Strategy Safari

I finished today reading this fantastic book called Strategy Safari (Henry Mintzberg, Bruce
Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel, Second Edition, 2009, 441 pages). Definitely one of best readings I had in all my contact with business books. Why so good? Because it is scientific, imaginative, comprehensive.

It is not every day that one can call a book scientific, with the exception of normal textbooks, of course. Strategy Safari, although being produced by academics, and clearly some good ones, is not a textbook and is not “academical”. The book simply manages to achieve something that is not easy: to follow the rigor of a scientific field, but without sounding too technical or obscure.

Being a book written by good academic people means here not only rigor and quality of content, but also an inherently high quality of language. This kind of quality that just makes the reader eager to continue until the last page.

The book, notwithstanding, is also imaginative. First, because it chooses excellent analogies and metaphors by which to present its content – starting by the idea of inviting the reader to a safari around the beasts of the strategy world. In addition, excellent diagrams are present overall, and even good poetry. Such a level of elegance is only accessible to a combination of intelligence and maturity over the concepts involved.

Finally, the book is comprehensive in its analysis of strategy as a field, and not only the academic research field, but also that one of practitioners in the industry. The text goes from higher philosophical discussions to the lower levels of specific strategy receipts sold by consultancy firms. Always with plenty of sources and insights, and a good amount of quality criticism.

What can I say to conclude this short review? Just that you should absolutely read the Strategy Safari, if you have any interest in strategy whatsoever. The book is great, and you are not going to regret the time well spent with it.



       Os últimos serão os pequenos, 
       Mas os pequenos não serão grandes. 
       Os primeiros sairão dentre os grandes. 
       Mas e os pequenos? 
       Os pequenos já fizeram a sua escolha.



Financial Intelligence

I have now finished reading the book Financial Intelligence (Karen Berman and Joe Knight, 2013, 285 pages). Although I like quite a lot the topics involved, I am not sure if I would recommend someone to read this book. I will try to explain below why.

To be fair, the book contains much of what I expected it to deliver: an overview over financials to non-finance folks, like me.  The books’ description of the main concepts is great – especially on Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement. It did not hide any details, and sort of brought, to me at least, probably a good understanding of these financial tools, for the first time in my life. And that’s exactly what I expected from the book!

However, what I did not like in the book, is what it seems to me lots and lots of lines that did not deliver in any of the above. In many parts, the authors just go on describing lengthily why studying finance is important, and how nice things are in a company where people actually knows finance. Besides being superficial here (finance is important, but there are many other important things in a successful organization), what bothered me the most is this: if I bought this book and went on reading it, in the first place, I am the last person that needs to be preached about the importance of finance!

So, the book was definitely a roller coaster for me – lots of enthusiasm when the focus was on the financial concepts, and strong frustration at parts where it just went on trying to convince me of something I am already convinced.

At the end, my feeling is that the book could have had 100 pages less, and I would still have gotten exactly the same out of it – knowledge on financial concepts, their meanings and how finance people go about doing their jobs. And that’s why I’m not sure if I would recommend this to other people, although I certainly enjoyed learning what it had to teach me.