Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Business Book Olympic Medal Round

Seems like the last week or so, it's all Olympics all the time. I try desperately to understand the nuances of curling, or the judging of skating, or what Ice dancing is all about. In between the 1800 heats of 723 individual speed skating events, I had some time to catch up on my reading and found some medal contenders for fine business book reads.

Gold Medal
Goes to "Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard" Written by Chip and Dan Heath (columnists with Fast Company magazine), the book is a brightly written tome on how to bring about change in everyday life, both personally and work related. A whole host of analogies and examples are given, centering around the concept of getting the rider and the elephant he is on, to go in the riders direction of choice. Although there is a dearth of these enthusiastic "I can do it!" books out there, this is one of the smarter, and more sound choices in the field, although I'm not completely sold on the whole Angelina Jolie change example as being one that any of us can emulate in any practical way.

An exclusive excerpt is available on the Fast Company Website HERE, as well as some handy hints from the authors, about handling everyday elephants in the workplace, HERE.

Silver Medal
Awarded to Lewis Maltby, Author of "Can They Do That?", a summary of rights in the workplace and employment law. Maltby is founder of the National Workrights Institute, so his dialogue skews decidedly pro employee. Yet, his true employee examples are fascinating and often frightening to hear. A good read for anyone in the workforce. Lessons to be learned, for employees and employers about basic rights and appropriate actions. You can hear Maltby talk about his book, and read more of his examples, HERE

Bronze Medal
Is slipped around the necks of Robert McChesney and John Nicols, for their book "The Death and Life of American Journalism" . Both authors set out to illustrate the free fall of national news media, detailing the loss of city newspapers, journalists, and news bureaus. The numbers are staggering, and they point out that the level of journalism and news reporting of the past is all but gone and not being replaced by on line content.

Of course the decline in news publishing is all about money. Corporations demanding higher and higher profits, as advertising revenues shrink. I'm not sold on their proposal to save the newspaper industry, but that aside, it is highly recommended for anyone wondering about the fate of newspapers and journalism in America.

Also noted
Not true medal contenders, but the Dallas news has a good article HERE on the Container Store Co Founder going undercover in his store to assess customer service and staff sales ability. A practical and interesting article, clearly on the heels of the new TV Show "Undercover Boss". I figure every CEO in the country will be going undercover soon, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The article has some good basic advice for any store manager, just ignore some of the hokey sales pitches that are touted.

Finally, all medals aside, I couldn't help but find a couple of things that, well, just fall into that weird and wonderful category. The first is the American Academy of Pediatrics wanting manufacturers to redesign the hot dog. Presumably the lowly dog, already much maligned for it's contents, is the number one choking hazard for children. Now that's a concern yes, but adding warning labels to the packaging and making the dog less cylindrical? Hmm.

Second, I found this great, lovely, kitchy song from the 1970's by the group "Buddy and the Boys", called "Working at the Woolco Manager Trainee Blues" Remember Woolco? Woolworths? - well this song brings back memories of the store for me. Hard to find a lot of retail type songs, but this one is on my play list, for evoking memories of $1.44 day specials and bad cafeteria food.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Fonts and Hamburgers

February is the cruelest month. The cold, the snow, the gray dreary existence of February, makes shopping for retail trends a less than rewarding task. But beside the endless commentary of Super Bowl 2010 Commercials, "The Retail Muse" has been spending time baking up some inspirational fonts, chowing down on $600 burgers and shucking Times New Roman for a typeface that's a little more creative.

What Font are you?
If there is a car that matches your aesthetic, your dog looking like you, or a color that provides you energy, there must be a font that says volumes about who you are. Enter, "what type are you?", a website that asks you a few questions, and provides a font and typeface that is all about you. Give up on the Times New Roman default and discover your true passion in fonts like "COOPER" (for those imposing types), "EXPANDED ANTIQUE" (for those looking to make a big impression), and BASKERVILLE ITALIC, ( A font that says you are well read, but a little short sighted).

You don't have to be a "typeface geek" to play. Choose the font that shows the world how assertive, emotional or traditional you are. After all, Wouldn't your budget presentations look so much better in Perpetuta Tilting Light?

You can go through the fun Freudian exercise (complete with your font therapist talking you through four questions), at You'll need to turn your speakers on, and enter your name to discover your typeface enigma. "The Muse" typeface is Bifur, a font that is both bold and subtle. Not a bad description! Let's hear what typeface YOU are. Leave a comment and let us know your font!

Baking typefaces
Once you know your font, time to bake cookies! If you are into sugar, cookies and the Helvetica font, you can now order cookie cutters shaped like fonts from If your budget proposal doesn't go over well with your deep meaning font, at least you can sway em with your new font-cookies!

The Value of Nothing
Readable economics treatise are rare, but a new book, by economist Raj Patel, is on "The Muse" bedside table. Called "the Value of Nothing", Patel points out the hidden cost of endless consumerism, and shows how that lunchtime burger at the fast food joint should really cost you $600 bucks once you add up all the costs. A fascinating and well written read. Naomi Klein just called it "Deeply Thought-provoking.....a brilliant book"

Patel is making the rounds, so if the book is not your gig, check him out on public radio, PBS and all the business talk shows. He's a great writer, and a charming interview. You can also check it all out at