Library: Books

ViTAL Economy (VE) believes it’s important to remember the lessons of history while crafting initiatives that build on your region’s indigenous strengths and tap the best of who you are. We want you to have access to the works that have influenced us to empower you both to participate in the VE Journey at a higher level and to carry on after we have completed our engagement.

Clicking on the cover of any of the books below will link to that book on

The World is Flat

the-world-is-flatA Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
By Thomas L. Friedman

Initially published in 2005 and updated several times, The World is Flat is recommended reading for all VE clients. For those who have been confused and bewildered by the global economy, the book is a clarion call to action, showing how any community can choose to become a global economy participant rather than a victim. In his classic, down-to-earth writing style, Tom Friedman provides an easy-to-understand description of the 10 driving forces that are shaping the scope and speed of the 21st century global economy. He helps the reader understand the logical shifts caused by the convergence of technology and global events that have made geographic and political boundaries irrelevant. For all those community and elected leaders who believe that boundaries of place make a difference, The World is Flat is a must read.

The Star Fish and The Spider

41tRW-pM2GL._SL160_The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
By Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom

First published in 2006, this book is the result of five years of research on the differences between hierarchical (spider) organizations and collaborative (starfish) movements. The Starfish and the Spider is a second “must read” primer for VE client communities. Once business, community, non-profit and public sector leaders understand that boundaries are no longer relevant, they must develop a new style of management to connect resources across boundaries not within their control. This book discusses the power of individuals to organize as virtual groups with common interests and goals and uses examples throughout history to describe how starfish movements are more nimble, but also more challenging to command and control, than spider organizations. It provides the roadmap your community will need to successfully manage a regional economy in the 21st century.

Blue Ocean Strategy

51NYXBLX9KL._SL160_How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant
By W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

This international bestseller, originally published in 2005, is based on a study of 150 strategic decisions made over the past 100 years and across 30 different industries. Its findings and recommendations challenge everything we have ever learned about how to compete and win in business. Essentially, the authors challenge companies to leave the “red ocean” of bloody competition and create uncontested marketplaces where competition is irrelevant. Numerous examples of companies using this approach, including Cirque du Soleil, E-bay, Starbucks and Apple, demonstrate how firms can use “blue ocean strategies” to create new markets where competition is non-existent. VE believes that “blue ocean” thinking applies as much to community economic development strategies as it does to companies.

The Work of Nations

71Q3FGHKWJL._SL160_.gifPreparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism
By Robert B. Reich

Originally published in 1992, this book by Robert Reich is a classic work of economic theory. It should be required reading for any economic development professional, corporate executive, or community leader who wants to understand the implications of the changing relationship of work and workers to the economic power base and policy development. This was the first important work that outlined the global mobility and freedom of movement of knowledge work and knowledge workers. It will help VE communities understand why they need very different economic growth strategies from those that have been effective for the last 50 years.


51YBV3ZW7ML._SL160_The Coming Twenty-Year Boom and What It Means to You
By Bob Davis and David Wessel

Originally published in 1998, the authors have divided this book into three sections: The Past, The Present and The Future. Bob Davis and David Wessel help us to understand that past prosperity has been dependent upon changes in organizational behavior and the structure of education, as well as innovations in technology. Unlike most authors, these Wall Street Journal reporters see light and opportunity where others see gloom and doom in a global economy. Most interestingly they see community colleges as the educational change agents of this new era. The authors help us understand that we must proactively make changes in the way our companies and communities function to be viable in a 21st century economy.

Monster Under the Bed

monsterHow Business is Mastering the Opportunity of Knowledge for Profit
By Stan Davis and Jim Botkin

Originally published in 1994, this book offers a thought-provoking look at the dominance of knowledge-based enterprise in the 21st century global marketplace. They challenge every business to become a knowledge business, and every employee to become a knowledge worker. They describe how every customer will become a life-long learner and the impact that will have on future customer service, consistent with the VE philosophy.


Leading Change, Overcoming Chaos

By Michael Heifetz

leadingchangeIn this book, Michael Heifetz shows how change can be far more effectively planned, led, and implemented. Mihaly Sikszentmihalyi, a professor at the University of Chicago, comments, “More and more, change is becoming a constant fact of life for individuals and organizations alike. Michael Heifetz has reflected deeply on what this fact implies, and has produced a practical manual for turning the necessity of change to one’s advantage.”

VE helps your community use the approaches detailed in this book to work in your region. Imagine being able to focus your community on a worthy change objective, sustain commitment to the change effort, overcome the inevitable resistance and practical hurdles, keep the implementation on track, and reach the point where the change itself becomes the norm and its benefits are tangible. Then imagine leveraging your community’s new confidence and capability to launch an even more ambitious change effort. The VE Journey provides the focus, tools and path to make change a reality.


41xBgQn4R1L._SL160_How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

Initially published in 2006 and based on a $9 million research project, this book help us understand the profound changes occurring as a result of mass collaboration using internet technology. Wikinomics proves that sharing through social networks creates strategic advantage rather than weakness. The authors validate the importance of collaboration, connectivity and changed spending. They demonstrate how social networks create knowledge at a more rapid pace than ever before. Using examples such as Wikipedia, Craig’s List, I-Tunes, YouTube, Flickr, My Space and the Human Genome Project, the authors show that the speed of innovation is directly related to the level of connectivity and collaboration of your social networks.

Natural Capitalism

31c5lLzVCZL._SL160_Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
By Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins

Originally published in 1999, this book is a timeless business roadmap to a new industrial revolution that will be referenced by business and policy leaders for decades. Natural Capitalism is a radical call to companies to transform their business model to take into account all forms of capital, including environmental, human, social and financial capital. This book is the 21st century answer to those who believe that economic development is a continuation of smoke-stack, environmentally-damaging industrial development. The authors demonstrate that the Industrial Revolution is dead and that any company or regional economy can develop “natural capitalism” strategies, which are more profitable, productive and environmentally friendly. Natural Capitalism shows consumers, producers and governments how to develop more productive solutions to economic growth while reducing your impact on the environment and restoring the damage done by the industrial Revolution.

Outliers – the Story of Success

41683QNEDwL._SL160_By Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”; – the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks, “What makes high-achievers different”? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from; that is, their culture, family, generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

Hot, Flat and Crowded

Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America
By Thomas L. Friedman

Originally published in 2008, Hot, Flat and Crowded connects the growth in global population, the increase in the middle class and the energy crisis to create a pragmatic and positive rationale for a comprehensive energy solution. Friedman presents the challenge of a lifetime to Americans by describing the green revolution as one of the largest innovation projects in American history. He describes the payoff as much cleaner air combined with a renewed cycle of sustainable economic growth that will build prosperity for many citizens and communities. However, he points out that America lacks a unified commitment to a green strategy, unlike many nations that are more hungry and innovative. At the heart of America’s lack of a common strategy and a sense of urgency, according to Friedman, are the bad habits of the last three decades, which have lessened our resolve to tackle big problems. Hot, Fat and Crowded encourages VE communities to create a green revolution across their regional economies and export the resulting knowledge, service, products and innovations to the world.

Shifting Gears

51E2KAMT3DL._SL160_Thriving in the New Economy
By Nuala Beck

Originally published in the U.S. in 1995, this Toronto-based economist provided a fascinating look into the economic transformation that had taken place industry by industry for the last 100 years. She charted the lack of changes in economic data gathering and measurement techniques during this entire period of change. Her research helps us understand that the economic news sources upon which we rely are based on industrial age economics while our economy was being transformed into an information economy. Successful ViTAL Economy initiatives require that each of us educate ourselves and our constituents about the reality of Nuala Beck’s research and determine what kind of economy we should grow in our community.

Building Communities From The Inside Out

51QTSDSD03L._SL160_A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets
By John P. Kretzman and John L. McKnight

Originally published in 1993, this publication is a guide to community building that provides an alternative approach to the classic path that addresses communities’ needs, deficiencies and problems with the help of external resources. The alternative path chosen by Professors Kretzman and Knight identifies a community’s capacities, skills and assets, no matter how poor and impoverished the community. Our ViTAL Economy practice had been underway for a number of years before we ran into the work of Kretzman and Knight. Their model of community asset mapping and leverage is a perfect metaphor for a VE initiative. We have found over many years of practice that every community and business has a unique culture, perspective, capacities and capabilities that can be leveraged to achieve a brighter future.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

51ngQIKzNxL._SL160_By Jane Jacobs

Originally published in 1961 and then in paperback in 1993, this landmark work by a neighborhood activist blew a big hole in conventional thinking about the structure of cities. It forced policy makers to totally rethink their approaches to urban planning and the future of cities. Jane Jacobs helped us all understand the integrated elements that made for a vital city. She opposed the large-scale bull dozing of cities best exemplified by New York’s Robert Moses. Jacob’s work leads us to think about each element of a city – sidewalks, parks, neighborhoods, government, and economy – as a synergistic unit that encompasses both the structure and the functioning dynamics of our habitats. ViTAL Economy initiatives can only be successful when we take all of these perspectives into consideration, whether we are developing a strategy for rural or urban communities. Companies are most successful at growing within and serving VE communities when they understand the interdependent qualities that make community work.


innovationThe Attacker’s Advantage
By Richard N. Foster

Originally published in 1986, this book has given us a practical look at the theory of innovation and the role that technology has played over the last 100 years. This book helps any organizational leader understand the risks of standing still. It traces the history of change and documents that 90% of innovation is implemented by the most recent change agent in any given field of endeavor. The new emerging innovator almost always overtakes the entrenched leader, and the decline of the prior leader is swift and unexpected. Communities and companies need to understand the impact of these factors on the future growth of their business or economy.

Democracy in America

517YJ3PE7DL._SL160_By Alexis de Tocqueville (Richard D. Heffner, Editor)

(Note: a new translation of this book was published in 2001.) If you want to truly understand what makes America what it is today, Democracy in America is a must read. Alexis de Tocqueville, the premier analyst of American society, wrote eloquently about the unique American invention of "community.” He wrote, "The art of association then becomes, as I have said before, the mother of action, studied and applied by all." The editor notes that the book is as accessible to the modern reader as the work of any contemporary journalist, political scientist, or sociologist. It is an essential volume for anyone interested in American history. At ViTAL Economy, we believe the age-old adage that, if you do not study history, you are doomed to repeat it. Understanding America’s creation of community as a unique societal form is a critical element in understanding why VE initiatives work for everyone.

America’s Country Schools

By Andrew Gulliford

51XNR4YN34L._SL160_For more than 250 years, 200,000 one-room schoolhouses served as the backbone of America’s education system. Originally published in 1984, this book is the first to chronicle the role of the country school in the formation of our democracy. Barbara Bush provides a historic perspective to this work in her note at the front of this book, stating “The pioneer families settling America’s vast frontiers understood one of Thomas Jefferson’s most deeply held convictions – that good education is the essential foundation of a strong democracy. Children learned a curriculum steeped in such values as honesty, industry, sobriety and patriotism – values we cherish.” Andrew Gulliford helps us understand that the country school was not just a school, but also a community center. Neighbors gathered there for dances, concerts, lectures, debates, political caucuses and worship. These schools formed the foundation for today’s adult literacy programs and provided a center of technology transfer for medicine and agriculture. ViTAL Economy initiatives understand the role of schools as both an education partner and a community development partner. The country school is a powerful metaphor for a VE community’s role in sharing and growing resources.

Competing in Time

keenUsing Telecommunications for Competitive Advantage
By Peter G. W. Keen

Originally published in 1988, this book provides a guide for executives to the strategic implications of telecommunications technology on an organization’s ability to succeed and survive. It demonstrates that the once-lofty importance of place as a competitive value proposition has diminished. In this work, we learn how technology is dramatically changing the role of time as a market variable. Although dated in terms of technological innovation, this older work provides an early and understandable view of the immediacy of action that technology challenges us to manage.

Boom Bust & Echo

41QDW11SC2L._SL160_How to Profit from the Coming Economic Shift
By David A. Foote with Daniel Stoffman

Originally published in 1996, this book examines the impact on the Canadian economic landscape of the baby boomer, baby buster and echo generation. Understanding the impact of demographic trends on your local economy and the global economy will help you better position your company and your community for the future.



514+UtE2vBL._SL160_The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy
By Stan Davis & Christopher Meyer

Originally published in 1998, this book provides a simple but profound definition of an economy as, “the way people use resources to fulfill their desires.” The authors help us understand that the ways we choose to "fulfill our desires" have changed dramatically over the years, driven by connectivity, speed, and the growth of intangible value. Blur helps us understand the fundamental economic changes our world is facing and that companies and economies can no longer make decisions based on old economy thinking. It helps us understand the implications of a connected economy, which is a key principle of ViTAL Economy.

The Digital Economy

41WX1BT3J2L._SL160_Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence
By Don Tapscott

Originally published in 1996, this book provides one of the most important and early looks at the role of networked intelligence in the transformation of businesses and the economy in which we live, work, learn and govern. Don Tapscott introduces us to 12 key themes of the new economy that challenge the traditional rules of business success. We are all challenged to seize the moment and to use this newfound understanding to build economies that will transform our world. The importance of the ViTAL Economy fundamentals of connectivity, collaboration and changed spending can be clearly understood after reading this book.


51djbFJ7b+L._SL160_The Social Virtues & The Creation of Prosperity
By Francis Fukuyama

Originally published in 1995, this book by Francis Fukuyama introduces us to the economic importance of “social trust”. He argues that only those societies with a high degree of social trust will be able to create the kind of flexible, large scale organizations that are needed for successful competition in the emerging global economy. The ViTAL Economy model of multi-sector value linkage and collaboration is at the heart of social trust. The author challenges the conventional views of both conservative and liberal economists by painstakingly researching and documenting the dependence of economic growth on the degree of social trust present in a culture. In the age of global economics, our understanding of the role of culture and social trust in our economies will be a key determinant of our success or failure.

Who Moved My Cheese?

51L801XM1vL._SL160_By Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Originally published in 1998, this book provides us with a simple but powerful parable about change. Managing change is a critical component of successful ViTAL Economy initiatives. Companies, organizations, and communities must communicate the urgent need for effective change in order to produce positive actions that grow markets and economies while changing lives for the better. This is a quick read and a reminder that change really matters.


Small Town America

smalltownamericaA Narrative History 1620 -The Present
By Richard Lingeman

Originally published in 1980, this classic social history examines the role of small towns in the growth of America. It looks at the birth of small towns in New England and how they migrated west as the pioneers discovered and tamed the American frontier. Both the myth and the reality of small-town America are explored. This book provides us with a better understanding of the values that are at the heart of what we yearn for today in our desire to leave the hustle and bustle of the urban metropolis.


2020 Vision

518sZpJTnJL._SL160_Transform Your Business Today To Succeed in Tomorrow’s Economy
By Stan Davis & Bill Davidson

Originally published in 1991, this book by Stan Davis and Bill Davidson offers a futuristic look at the decade of the 1990’s and the next 30 years. The authors discuss the fundamental transformation that information and biotechnology will cause and introduce us to the concepts of informationalization and information exhaust. They help us to realize that there is more value in the information we produce by making and doing things than the value exchanged in the creation of things. ViTAL Economy initiatives base our 20/20 vision assessment of how a market will live, work, learn and govern and plan strategies and actions on this reality.

The Crisis of America’s Cities

51XD7ZRYHNL._SL160_By Randall Bartlett

Originally published in 1998, Randy Bartlett’s book examines the evolution of urban America from the colonial era to the present. He emphasizes how both technological change and public policies, especially in housing, transportation, governmental structure and finance, have affected the logic of location and the resultant shape of cities. This work challenges conventional urban policy and articulates a future for cities that is not based on extensive infrastructure and ever-expanding masses. Understanding the reality of location in the new economy helps rural-based ViTAL Economy initiatives plan for and create their future opportunity.


The Americans – A Trilogy


Colonial Experience, Democratic Experience, National Experience
By Daniel Joseph Boorstin

The first book in this trilogy, the Colonial Experience was first published in 1958. The Colonial Experienceshows how the habits of people who lived more than two centuries ago shaped the lives of modern Americans. The Democratic Experience, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1974, is a study of the last 100 years of American history. This relates the story of the invention of a new democratic culture and the reorientation of the national character through countless little revolutions in economy, technology, and social rearrangements. The National Experience, winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, explores problems of community and the search for a national identity. If you want to understand how the history of America was shaped by the unique culture of community, there is no more highly regarded historian than Boorstin. ViTAL Economy’s understanding of community and the American experience is significantly shaped by his writings. Boorstin said, “The beginning of national wisdom would be to see our mutual dependence as a strength, rather than as a weakness.” The importance of interdependence articulated in this trilogy influenced the development of collaboration as one of the core founding principles of the ViTAL Economy.





The Illustrated History of Canada

51jupxYMTNL._SL160_Edited by Craig Brown

Originally published in 1935 and recently updated in 1997, this compliation of the work of six Canadian scholars is regarded by many as one of the best general histories of Canada. Mr. Brown describes it as “a story of how Canadians lived and worked, how they have seen themselves, how they have thought about each other.” ViTAL Economy has used this work to help us understand the Canadian perspective through the lens of history and frame an approach that works for the numerous Canadian communities we have been privileged to serve.


The Wealth of Nations

51CtScQrB1L._SL160_By Adam Smith

This book was originally published in 1776. Adam Smith was not only a highly regarded economist, but also a historian and philosopher. This classic is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the underpinnings of the industrial economy. It was Adam’s Smith’s theories on the division of labor that helped define the organizational transformation of our economies at the beginning of the industrial age. ViTAL Economy has learned over the years that our ability to communicate a sense of urgency to the clients we serve is directly related to helping them understand the past and its relationship or lack of relationship to the future.


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

516H1W1ASTL._SL160_By Jared Diamond

This Pulitzer Prize winning book was originally published in 1997. Jared Diamond is a professor of physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is a recipient of a Macarthur Foundation fellowship and was awarded the 1999 National Medal of Science. This book takes the reader on a tour of 13,000 years of history in under 500 pages. It provides a thought-provoking description of why some societies progressed while others did not, helps us understand how the modern world has evolved and provides lessons for our own future. The lessons of this book helped us to develop comprehensive, multidimensional ViTAL Economy strategies. Business success and economic growth do not depend on economics alone. ViTAL Economy strategies integrate the realities of culture, and environment, so that you can leverage what makes you unique and special as a community, an organization, a company, or an individual.

John Adams

51wILnUFoEL._SL160_By David McCullough

Originally published in 2001, this book is not only one of the most significant books about the life of John Adams, but it is more importantly a fascinating study of the creation of the American Democracy. It is based on more than 1000 letters in the correspondence of John and Abigail Adams. John Adams, the second President of the United States, was once described by Thomas Jefferson as "the colossus of independence". ViTAL Economy sees in this monumental work a message for all leaders who desire to shape a brighter future for their communities. Like us, the Founding Fathers of America were family men and women. They were lawyers, politicians, farmers, and business owners. They had a unique vision that was borne, not out of self-interest, but the interest of their community. They understood that they could succeed better together than as individuals. They valued and used the unique gifts of each of their peers and built a foundation for a democratic way of life that has succeeded economically, socially, and politically beyond their wildest dreams. ViTAL Economy initiatives are based upon the same beliefs that propelled our founding fathers.

Eagle’s Cry

41YS7163SML._SL160_By David Nevin

Originally published in 2000, David Nevin’s novel provides an engaging look at the global, political and economic history that formed the basis for the Louisiana Purchase. Understanding the growth of the United States requires understanding the historic, geographic, and cultural implications of the Louisiana Purchase. Some 70 percent of America was organized according to the legislative acts that ratified the Louisiana Purchase. Combining this novel with related historical texts helped ViTAL Economy understand the role of country schools in community and economic development. This historical novel paints a vivid picture of interdependence that stands in stark contrast to the conventional image of a western frontier tamed by independent cowboys.

Crusade Against Ignorance

jeffersonThomas Jefferson on Education
Edited by Gordon C. Lee

Originally published in 1961, this important book documents Thomas Jefferson’s belief that education was appropriate for a free people. Jefferson clearly saw education as a prerequisite to any intelligent popular rule. Liberty without enlightenment seemed to Jefferson a contradiction in terms. Jefferson once wrote, “Science is more important in a republican than in any other form of government.” ViTAL Economy has spent considerable time researching Jefferson’s vision of a democracy that works. It is clear that education was not only important to a strong democracy, but that it also played a critical role in producing good and productive workers for the American republic. Our VE initiatives pay particular attention to the role of education in a life-long learning economy that is populated with knowledge work and knowledge workers. Clients who grasp the importance of education in a 21st century economy are more likely to success in building a ViTAL Economy that works for everyone.


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