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Marketing Bookshelf: Our Iceberg Is Melting

In Outlook’s Marketing Bookshelf series, we review popular business and marketing books and report back on their applicability and/or utility to marketers in the A/E/C industry. Is that book your boss is always telling you to read actually helpful, or just another passing business fad? Andrew J. Beaton, a Senior Communications Specialist with CDM Smith, is our guide through tomes both useful and irrelevant!

Looking for a business book that can double as a beach read this summer? You could do a lot worse than Our Iceberg Is Melting, an amusing and mildly thought-provoking tale about penguins at the South Pole reacting to drastic change affecting their entire “organization.” It’s a bestseller in the business fable genre, complete with 18-point font and a whole lot of illustrations. Also, it’s a book about penguins. It’s not a challenging read by any means. You should be able to tear through it in a single ocean-side session; maybe two, if you spend a lot of time in the water…

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber |$7.99 for Amazon Kindle

One thing that jumped out at me upon opening this slim volume was the many enthusiastic blurbs that it’s gathered from an array of executives and fellow authors. Spencer Johnson, the author of Who Moved My Cheese?, raves: “Whether you work in a business, or in the business of life, everyone from C.E.O.’s to high school students can gain from this story.” By placing a fairly simple message in an easy-to-consume delivery system that resembles something from an elementary-school library, the authors have been able to reach a wide array of audiences. But with that said, is there enough here to warrant a read?

My begrudging judgment is YES. I was sorely tempted to post an incandescent takedown of OIIM around the time that a fat, grumpy old penguin named NoNo was, shockingly enough, standing in the way of the forward-thinking plans of fellow penguins Fred and Alice. For a while, I couldn’t believe that I was reading the same book all these business leaders had been raving about. But the authors, Harvard Business School “change guru” John Kotter and executive Holger Rathgeber, do manage to wind up their tale with some actionable advice for individuals helping to lead their organizations through periods of turbulence and change. And as silly as the penguin tale may be, it contributes some “stickiness” to the message. I wouldn’t call myself as ardent a fan of OIIM as its blurbing devotees, but it’s got enough substance to offset the silliness.

The most essential part of this book is what the authors call The Eight Step Process of Successful Change:

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency
  2. Pull Together the Guiding Team
  3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy
  4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy In
  5. Empower Others to Act
  6. Produce Short-Term Wins
  7. Don’t Let Up
  8. Create a New Culture

There’s a bit more to it, but I’ll leave that for you to discover…

Change is an inevitable force that every organization is ultimately obligated to contend with. For both groups and individuals, it’s difficult, and scary! Creating a culture that can successfully adapt and evolve is essential, and we creative marketing types can be part of the solution. Our Iceberg Is Melting can help you understand the process of change, and help you drive change within your firm. To my mild surprise, I recommend this book!

(NOTE: I read this book in hardcover and can’t vouch for the Kindle edition.)


Andrew J. Beaton is an Associate and Manager of Marketing & Communications with CDM Smith and the President of SMPS Boston. In addition to his passion for A/E/C marketing, he enjoys meeting new people, reading about history, eating great/weird food, and celebrating the fine films of Nicolas Cage.

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