Books: Problem Solver

By: Kristin Clarke

How collaboration and disruption create market opportunities for nonprofits and for-profits.

The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems

By William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan

If you're looking for an optimistic read, The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems is a perfect choice. The book neatly aggregates some of the newest types of collaborative, social problem-solving and combines them with reimagined market opportunities for NGOs, corporations, communities, and governments.

Using a mashup of scalable business models, high-tech—and often ingeniously simple—tools, and plentiful examples of creative people and organizations, William Eggers and Paul MacMillan outline a "solution revolution" that is already disrupting long-held assumptions, practices, and biases.

It's a joy, for instance, to read about the 536 crowdfunding exchanges that engage even the poorest on the planet and the exponential pace of "new discoveries" in nearly every field of practice.

From human trafficking to traffic congestion, poverty to illiteracy, no complexity is too overwhelming for the people and organizations caught up in app building, micro-volunteering, and other elements of the solution revolution.

This is high-energy, high-level thinking being put into on-the-ground practice to see what comes of it.

Especially interesting are sections on incentive systems, new definitions of "currency," and ways to create your own solution revolution. Expect rich conversation if you're looking for a staff read that gets everyone jazzed.

[Harvard Business Review Press; 240 pages; $26]

The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty

By Nick Toman, Rick Delisi, and Matthew Dixon

This is one of those engagingly written books that you'll think about and want to share well after the last page. Drawing in part on survey results from 97,000 customers, the authors strive to answer two questions: How much does customer service matter in driving customer loyalty, and how can customer service reduce operational costs while boosting loyalty?

There's a "mystery at the heart of the book"—why consumers are predisposed to punish an organization more for poor service than to reward it for exceptional service. The data makes a surprisingly solid case for not mimicking surprise-and-delight customer experiences a la Ritz-Carlton but instead ensuring an "effortless experience."

[Portfolio; 256 pages; $29.95]

The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth About Insight, Innovation, and Success

By Alan Gregerman

never before have organizations been so in debt to people we don't know. Indeed, 99 percent of new ideas are based on or influenced by exposure to strangers, according to author and consultant contrarian Alan Gregerman. "It's who we don't know, not who we know, that determines business success," he concludes.

In a speech to government CIOs, Gregerman goes further: "The real challenge is to find the right strangers" to engage with, particularly for five key business areas: innovation, talent engagement, collaboration, customer growth, and leadership. Don't worry—he includes how-to guidance for tapping the potential of what's-her-name and other stranger strategies.

[Jossey-Bass; 240 pages; $26.95]

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.