Three books with one post

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I promised to go through the books I purchased this year, as I did last year, but got caught up in aimlessly lying around, munching on taro chips and occasionally napping. Too bad, I know. So here’s my attempt to cover three books in one post. I’ll start with the one in the middle.

Design A very short introduction by John Heskett

Imho, I’m offering a third party review of this book purely because John was one of my favourite professors at ID and you know I’d only sing the praises of this book. In fact, I am going to say that if you want a quick and dirty, easy to read overview and understanding of Design, there is no better book you could pick up today in the market. From the Oxford University Press’ website,

This concise guide to contemporary design goes beyond style and taste
to look at how different cultures and individuals personalize objects.
Heskett also reveals how simple objects, such as a toothpick, can have
their design modified to suit the specific cultural behavior in
different countries.

Everybody loves a good drought: stories from India’s poorest districts by P.Sainath – This one is an eye opener, if you’ve been caught up in the fuss about the bottom of the pyramid and the fortune therein. I figured that while I could say I’d visited one village I really didn’t know the extent to what being at the bottom really meant so I hope to start this one soon. No, I’ve not dared to crack the book open yet. Here’s the descriptive snippet,

Sainath spent years in the poorest districts in India, attempting to understand how people with absolutely nothing by way of resources manage to eke out a living–one story is about men who transport over 900 pounds of coals on their bicycles, walking marathon-length distances every day, to earn the princely sum of 10 Indian Rupees (25 cents) per day.

The stories of government mismanagement of funds earmarked for rural uplift are perhaps not surprising, but for many, the stories of the venality of corporations and the tales of institutions like the Army running roughshod over the rights of hundreds of millions of India might just open eyes that were glued shut to the injustices prevalent in the Indian social matrix. The stories of India’s 80 million tribal and indigenous people, Adivasis, are heart wrenching and fantastic–such stories cannot be found in mainstream publications.

And for balance, a snippet from An Evening with P.Sainath, a report of a talk he gave followed by an informal sharing of his stories,

After dinner, we repaired to his host’s apartment, where Sainath asked if we wanted to see photographs of families of farmer-suicides in Andhra Pradesh. Over such 25000 recorded deaths, Sainath said. "And God knows how many more that have not been recorded." As he laid out each photograph on the table, he related the story behind it — who had died, why, the victim’s name, his village, his family members, how much he (or she — several women had committed suicide too!) had owed, how the family had responded, what they are doing now…It was a numbing rendition.

How do people take their lives, asked someone hesitantly. By consuming chemical fertilizer, came the answer. With the seeds gone bad, it was all it was good for. But why were the seeds bad? Because the government had silently diluted its standards for seed quality, and then abdicated its responsibility even to impose the watered-down standards. Chalk up one more for Structural Adjustment.

The Mind of a Strategist: The Art of Japanese Business by Kenichi Ohmae – one of my gurus ever since I took my first strategy class in BSchool, Ohmae is just plain brilliant. This is not a new or unknown book, but I’d never read it, only read about it and seen his concepts in other textbooks. Ohmae’s 3C‘s take the customer, also known as the user, into the corporate strategic framework, probably the first person to do so. Here’s a snippet,

"The true strategic
thinker can respond flexibly to the inevitable changes in the situation
that confronts the company. And it is that flexibility which, in turn,
increases the chances of success."

"The strategist’s method is very simply to challenge the prevailing assumptions with a single question:  Why?"

"In a free,
competitive economic world, there will be no stability in a
corporation’s performance if it allows its attention to be diverted
from the basic business mission of serving its customers."

Enjoy! I’ll review In Spite of the Gods properly I think, soon. And also picked up the Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid with video CD by CK Prahalad.

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