Think back to the last time you made a decision based solely on cold, hard logic. Having trouble? Much as we'd like to be rational, the truth is we're often ruled by our emotions. We go back to the store that feels comfortable, we buy the dress that makes us feel sexy, we eat at the restaurant that makes us feel at home. Here's the lesson all marketers and managers should heed: It's time to get in touch with your emotions, and three new business books can show you how to achieve this elusive goal.

Going out of your mind

Jack Zufelt is a top professional speaker, a successful trainer and a highly acclaimed consultant and entrepreneur. Not exactly the guy you'd expect to dismiss goal-setting, self-help books and even motivational speakers in his new book The DNA of Success: Know What You Want to Get What You Want . Success is "an inside job," says Zufelt, one that defies the rational baggage of "shoulds" and "ought-tos." Instead, he says it's time to get out of your head and tap into your emotions to find out what your heart truly yearns for. Those "core desires" in turn ignite the powerful "conquering forces" that motivate you to overcome all obstacles.

To be honest, it is work digging down to those core desires, but the process can be revelatory and even fun when done with a partner. The reward is in finally figuring out what you truly desire and discovering the passion to go out and achieve it.

Zufelt simplifies the complex ideas with his positive, can-do approach and includes plenty of personal stories. He moves beyond business applications to show how your core desires relate to creating family relationships, growing spiritually and improving self-image.

The road to riches

The team that created the blockbuster First, Break All the Rules is back with new revelations in Follow This Path (Warner, $26.95, 256 pages, ISBN 0446530506). Most companies are hoping to find the road to riches by tweaking price or by slapping "new & improved!" everywhere, but that's a dead end, say Curt Coffman and Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina. Customers base their loyalty on the way your company makes them feel, and it's your employees that make or break that connection.

The commonsense ideas are based on a study by the Gallup Organization that questioned more than 10 million customers, three million employees and 200,000 managers. The findings concluded that what customers buy and keep buying is based on how they feel, and the best way to connect with a customer's emotion is not through brands, slogans or jingles, but another human being. It's a wake-up call for companies who are ignoring the untapped resources of their work force. The ideas seem simple develop employees' strengths instead of fixing weaknesses; don't treat everyone the same way but finding a company that recognizes the emotion-driven economy is rare.

Follow This Path creates an easy-to-follow road map for managers who want to engage and inspire their employees. The authors outline 34 different talent areas, describe the kind of work environment employees want and show managers how to achieve it. The 12 conditions of a great workplace ("There is someone at work who encourages my development" and "I have a best friend at work") might sound like utopia for workers, but today's great companies are finding a way to make it a reality.

The pursuit of pleasure

Melinda Davis' The New Culture of Desire is a challenging look at what motivates us in today's hyper-connected world (Free Press, $26, 288 pages, ISBN 074320459X). The goal of Davis' company, The Next Group, is to get inside the minds of today's consumers, and during the past six years they have probed the shift in human desires. According to Davis, the old motivators sex, money and power have taken a back seat to the new driving force in human behavior: the pursuit of pleasure.

Davis begins by laying out the complicated assertion that the physical world is dead, and we've moved into what she calls "imaginational reality." With pervasive technology and media coming at us from every direction, we have abandoned concrete reality and now live our lives in our heads. It's a thought-provoking idea that has the scary ring of truth.

Now that we've transitioned into a new reality, we've developed a new survival instinct, says Davis. Instead of worrying about physical attacks, we're now protecting our brains from assault. We've all become "imaginational age mental patients" looking for a product or service to be our healer.

If Davis still sounds like the crazy one, think about the $15 billion we spend each year on antidepressants. And that doesn't include the tab on bubble baths, chocolate, alcohol and all the other guilty pleasures we use to self-medicate. Whether you agree with Davis' ideas or not, The New Culture of Desire is fascinating reading that leaves you thinking about the changed reality in which we live.

Busting the Boom-Boom Room

Nick Cuneo was the ultimate macho boss. The Smith Barney branch manager was notoriously creative with the F-word, kept a gun in his desk and instituted an infamous basement party room dubbed the Boom-Boom Room where happy hour started as early as 10 a.m. The Garden City, New York, branch and its boss were consistently top performers for the financial services firm, but the good times didn't make up for the consistent abuse and intimidation directed toward female employees. Fed up with the groping and discrimination, women Cuneo had labeled with such nicknames as the Stepford Wife and the Playboy Bunny fought back with a class action lawsuit.

Journalist Susan Antilla tells the riveting story in Tales from the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs. Wall Street (Bloomberg, $26.95, 384 pages, ISBN 1576600785). Antilla followed the case from its beginnings, and the result is an intriguing cross between Liar's Poker and A Civil Action. Readers get a fascinating look at the appalling behavior Wall Street chose to ignore and a guide through the machinations of a landmark case.

Led by outspoken broker Pamela Martens, women from Smith Barney branches across the country came together to expose the sexual hazing and unequal pay practices that damaged their careers. Most of the women involved in the suit are now forbidden to talk about the case because of settlement agreements, but Antilla vividly re-creates the characters and events. This story doesn't come with a happy ending; many of the women quit their jobs or left the industry altogether and some dropped their complaints rather than face the daunting legal process with no sure reward. But Wall Street fears bad publicity even more than litigation, and this riveting human and legal drama will ensure that the stories told by these courageous women won't be forgotten.

 

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