Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself by William C. Taylor, William Morrow & Co. , 320 pages, $27.
If you made a resolution of any kind for the coming year—for your business or for yourself—Bill Taylor's new book, Practically Radical, should be the first book of the year you read. As a great admirer of Fast Company magazine, which Taylor cofounded, and his first book, Mavericks at Work, I have been looking forward to this one since I saw it listed in the publisher catalog—and it didn't disappoint.
In the introduction, Taylor tells the story of his struggle with the topic and timing of the book. Would people have any use for a book about fundamental change and transformation in the midst of a recession? Wouldn't most business people be retrenching, cutting back and going conservative? But he realized that "turbulent times were precisely the right time to explore the hard work of making big change."
If you're an avid business book reader, you know that most books don't need to be read cover-to-cover, that you can pretty easily find what's applicable to your situation and skim the rest. Taylor isn't shy about letting you know that about his book. In fact, he tells you upfront exactly where to start based on what kind of change you're interested in:
If big-company change is your first order of business, then begin with the materials in Chapters 1 through 3 and move ahead from there. But if the challenges of launching something new (inside an established organization or with a blank-sheet-of-paper start-up) are what keep you up at night, then begin with the material in Chapters 4 through 6 and move around at your discretion. (My guess is that nearly all readers will turn at some point to the material on "Challenging Yourself" that begins with Chapter 7.)Chapter 7's "Leadership Without All the Answers," which touts the pragmatic but status quo challenging advice to "invite bright people throughout the organization to share insights, talents, and ideas" is where I started, but I soon found myself consuming the entire book with enthusiasm. Taylor is such a deliberate writer and tells such unpredictable stories—like the opening story about the Providence Police Department—that I just couldn't put the book down.
Above all, Practically Radical is, well, a radically practical book, chock-full of instantly applicable ideas and lessons. But it is also a perception-changing book from the start (wherever you start it), beginning with the first chapter, "What You See Shapes How You Change." Taylor will help improve that vision and help you enact change that works.