Monday, February 20, 2006

What is On Your CEO's Book Spine?


A favorite question to ask CEOs or just about anyone in business goes like this.

Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner's book is titled Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? If you had to pick a title for your book [or chapter], what would it be? This question gets CEOs to think about what they really have to say that is worth 250+ pages of someone's time and which ultimately goes down as their enduring legacy. Not an easy question to answer in five or six words (the maximum book spine length).

While reading about GE's Jeff Immelt last week, I found an article where he answered the question without even being asked. He was speaking before an audience at M.I.T. when he said: "If I were to give you a chapter of my business book, it would be called, 'Two Million Dollars From Greatness.' I can't tell you how many GE leaders give me the excuse that 'I could fund new innovations, but I can't afford it. I can't fit it into my budget.'" Immelt explains that these are the same leaders that have billion-dollar budgets. He must get this response often if he could fill an entire chapter on how two million dollars is not reason enough to excuse a shortage of breakthrough products and ideas.

Good question to ask your chief executive next time you bump into him/her in the elevator -- what will be on your book spine?

1 Comments:

Blogger Ginger said...

Thank you for this blog post. I am meeting my CEO today and we are supposed to ask him questions and I will ask him this one!

10:46 AM  

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