by Cathy Mallen

Book Review — Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win

Sep 15, 20062 mins
IT Leadership

Companies content to be just a little better than the competition may fade into mediocrity. That’s the warning from William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre in their new book, Mavericks at Work. Companies defining not only best practices but also a set of next practices will be the ones that shine in an overcrowded, ultracompetitive marketplace, say the authors (both original members of Fast Company’s editorial team).

After spending nearly two years visiting 32 maverick firms, the authors have lessons to share in four key areas: rethinking competition, reinventing innovation, reconnecting with customers and redesigning the workplace. Despite differing greatly in terms of size, revenue and business models, the companies profiled share a “usual isn’t good enough” mind-set. For example, these mavericks provide compelling reasons for customers to choose them. One maverick idea that CIOs might apply is the concept of “open-source innovation”: When you’re stuck on a business problem, consider turning to the outside world for help instead of trying to force a solution internally. The authors present the case study of mining company Goldcorp, which shared proprietary data in a Web-based contest seeking solutions on where to drill for gold, with great success.

Also informative for CIOs: Mavericks buck traditional ideas regarding hiring and recruiting. They hire with the notion that character outweighs credentials. And they don’t wait for good people to contact them. They look for those who fit, and consider it a bonus to recruit them from rivals.

Ultimately, Mavericks at Work poses a challenge: Is status quo good enough for your company, or will you find a way to be at the forefront of business leadership? CIOs charged with driving new lines of revenue could find insight in this book—and value in answering the key questions it presents.