Learning Series

April 11 2016 // 12:06 AM

Reviewing: The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack with Bo Burlingham

Written by Alex Smith | @PAEVENalex



My name is Alex Smith, and as an aspiring architect working toward licensure, I am always looking for content to better my understanding of our industry. In my search for what is new and relevant in my field, I have stumbled across a great deal of content worth sharing.  In the learning series PAEVEN’s Take I will provide you with reviews of engaging and inspiring content that can serve as a starting point to your own search on architectural and engineering topics. Through our periodic updates, this series will cover a range of issues documented in industry publications as well as popular tools for running your firm. I hope you will make this part of your weekly reading and if there is a particular topic or article you think should be included in this series, feel free to shoot me an email at  I’m always looking for something new.

Reviewing: The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack with Bo Burlingham

The first in our series of book reviews is titled The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company. Written by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham, the book in its most general sense describes the benefits of applying open-book management principles to a company in any industry, large or small, private or public. The author is careful not to preach open book management alone, but he advocates for a more holistic philosophy of organizational management. According to Stack, little benefit is gained when employees are given access to the financial health of their company without having previously been armed with understanding of what the numbers say about the current and future states of their business.

Instead of letting the rules of business be visible but misunderstood, the author argues that if these rules are translated into a game, the game can then be played, and even enjoyed, by all employees. Opting to empower employees by fostering competition and turning weaknesses into strengths, Stack believes organizations and employees can mutually benefit.  Stack gives practical advice on implementing games that teach essential financial literacy, so employees can make decisions that build on the success of the company, contributing not only to the bottom line, but to job security and beyond.

The author emphasizes the importance of letting people see the big picture in their job function. Stack feels it is necessary to make all employees feel as if they are on the same team, striving to achieve a common goal. Only then can you begin to take advantage of hidden skills and wasted talents that exist deep within the personalities that comprise a company. Finally, the author states that when employers share the rewards of success with employees of all levels, everyone in the organization wins.

“That’s because a company of owners will outperform a company of employees any day of the week.”

Stack and Burlingham use clear and straightforward language, often utilizing graphical manipulations of the text to strengthen arguments. One of the most appealing features of the author’s style comes in the delivery of the stories told throughout the book.  By offering firsthand knowledge in implementing these methodologies, the authors add an element of authority to their principles.  The inspiring anecdotes detail his time at a manufacturing plant he and a few others bought during a period of decline, only to implement these strategies, reverse the trend, and create a profitable enterprise.


“… you have to knock down the barriers that separate people…”

This book is recommended for those seeking to provide greater organizational goal alignment and share company successes with employees.  Whether you are a CEO looking to boost company morale or an employee trying to give your boss a nudge in the right direction, The Great Game of Business is an excellent resource. To what extent these principles can and should be applied depends on an individual firm’s circumstances and goals, but the concepts are ones worth noting.

Let us know what you think. Post any comments or questions below and I’ll be sure to respond. If you found this book review helpful, take a peek at another one of the articles in our learning series, How to Start an AE Firm, for insights from a small business owner who did just that.

Comments | 4
  • Alex Smith | 5/1/2016 2:47:24 PM Harold, it would be great to hear your thoughts after reading the book. Let me know if you're able to use any of the techniques!
  • Alex Smith | 5/1/2016 2:46:14 PM Tim, Chapter 2 actually addresses the myths of management. Myth #1: "Don't tell people the truth - They'll screw you". As people begin to start telling the truth, you can build credibility among employees and operate more efficiently.
  • Tim Roth | 4/22/2016 5:12:07 PM Good information. I just wonder how it might affect people when they find out something they don't want to know.
  • Harold Baxter | 4/22/2016 3:37:08 PM Interesting article and interesting concept. Think I will check this book out. Thanks
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