Saturday, 28 January 2012

Book Review: Persuasion, by Arlene Dickinson (2011)

Marketing guru and easily-agitated panelist on CBC's Dragons' Den, Arlene Dickinson doles out business advice in her book Persuasion. This is not a seriously researched or fact-based treatise; Dickinson does not bother with notes, references, suggested further reading, or even an index. Instead, she recounts her life story and packages the lessons that she has learned in achieving business success.

Persuasion is written in a conversational style, and could have used a much sharper edit. Dickinson frequently interrupts her own line of thought, throws in anecdotes that may work in a verbal exchange but are weak in writing, and introduces or dismisses concepts with no substantiation. Her examples are drawn purely from her personal experience, her business life as a marketing executive at Venture Communications, and her appearances on Dragons' Den. While often entertaining, Persuasion frequently stumbles as it attempts to stretch from an autobiography to a serious business advice book. There simply is little here from outside Dickinson's own world, and while many executives like to imagine that their individual experience provides adequate wisdom to fill a book and share with a wide audience, they are all generally mistaken.

There are a few nuggets in Persuasion that would have made for a decent lecture. Dickinson's focus is on ethical persuasion as a pathway to success, and emphasizes the old marketing standbys of authenticity, honesty and reciprocity, the need for good research, hard work, teamwork, listening, and delivering on promises. While not much of what she says is new, her personal story of overcoming a lack of education, poverty, and a bitter divorce to emerge as one of Canada's leading marketing executives adds a genuine warmth to her advice.

Beyond presenting what Dickinson believes in, Persuasion contains little in the way of transformational advice for the business novice to proceed and make the changes necessary to succeed. Dickinson knows what worked for her, but as is often the case, that isn't enough to make for a high-value read.

Subtitled: A New Approach To Changing Minds.
Published in hardcover by Collins.
268 pages.

All Ace Black Blog Book Reviews are here.

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