should rely on facts, not feelings and not place too much weight on other people’s views – make your own assessment instead. However, it is important to seek professional opinion in areas such as law and accountancy. For instance, you may find general legal principles on the internet, but for advice on how they apply in your own situation, you may need to speak to a lawyer.

He also points to the dangers of group decision-making, which can lose focus or be dominated by one person.