The manners for using a clever business haven’t changed, says Bill Gates.
John Keatley for The Wall Street Journal

Not prolonged after we initial met

Warren Buffett

behind in 1991, we asked him to suggest his favorite book about business. He didn’t skip a beat: “It’s ‘Business Adventures,’ by

John Brooks,

” he said. “I’ll send we my copy.” we was intrigued: we had never listened of “Business Adventures” or John Brooks.

Today, some-more than dual decades after Warren lent it to me—and some-more than 4 decades after it was initial published—”Business Adventures” stays a best business book I’ve ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer. (And Warren, if you’re reading this, we still have your copy.)

A doubter competence consternation how this out-of-print collection of New Yorker articles from a 1960s could have anything to contend about business today. After all, in 1966, when Brooks profiled


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a company’s top-of-the-line copier weighed 650 pounds, cost $27,500, compulsory a full-time user and came with a glow extinguisher given of a bent to overheat. A lot has altered given then.

It’s positively loyal that many of a sum of business have changed. But a fundamentals have not. Brooks’s deeper insights about business are usually as applicable currently as they were behind then. In terms of a longevity, “Business Adventures” stands alongside

Benjamin Graham’s

“The Intelligent Investor,” a 1949 book that Warren says is a best book on investing that he has ever read.

Brooks grew adult in New Jersey during a Depression, attended Princeton University (where he roomed with destiny Secretary of State

George Shultz

) and, after portion in World War II, incited to broadcasting with dreams of apropos a novelist. In further to his repository work, he published a handful of books, usually some of that are still in print. He died in 1993.

As a publisher

Michael Lewis

wrote in his foreword to Brooks’s book “The Go-Go Years,” even when Brooks got things wrong, “at slightest he got them wrong in an engaging way.” Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or uncomplicated explanations for success. (How many times have we review that some association is holding off given they give their employees giveaway lunch?) You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote prolonged articles that support an issue, try it in depth, deliver a few constrained characters and uncover how things went for them.

In one called “The Impacted Philosophers,” he uses a box of price-fixing during


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to try miscommunication—sometimes conscious miscommunication—up and down a corporate ladder. It was, he writes, “a relapse in intramural communication so extreme as to make a building of a Tower of Babel seem a delight of organizational rapport.”

In “The Fate of a Edsel,” he refutes a renouned explanations for since Ford’s flagship automobile was such a ancestral flop. It wasn’t given a automobile was overly poll-tested; it was given Ford’s executives usually simulated to be behaving on what a polls said. “Although a Edsel was ostensible to be advertised, and differently promoted, particularly on a basement of preferences voiced in polls, some out-of-date snake-oil offered methods, discerning rather than scientific, crept in.” It positively didn’t assistance that a initial Edsels “were delivered with oil leaks, adhering hoods, trunks that wouldn’t open and pull buttons that…couldn’t be budged with a hammer.”

One of Brooks’s many exegetic stories is “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox.” (The title alone belongs in a Journalism Hall of Fame.) The instance of Xerox is one that everybody in a tech attention should study. Starting in a early ’70s, Xerox saved a outrageous volume of RD that wasn’t directly associated to copiers, including investigate that led to Ethernet networks and a initial graphical user interface (the demeanour we know currently as Windows or OS X).

Download a giveaway duplicate of “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox.”

But given Xerox executives didn’t consider these ideas fit their core business, they chose not to spin them into commercial products. Others stepped in and went to marketplace with products formed on a investigate that Xerox had done. Both Apple and


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for example, drew on Xerox’s work on graphical user interfaces.

I know I’m not alone in saying this preference as a mistake on Xerox’s part. we was positively dynamic to equivocate it during Microsoft. we pushed tough to make certain that we kept meditative large about a opportunities combined by a investigate in areas like mechanism prophesy and debate recognition. Many other reporters have created about Xerox, though Brooks’s essay tells an critical partial of a company’s early story. He shows how it was built on original, outside-the-box thinking, that creates it all a some-more startling that as Xerox matured, it would skip out on radical ideas grown by a possess researchers.

Brooks was also a dictatorial storyteller. He could qualification a page-turner like “The Last Great Corner,” about a male who founded a Piggly Wiggly grocery sequence and his try to foil investors vigilant on shorting his company’s stock. we couldn’t wait to see how things incited out for him. (Here’s a spoiler: not well.) Other times we can roughly hear Brooks chuckling as he tells some absurd story. There’s a thoroughfare in “The Fate of a Edsel” in that a PR male for Ford organizes a conform uncover for a wives of journal reporters. The horde of a conform uncover turns out to be a womanlike impersonator, that competence seem irritable currently though would have been shameful for a vital U.S. house in 1957. Brooks records that a reporters’ wives “were means to give their husbands an additional divide or dual for their stories.”

Brooks’s work is a good sign that a manners for using a clever business and formulating value haven’t changed. For one thing, there’s an essential tellurian cause in each business endeavor. It doesn’t matter if we have a ideal product, prolongation devise and selling pitch; you’ll still need a right people to lead and exercise those plans.

That is a doctrine we learn fast in business, and I’ve been reminded of it during each step of my career, initial during Microsoft and now during a foundation. Which people are we going to back? Do their roles fit their abilities? Do they have both a IQ and EQ to succeed? Warren is famous for this proceed during


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where he buys good businesses run by smashing managers and afterwards gets out of a way.

“Business Adventures” is as most about a strengths and weaknesses of leaders in severe resources as it is about a sum of one business or another. In that sense, it is still applicable not notwithstanding a age though given of it. John Brooks’s work is unequivocally about tellurian nature, that is since it has stood a exam of time.

Mr. Gates

is a co-chairman of a Bill Melinda Gates Foundation and a co-founder of Microsoft.