The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success

The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success

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by Rich Karlgaard

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High performance has always required shrewd strategy and superb execution. These two factors remain critical, especially given today's unprecedented business climate. But Rich Karlgaard—Forbes publisher, entrepreneur, investor, and board director—takes a surprising turn and

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High performance has always required shrewd strategy and superb execution. These two factors remain critical, especially given today's unprecedented business climate. But Rich Karlgaard—Forbes publisher, entrepreneur, investor, and board director—takes a surprising turn and argues that there is now a third element that's required for competitive advantage. It fosters innovation, it accelerates strategy and execution, and it cannot be copied or bought. It is found in a perhaps surprising place—your company's values.

Karlgaard examined a variety of enduring companies and found that they have one thing in common: all have leveraged their deepest values alongside strategy and execution, allowing them to fuel growth as well as weather hard times. Karlgaard shares these stories and identifies the five key variables that make up every organization's "soft edge":

Trust: Northwestern Mutual has built a $25 billion revenue juggernaut on trust, the foundation of lasting success. Learn how to create an environment that engenders trust and propels high performance.

Smarts: In most technical fields, your formal education quickly becomes out of date. How do you keep up? Learn how the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University women's basketball team, and others stay on top by relentlessly pursuing an advantage through smarts.

Teamwork: Since collaboration and innovation are a must in the global economy, effective teamwork is vital. Learn how global giant FedEx stays focused and how nimble Nest Labs relies on lean teams with cognitive diversity.

Taste: Clever product design and integration are proxies for intelligence because they make customers feel smart. But taste goes further into deep emotional engagement. Specialized Bicycles calls it "the elusive sweet spot between data truth and human truth." How can you consistently make products or services that trigger these emotional touch points?

Story: Companies that achieve lasting success have an enduring and emotionally appealing story. What's your company's story? How do you tell it your way when customers, fans, and critics insist on telling your story their way? Gain the ability to create a powerful narrative in a world where outsiders often exercise the louder voice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“As we shift from the rigid ‘ladder world’ ofscale efficiencies to the nimble ‘lattice world’ ofscale agility, mastering the soft edge becomes a hard reality.Karlgaard sharpens our grasp of this elusive though vital topic andoffers pragmatic, accessible solutions.”
—Cathy Benko, vice chairman and managing principal,Deloitte LLP, and bestselling author of Mass CareerCustomization

“As a teacher and student of leadership, I’ve longbelieved the relevance and power of ‘soft side’economics. (Trust, for example, is a measurable economic driverthat makes organizations more profitable and people morepromotable.) With The Soft Edge, Karlgaard joins theconversation and makes the bold statement that the soft side isnow the only remaining competitive edge in our new economy.Leaders, I recommend that you take full advantage ofKarlgaard’s advice— so you can start to reap thedividends.”
—Stephen M. R. Covey, New York Timesbestselling author of The Speed of Trustand Smart Trust

“At a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher, manyleaders are searching for new ways of competing—withresilience as a top priority. Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard, alongtime voice for ‘hard edge’ business practices,argues that ‘soft edge’ advantages have enduring powerin our knowledge economy. Anyone with a stake in tomorrow’sbottom-line outcomes should take a close look at Karlgaard’scutting-edge book.”
—Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadershipand Management, Harvard Business School, and author ofTeaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete inthe Knowledge Economy

“The Soft Edge is an eye-opener: Rich Karlgaardmakes the utterly convincing argument that the soft side ofbusiness makes all the difference to a company’s ability tothrive in the long run. Leaders, it’s time to stop polishingyour strategy and fine-tuning your execution. Instead, read thiscritical book—then start investing in the very soul of yourcompany.”
—John Gerzema, bestselling author, includingThe Brand Bubble and The AthenaDoctrine

“Leaders have never had so many opportunities—andpressures. Get to the heart of it with Rich Karlgaard, who hasdistilled his significant experience into a single argument thatworks for every organization in today’s times: if you wantinnovation and lasting success, you must develop your ‘softedge.’ Exactly. The soft edge is truly as vital now asstrategy and execution. So whether you’re a tireless chief, arising star, or a ‘hard-edged’ business veteran, youowe it to yourself to get a copy of Karlgaard’s compellingnew book. Why? Because The Soft Edge will help you find thefuture—and the future is now.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers 50 Top Ten GlobalBusiness Thinker and top-ranked executive coach

 “Management and leadership thinking has reached acrisis point. The great irony of our age is this: the fastertechnology progresses, the more crucial it is to organize aroundtimeless human truths. Rich Karlgaard shows the way in hiscompelling new book, The Soft Edge.”
—Gary Hamel, director of the Management Lab andauthor of What Matters Now

“At a time when strategy and execution can be bought, yourcompany’s core values are the very accelerators you need fordifferentiation and innovation. Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaardknows which organizations are now winning the endurance race, andwhy. He shines a light on an often-overlooked driver: values.The Soft Edge is for forward-thinking leaders dedicated torising above the competition.”
—Sally Hogshead, author of How the WorldSees You: Discovering Your Highest Value Through the Science ofFascination and creator of

“The best companies enchant us with purpose, affection,empathy, coolness, and grit. Rich Karlgaard’s book shows youhow to achieve this lofty goal.”
—Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author,Publisher, Entrepreneur and former chief evangelist ofApple

“Rich Karlgaard puts the entire subject of culture andcorporate character into a totally new context—a powerfulframework proven with example after example. A great read for anybusiness leader.”
—John Kennedy, senior vice president of marketing,IBM Global Business Services

“For decades I have witnessed the power of teams, trust,and smarts in the most disruptive startups in Silicon Valley.The Soft Edge makes a powerful argument for why greatbusinesses and products repeatedly derive from the creativefriction, small teams, and minimally invasive management which thebest leaders employ to achieve breakout success. I want to thankRich Karlgaard for a wonderfully readable and actionableexploration of these too often overlooked skills.”
—Randy Komisar, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield,and Byers lecturer, Stanford Business School

“The Soft Edge is crystal clear, deeplysubstantial, and alarmingly concrete. It illumines what anorganization might be—what it must be if it is to impact theworld and elevate the human spirit (and run a profit). To read itis an exercise in conviction.”
—John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo ParkPresbyterian Church and author of Who Is ThisMan?

“I love this book. From the first page to the lastit’s a real pleasure to read, and without a doubt the mostenjoyable business book in a very, very long time. It’ssmart, intelligent, and fun. That’s because Rich Karlgaardunderstands the craft of writing and the art of business. He treatsus to great stories and in-depth case studies that often read likeedge-of-your-seat thrillers. And don’t let the title foolyou. Sure, it’s about things like trust and teams and tasteand stories, but it’s rich in tangible, hard evidence thatproves the power of these qualities. The Soft Edge is on myshort list of best business books of the year. I think it’llend up on yours, too.”
—Jim Kouzes, coauthor of The LeadershipChallenge and Dean’s Executive Fellow ofLeadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa ClaraUniversity

“The workplace is facing unprecedented global challenges.Tomorrow’s leaders must inspire their teams across a host ofnew boundaries—geographic, generational, economic, cultural,and technological—to name a few. The greatest will be thosewho can leverage their soft skills to motivate. In the world of bigdata, human skills will be the big differentiator! Learn more abouttwenty-firstcentury leadership in The Soft Edge—awonderful, easy-to-read, and insightful corpus by longtime businessinnovator Rich Karlgaard. It’s hard to find a moreexperienced, intelligent guide to help you and your company makethe necessary leaps.”
—Ross Smith, director of test, Skype Division,Microsoft

“I find the style to be completely refreshing andunique. It feels like Rich Karlgaard is actually having aconversation with his readers. The analogies are astute and crisp.The Soft Edge is a marvelous work! Definitely destinedfor ‘classic’ status—something to reread andsavor.”
— Karen Tucker, CEO, Silicon Valley ChurchillClub

“Entertaining, magnificent, enlightening, and so relevant tothe future.”
—Vivek Wadhwa, vice president of research andinnovation at Singularity University; fellow at StanfordUniversity’s Center for Corporate Governance; researchdirector at Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship andResearch Commercialization

“There has never been a more challenging (but potentiallyrewarding) time to lead. As is often the case, Rich Karlgaard onceagain successfully ‘zigs’ with his clever premise ofThe Soft Edge. Flush with innovative ideas collected fromhis unique vantage point, he offers countless refreshing tips fortomorrow’s leaders. Net—a terrific blueprint for a widerange of executives who are serious about leading teams to victoryin the new frontier. A must-read!”
—Greg Welch, senior partner, Spencer Stuart,marketing and board recruiting practice

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