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By Mark A. Kellner, Religion
News Service
Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store by Nicole C. Kirk (NYU Press, 2018,288 pp., $35US)
(RNS) — During his lifetime, John Wanamaker built two megachurches.
One tried to save souls.
Another sold clothes, jewelry and perfume.

As Published in The Marketplace magazine

By Eileen R. Kinch

Imagine It Forward by Beth Comstock (Random House Canada: Bee- Com Media LLC, 2018 416 pp., $30 US)Imagine it Forward

A mixture of memoir, how-to, and inspiration, Imagine It Forward describes Beth Comstock’s journey of becoming vice president of corporate communications and advertising and then head of marketing and innovation at General Electric (GE). Comstock shares personal stories, offers suggestions for cultivating imagination and innovation in a corporate setting, and encourages readers to imagine and to work for change in their lives and careers.

“I’ve been courting change my entire career,” Comstock writes. This began with a personal crisis. Then, as a single parent, Comstock moved to New York City to continue her work in public relations. Later she accepted a position at the GE headquarters. Her first major task was to make sure the financial world was watching as Jack Welch named his successor, Jeff Immelt. Her second major task (and accomplishment) was to produce hopeful advertising for GE in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Change involves risk. Comstock challenged her GE colleagues to look toward the future by developing and investing in clean energy and digital technology before these were accepted realities. Daring to imagine new ideas went against the grain of GE’s corporate culture, which prefers predictable, deliverable results. Many of her colleagues were fearful to try something unproven. To create a culture of innovation, Comstock co-initiated Imagination Breakthroughs, a program that allowed GE companies to propose and test new ideas in a protected setting. Failed ideas would not impact the company’s earnings or an employee’s performance evaluation. Creativity is needed, on all levels, to adapt to changing times.

Innovation, however, must also be managed. As a result of one of the Imagination Breakthroughs, GE built a $100 million factory to produce sodium batteries that could be used to back up generators. Unfortunately, Comstock pointed out, “there was no single market segment big enough to accommodate all those batteries.” GE had only considered developing good technology, not the overall market picture. From this failure, Comstock created GE Ventures and a structure for evaluating projects. GE then began to experiment with small-scale changes, and a growth board would meet every 90 days to review projects. If a project was not working, then it could be discontinued before incurring major loss.

Comstock’s desire to use imagination and innovation (channeling Thomas Edison, GE’s founder) was not welcomed by everyone. In fact, it sometimes created open tension with her colleagues. Comstock’s advice is to embrace tension as part of the creative process, as uncomfortable as it might feel.

Imagine It Forward is rich in advice on how to cultivate and test new ideas in a business setting. The corporate culture of the large companies Comstock describes, however, is brutal. Perhaps something to be learned from her book is that measuring success only in terms of financial gain is also a failure of imagination. Making money to maintain power and status without also working toward the flourishing of relationships and all creation might be an empty enterprise. ◆

Eileen R. Kinch is a freelance writer in Lancaster County, PA.

TRUST book jacket imageTrust: Twenty Reliable Ways to Build a Better Country by David Johnston (Signal/McClelland & Stewart, 2018 222 pp, $22.95 US, $29.95 Canadian)

To call David Johnston’s life accomplishments impressive is an understatement.

A graduate of Harvard, Cambridge and Queen’s universities, Johnston has been a law professor, dean of the Queen’s law school, head of two Canadian universities, and Governor General of Canada (from 2010 to 2017). He has also written or co-authored numerous books.

If, as he hints in this thought-provoking volume, he is at age 77 “on the last leg of my life’s journey,” Trust may be his most enduring contribution to public discourse. Given the well-considered arguments he makes in this book, this reader hopes there will be many more to come.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

ValueOfEverythingBy Henry Friesen

The Value of Everything: Who Makes and Who Takes from the Real Economy by Mariana Mazzucato (PublicAffairs, 2018 368 pp, $28 US, $36.50 Canadian)

If you believe the world’s economies are working just like they should, don’t bother reading this book. If it has never troubled you that the chief executive officers of the Fortune 500, (the five hundred most profitable US industrial corporations), earn more than 300 times the average worker’s wage, or that the estimated wealth of the world’s 62 richest people in 2015 was equal to that of the bottom 3.5 billion, this book will just annoy you. But the book is a must-read if you’ve been concerned by the inequities in mature economies that seem to grow unchecked.

surviving failure

As printed in The Marketplace – July/August 2018

Surviving Failure (and a few Successes) By Merle Good (Walnut Street Books, 2018, 184 pp., $14.99 US, $19.99 Cdn)

It’s one thing to fail in business; quite another to talk openly about it.

Merle Good and his wife Phyllis suffered the ignominy twice in more than four decades. His new book boldly strips bare the raw impact of seeing a beloved enterprise on the ropes and offers counsel for others on the same journey.

As printed in The Marketplace - September/October 2017This I Know book cover for pg

This I Know: Marketing Lessons From Under the Influence. By Terry O’Reilly (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2017, 320 pp. $34 CDN.)

Terry O’Reilly is a master storyteller. Even people who are uninterested in the worlds of radio advertising, marketing and branding are drawn to his tales about corporate successes and failures.

In This I Know, O’Reilly has drawn on more than three decades of award-winning advertising production, and 12 years of radio shows to put together a book brimming with fascinating insights about successful positioning, messaging, branding and customer service.

WorldofThreeZerosBy JoAnn Flett

A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
By Muhammad Yunus (Public Affairs, 2017, 304 pp., $28 US)

As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

A World of Three Zeros adds to the literature promoting social business. A social business is “a non-dividend company dedicated to solving human problems,” says Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, and author of several other titles on the topic.

9781681775968 Archipalego coverBy Dennis Tessier

The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change
By Gleb Raygorodetsky (Pegasus Books, 2017 336pp, $28.95 US)

As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

This book is a compelling account of indigenous people’s experiences with climate change. The author collects and weaves together the stories of Indigenous peoples; from the Gwich’in reindeer herders and Skolt salmon fishermen of Finland, the Nenets of the Yamal region of Russia and Altai people of the sacred Altai mountainous region of Russia, to the Sapara of the Amazon, the Karen in Thailand, and the Tla-o-qui-aht of British Columbia.  

By Mike Strathdee

As Printed in The Marketplace – March/April 2018

It was not surprising to see recently, a major Christian magazine asking in a cover story whether the gift of cash Janah GIVE WORK final cover(instead of material items or programs) would help alleviate poverty issues, as suggested by some experts on the issue. It is not surprising because the matter of poverty has been one that our society has sought to get rid of since man began to populate the earth.

Applying spiritual principles for secular success

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - January/February 2018

Soar and The Hollywood Commandments are books about applying spiritual principles to entrepreneurial success. Both men are New York Times bestselling authors who testify that their career path is directed by their Christian faith.

Soar book coverSoar! -Build Your Vision from the Ground Up By T.D. Jakes (FaithWords Hachette Book Group, 2017 239 pp., $25 US)

Hollywood Commandments book coverThe Hollywood Commandments -A Spiritual Guide to Secular Success By DeVon Franklin with Tim Vandehey (HarperOne 2017, 248 pp., $25.99 US).