In summer 2005 Wharton School Publishing celebrated its first anniversary by publishing its 24th title. After a little more than a year in business, the venture has made an impact across business disciplines and around the world — selling more than 250,000 copies in a total of 14 languages.

Adding to a varied list of practical, implementable works that includes C.K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and Jon M. Huntsman’s Winners Never Cheat, WSP releases three new books.

A New Model for Customer Relations
Don’t Just Relate — Advocate! : A Blueprint for Profit in the Era of Customer Power,
by Glen Urban

The need for new marketing approaches becomes clearer every year. Traditional “push/pull” marketing no longer works. Even highly touted customer relationship initiatives are failing.

Customers have more information, options, and sophistication than ever. Smart companies are pioneering an entirely new route to higher margins and sustainable competitive advantage: customer advocacy. In Don’t Just Relate—Advocate, MIT professor Glen Urban describes how customer advocacy works, why it works, and how to put it into practice.

Urban, the David Austin Professor of Marketing and former dean at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is also the co-founder/chairman of Experion Systems Inc. His research on management science models that improve the productivity of new product development and marketing resulted in the Information Acceleration methodology for simulating future sales. Urban’s approaches have reduced development costs for more than 3,000 products including cars, computer systems, telecommunications, and drugs. In Don’t Just Relate—Advocate!, he turns his attention to a new model for building customer trust.

According to Urban, customer advocacy means faithfully representing the customers’ interests. It means giving them open, honest, and complete information because empowered customers will discover the truth through today’s free information flow. It means talking with them, not at them. And it requires a massive transformation in both culture and processes. Urban’s book provides the “how” as well as the “why.”

Urban discusses eight elements of customer advocacy, from transparency to partnership, and answers long-asked questions to help readers identify and overcome most significant obstacles. He draws on new case studies to show how to align culture, metrics, incentives, and organization, driving effective advocacy throughout entire organizations.

Urban describes customer advocacy as a pyramid. The “base” starts with TQM (Total Quality Management) and customer satisfaction initiatives; the “middle” includes relationship marketing efforts; and the “pinnacle” introduces new advocacy techniques built on trust, not coercion. Drawing on the customer advocacy initiatives at firms such as GM, Intel, Qwest, and John Deere, he identifies crucial lessons for earning customer trust, keeping it, and profiting from it.

Breaking Through ‘Group Think’
Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus,
by Michael A. Roberto

Trust is not only for customers. Making great decisions means that employees have the belief and venue to speak their minds and a corporate culture that allows for constructive discourse. Many leaders hear “yes” far too often. They don’t hear bad news until it’s too late.

They get groupthink, not reality. They think they’ve achieved consensus, then find their decisions undermined by colleagues who never really bought in. They become isolated: even high-risk or illegal actions can go unquestioned. It’s an enormous problem for leaders, for teams, for the entire organization. But is it inevitable? Absolutely not.

In Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Harvard Business School  stimulate dissent and debate to improve decision making; he also shows how to keep that conflict constructive. Roberto, an assistant professor in HBS’s general management department, has focused his research on strategic decision-making processes and senior management teams, leading to the conclusions and strategies in this book. He examines how managers make strategic decisions in a timely and efficient manner, while simultaneously building the consensus required to implement decisions effectively.

“Keeping conflict constructive helps to build decision commitment, and therefore facilitates implementation,” says Roberto. “Leaders need to recognize that expressing dissent can be very difficult and uncomfortable for lower-level managers and employees—leaders cannot wait for dissent to come to them; they must actively go seek it out in their organizations.” Conflict alone does not produce better decisions and improved results.

Roberto has found that leaders need to cultivate debate and simultaneously build consensus. Strong buy-in paves the way to successful execution. Through case studies and examples from history, including the Columbia space shuttle disaster and the Bay of Pigs, the book explores how real organizations make real decisions and how the process unfolds throughout the organization—not just in the boardroom. It uncovers the five myths of executive decision making, why they are so dangerous, and how to overcome them.

Roberto also explores how to foster open debate that actually builds long-term consensus, and how to achieve “diversity in counsel, unity in command,” how to move to closure avoiding “analysis paralysis” and other pitfalls, and how to gain the wholehearted commitment to act. He writes that leaders “must search for people willing to say no to them. The mere existence of passive leadership constitutes a substantial barrier to candid dialogue and debate within organizations.”

Leading Teams for Product Innovation
The Design of Things to Come: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Products,
by Craig M. Vogel, Jonathan Cagan, and Peter Boatwright

What kinds of products/services resonate with consumers today? What do they want?

In The Design of Things to Come, professors Craig M. Vogel, Jonathan Cagan, and Peter Boatwright answer these questions by combining perspectives from design, engineering, and marketing. Vogel is director of the Center for Design Research and Innovation and professor of design at the University of Cincinnati, Cagan is a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, and Boatwright is an associate professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. The iPod is a harbinger of a revolution in product design: innovation that targets customer emotion, self-image, and fantasy, not just product function.

Other ground-breaking products include BodyMedia’s SenseWear body monitor, Herman Miller’s Mirra Chair, Swiffer’s mops, OXO’s potato peelers, Adidas’ intelligent shoes, the new Ford F-150 pickup truck, and many other winning innovations. Vogel, Cagan, and Boatwright tell the hidden stories of the innovators behind these products, describing how they inspire and motivate their teams, as they shepherd their visions through corporate bureaucracy to profitable reality.

The authors have found that design revolutionaries have a healthy respect for the huge cultural and economic forces swirling around them, but they’ve gotten past the fear of failure, in order to surf the biggest waves—and deliver the most exciting breakthroughs. Along the way, Vogel, Cagan, and Boatwright deconstruct the entire process of design innovation, showing how it really works, and how today’s smartest companies are innovating more effectively than ever before.

From discovering the trends driving tomorrow’s most profitable innovations, to designing for fantasy, to mastering the art of pragmatic innovation, The Design of Things to Come reveals the power of today’s best companies, building products and services that look great, feel great, and touch customers more deeply than ever before. Innovation isn’t just the best way for companies to stay profitable; increasingly, it’s the only way.