BUSINESS: The Ultimate Resource; Various Authors

Bloomsbury (£40)
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The Independent Online
Recent years have seen numerous distillations of management thinking aimed at those hard-pressed for time or the lazy.

Itris such a brilliantly obvious idea, it is a wonder that it has not been done before. Except it has. Sort of. Recent years have seen numerous distillations of management thinking aimed at those hard-pressed for time or the lazy. Indeed, members of the advisory team behind this huge book have been responsible for such titles as Key Management Ideas and Essential Managers.

But what does not seem to have been done previously is to put this material – a sort of combination of bluffer's guide and GCSE crammer – together with a comprehensive raft of other stuff that might be handy for an executive to have all in one place. Hence, the subtitle "The Ultimate Resource", which the publisher has apparently been able to trademark.

Accordingly, the "Best Practice" section – a collection of concise essays by such well-known and diverse figures as Cary Cooper, Thomas Stewart and Warren Bennis on subjects as varied as managing stress, intellectual capital and leadership – is followed by "Management Checklists and Action Lists" and guides to "the most influential business books of all time" and to the top management thinkers and pioneers. Moreover, there is also a dictionary, a section devoted to statistics on the global economy and a guide to business information.

Unsurprisingly, the tome weighs in at a solid 2,172 pages – a lot even by the bloated standards of business book publishing – and, equally unsurprisingly, it therefore comes in its own natty carrying case.

However, clever as the twin ideas of grouping all this information together and making the resulting receptacle portable are, there is a danger of the enterprise falling between two stools. On the one hand, the very size means that it is not exactly the sort of thing the harassed rising executive already struggling with laptop computer, mobile phone and electronic organiser is necessarily going to try to squeeze into the overhead locker on his or her next business flight. On the other, the continuing trend towards "hot desking" and other means of keeping managerial personnel on the move means that the purchaser is likely to be deprived of an office shelf on which to keep this repository of knowledge.

Many will no doubt argue that the need for such an encyclopaedia of management has passed since the internet can provide a good majority of the information printed here at the click of a mouse. The answer is, of course, yes and no. A good argument in favour of the book is the need to cut through all the material available electronically and present it in a manageable fashion so that it is usable – a process that is increasingly being referred to as the conversion of data into information.

But the publishers, who have collaborated on the project with the Chartered Institute of Management, appear to be hedging their bets in this regard by making all purchasers of the book eligible for free monthly updates available via a special website. Not only that, but much of the book has a Web page look to it. In which case, why not make the whole thing an internet-based initiative?

The answer is no doubt pragmatic, reflecting the fact that, for all the promises of paperless offices, buildings are still crammed full of books, files and other items that are reckoned to be more accessible than research materials parked on computer servers in the ether.

Such quibbles should not be allowed to get in the way of the concept, however. It is basically a sound notion that should appeal both to those running their own businesses and to those attempting to work their way up larger enterprises. Moreover, it has been delivered at a price that makes it extremely good value for money, whether viewed from the number of pages or the wealth of information and insights packed into them.

Indeed, many people will regard the cover price worth paying just to be able to have a dictionary that explains in basic terms such complex concepts as Six Sigma (the quality measure beloved by Jack Welch and others) and shareholder value (the method of calculating the value of a company by analysing the returns it produces for shareholders), as well as translating insider slang such as "shovelware", a derogatory term in e-commerce circles that refers to the practice of converting materials available in an existing medium, such as print, to the digital arena without taking advantage of all the enhancements available.

With one of the stated aims of Business: The Ultimate Resource being to help readers get ahead in their careers, this list of approximately 5,000 definitions of business terms, abbreviations and acronyms could well make the climbing of the greasy pole just that little bit easier.

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