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Issue of March 2006 

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The FedEx Way to outperform the competition

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity and not as a threat. A good organisation has no dearth of good ideas and does not have to seek them outside. Every good organisation has enough employees with fresh and bright ideas to turn around a company. This is because employees not only know the nut and bolts of the company’s business processes, but also what is lacking and how it can be compensated for. However, the company needs a leadership with vision, one that dares to think out of the box and accept new ideas.

FedEx, the world’s leading shipping company did just that to outthink and outmanoeuvre its competitors. It then shocked its competitors further by doing so consistently. Author Madan Birla has compiled a firsthand account from top FedEx leaders in this book that reveals the secrets of innovation for all business leaders and companies seeking to be the leaders in their fields.

Title : FedEx Delivers
Author : Madan Birla
Publisher : Wiley Dreamtech India
Pages : 215
Price : Rs 449

The book is divided into nine chapters which provide a practical approach to the process and tools used by FedEx to tap the innovate skills of its employees and use them to rocket ahead of unsuspecting competitors. The book is easy to read and uses many visuals to get its point across to the reader effectively.

It has a strong beginning. The very first chapter takes the mystique out of innovation by breaking it up into three logical steps. Naturally, the first step is to come up with a unique and breathtaking idea. However, the book goes on to explain that an idea can contribute only if the two remaining steps—acceptance and implementation—are handled with care.

The second chapter focusses on creating an environment that promotes innovation. A stressed mind is always in survival mode. Only a secure mind can think of innovation. FedEx tries to create a positive atmosphere where innovation is encouraged and appreciated. This ensures that innovation is not a fluke or a one-time process for a person or a company.

Subsequent chapters focus on topics such as the common obstacles to innovations and developing a mental model of innovation. They explore when the mind is optimally inclined to create, accept and implement new ideas.

Visionary leadership and management are key requisites to sustenance of innovation. The later chapters focus on topics including leadership practices used by FedEx to keep its employees in the innovation mode and how the leadership and organisation can help the employees to update and expand their knowledge horizon so that they are uniquely positioned to envision new challenges, possibilities and trends that are apparently undetectable by others.

This book also discusses how an employee can get over self-doubt and insecurity so that he can fearlessly express innovative ideas in palatable ways to people affected the most by them. It also touches upon the virtue of collaboration and teamwork so that people from different backgrounds with varied perspectives can work together and redefine an idea into one even more spectacular than the original vision. The final chapter of the book focusses on the importance of employees’ personal commitment to embrace a new idea because the biggest block to innovations and groundbreaking technology is a rigid mindset.

This book is a must for management personnel, especially those at the top level, who want to usher in a new golden era of prosperity. They only need to be brave enough to accept that their lesser paid employees are actually smarter than them, and they are getting the best possible advice for free, which can change not only their life but their entire organisation as well.

Kumar Dawada

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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