Book reviews

This article from Business in Vancouver November 9-15, 2010; issue 1098

Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results

By Bill Jensen and Josh Klein

Portfolio Penguin, 2010

Web strategist Klein and business consultant Jensen have published a collection of edgy, clever and actionable ideas for circumventing organizational bureaucracies. As the title suggests, the book delivers provocative and revolutionary messages.

Jensen and Klein say that hacking work doesn’t involve merely breaking into corporate IT systems. “Hacking work is the act of getting what you need to do your best by exploiting loopholes and creating workarounds.”

Many of us are already hacking our work – or have employees who are – but don’t know it. At its best, this process involves finding elegant solutions to frustrating bureaucratic procedures while increasing productivity. Using Google Docs instead of a clunkier corporate file-sharing system is an example, as is using free online tools to reinvent a cumbersome expense-report system. These are fresh and feasible ideas.

Free online tools can help you think more creatively, prove a point to your superiors or organize a team’s information more efficiently than your company’s tools permit. Free mind-mapping software at, free project -management accounts with and free blogging and wiki software are among the useful suggestions for improving productivity. Stories illustrate how such ideas have been used to solve problems in better ways.

The authors’ point is that the workplace is not organized for employee productivity; it is organized for its own convenience. Circumventing established processes would be less necessary if companies fostered employee productivity. Examples (most unattributed to named individuals or companies, however) abound of workers who hacked their organizations’ systems or procedures to improve their efficiency. The book fulfils its mandate to make you question and re-think bureaucratic routines in your workplace.

Some of the suggested hacks might be questionable, particularly those that involve individual privacy rights. For example, secretly videotaping customer complaints and posting them on YouTube to convince one’s company to be more user-focused skates on the edge of ethics and privacy issues. Writing a script file to tell you when your supervisor signs onto and off of his corporate email in order to count his working hours would likely be viewed by many as unethical. And who’s to say he wasn’t working into the night on Gmail, a hack that the authors promote?

Hacking Work is bound to be controversial – and in a good way, because it forces people to think in revolutionary terms about their work. But the impact may not be as good if it promotes hacking without an adequate understanding of related issues, reasons for policies or corporate cultures.

Chapters 10 and 11 give advice directly to employees and bosses about implementing radical change in the workplace. My suggestions for making an intriguing book even better? Revamp the bitter tone. Discard the tired theme of generation gaps between workers. Position the entire book as two things: a guide on reinventing work, and a tutorial for those entering the workforce on how to use their awesome social media and technology skills for good. •

Jan Wallace is head of the David Lam Management Research Library at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

By Carmine Gallo

McGraw-Hill, 2010

Innovation is a business buzzword these days. In The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Gallo shares some practical tools and principles to help you find your passion and purpose in life and work. Using seven principles, Gallo shows us how to foster an environment that will allow business to thrive. He challenges us to look at our businesses and lives and ask the question “What would Steve Jobs do?” Then he gives us the tools we need to find the answer.

The Trouble With Billionaires

By Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks

Penguin Canada, 2010

If you are not a billionaire, authors McQuaig and Brooks will make you feel good. In their book The Trouble With Billionaires they examine the question of income disparity and its effect on our economy. Smart and well-written, the book tackles the impact the super-rich have had on democracy, citizenship and the economic crashes of 1929 and 2008, and even takes a look at the business of pornography. The authors suggest a number of reforms that they believe will move Canada forward as a more equitable society. They even manage to include a quote from J.K. Rowling – and who wants to argue with Harry Potter’s mom? •

Treena Chambers is the marketing technology co-ordinator at the UBC Bookstore.

UBC, and the Library’s licensing database, are featured in a Maclean’s article that examines a looming copyright issue.

You can view the article here.

Dr. Irving K. Barber, a renowned forestry executive and long-time supporter of projects at UBC and elsewhere, has been named “Outstanding Philanthropist” by the fourth annual Giving Hearts Award Program, presented by the Vancouver Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

Dr. Barber is the principal donor for the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC, and he is a generous supporter of many other post-secondary initiatives. You can view the full award announcement here, and you can read a related story in the Delta Optimist here.

Congratulations Ike!


Small businesses across British Columbia now have a free, comprehensive resource to boost their business-planning efforts and foster an online community of information and support, thanks to the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at the University of British Columbia.

The Small Business Accelerator, which launches today at, is a new gateway to business information for small firms and entrepreneurs throughout the province. It’s also a valuable tool for public and college libraries, community development organizations and other agencies to support their clients.

A highlight of the SBA is its range of research guides that provide tailored information for specific industries. The site features 36 in-depth guides, developed with the expertise of UBC business librarians and library students, which cover sectors ranging from alternative energy to Web development, landscaping to restaurant retailing, and much more.

Visits to B.C. communities by the Learning Centre’s Director and the Community Business Services Librarian provided the Learning Centre with valuable feedback that was used to help shape the SBA during its development. In the new year, the librarian will visit organizations throughout the province to provide site training and outreach.

“We’re honoured to offer this free service for British Columbians who have started, or are looking to start, their own businesses – especially those in rural and remote parts of the province,” says Sandra Singh, director of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. “The site is an invaluable resource, built with the expertise of business librarians, to help entrepreneurs from communities across the province access the right information for effective business planning at any stage of development.”

“Anyone interested in exploring the possibilities of opening a business in B.C. will find a wealth of information on the site, no matter what stage of business planning they are in,” says Petra Mauerhoff, manager of College Library Services at Cranbrook’s College of the Rockies. “Even business students working on hypothetical cases for their course work will get great use out of this offering.”

“I’m really impressed with the SBA so far. What it means to rural would-be entrepreneurs is that they’ll have access to information that everybody takes for granted in large metropolitan areas,” says Larry Jones, a business analyst with Community Futures Terrace, which supports small- and medium-sized companies and community economic development. “This is going to level the playing field quite a bit.”

The site also serves as a venue for an online SBA community, where those who create content for B.C. businesses – such as libraries, economic development agencies and others – are invited to share resources and expertise.

Small business is vital to the economic health of British Columbia. According to a 2010 profile, small businesses accounted for 98 per cent of all businesses in the province in 2009, and employed more than one million people.

– 30 –


Glenn Drexhage
UBC Library/Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
Tel: 604.827.3434
Cell: 778.378.0174

Lorraine Chan
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2644
Cell: 604.209.3048

The Nelson Star features an article on a project that’s received funding from the BC History Digitization Program. That initiative was launched by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre in 2006.

You can view the article here and learn more about the digitization program here.

Serials Solutions, the vendor, recently issued a press release about the adoption of its services by UBC Library.

You can view the release here.

A generous $500,000 donation to UBC Library from the Canadian Pacific Railway is noted in a Calgary Herald article on the 125th anniversary of the Last Spike. The donation will be used to digitize materials from the exceptional Chung Collection.

You can view the article here, and learn more about the Chung Collection here.

A profile of Andrew “Chima” Akomas, one of the inspiring people who participated in UBC Library’s recent Living Library event, appears in The Ubyssey.

You can view the profile here, and you can learn more about the Living Library here.

Jan Wallace, the Head of David Lam Library, is featured in a Vancouver Sun article that highlights the Canaccord Learning Commons at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

You can read the article here, and you can find out more about the Canaccord Learning Commons here.

The recent Living Library event, which took place at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is profiled in the new issue of the BCLA Browser – the open access newsletter published by the British Columbia Library Association.

You can view the article here, and you can view the table of contents here.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library





Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia

Spam prevention powered by Akismet