Approaches to Writing Business Books: Borrowing from Other Fields

In a nutshell: The author borrows ideas from other, often surprising, fields to teach the readers lessons that can be applied to business.

The Borrowing from Other Fields approach is used in Leadership Secrets of AttilaLeadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun the Hun[1], a New York Times bestseller. We normally think of Attila the Hun as a power-mad brute; it’s hard to imagine that his exploits could offer worthwhile lessons to the modern business person. But as author Wes Roberts points out, Attila learned how to survive and thrive in desperate circumstances. Relying on loyalty, decisiveness, courage, unquenchable desire, and other specific traits, he rose from tribal leader to master of a mighty empire, defeating the Romans and everyone else who stood in his way. These traits, argues Roberts, can be put to good use by modern business leaders.

The same approach is used by Itay Talgam in his The Ignorant Maestro[2] to show The Ignorant Maestro“how great leaders inspire unpredictable brilliance.” Talgam, an orchestral conductor who has wielded the baton for the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and others, urges leaders not to shove their ideas down the throats of their underlings. Instead, they should present their general ideas and have faith that the talented people they have hired will do the right thing.

According to Talgam, great leaders must be masterful conductors of people. As he writes in the first chapter:

One thing all conductors, great and small, have in common: We all use the same musical aid that makes no sound and requires no expensive carrying case—a stick. Yet in some hands this silent and dead piece of wood, the baton, can be exceptionally potent. An old proverb says: “If you look at zero, you see zero. If you look through zero, you see infinity.” Our baton is that zero, in itself of no use to an orchestra even if we wave it elegantly. Only when we are able to make our musicians look through the stick and see the full scope of artistic and human achievement embedded in music—only then have we touched the true essence of the conductor’s art.

Continue reading entries in the “Approaches to Writing Business Books” blog series.

[1] Wes Roberts, Grand Central Publishing, 1989.

[2] Itay Talgram, Portfolio, 2015.