“How Stella Saved the Farm” is a whimsical look at business lessons

by Margarette Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff

29 Jan 2013

Courtesy of Tuck

A business-themed parable titled “How Stella Saved the Farm” written by Tuck School of Business professors Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan, will be released on March 12. The two have been working together for over a decade, conducting research and writing formal business books, such as the recent “Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere.”

“How Stella Saved the Farm” is a “short and accessible” approach to teaching fundamental business lessons, particularly about innovation, the subject of Trimble and Govindarajan’s research, Trimble said.

Trimble described “How Stella Saved the Farm” as “a fictional case study that is actually a composite of all of the other case studies that we have worked on together.”

“What we wanted ‘Stella’ to do was pick up all the instructive mistakes we’ve found in our research over the years and weave them into one cohesive narrative so that readers won’t make the same mistakes in their own ventures,” Trimble said.

Trimble described the tool of anthropomorphic allegory as a way to “effectively remove the reader from their real world life and make them see lessons they can’t gain if they are caught up in their own world or own company while reading the book.”

The parable is “a way to see the abstract without the messy detail that complicates their real lives,” Trimble said. He added that the use of farm animals as opposed to humans ensures that groups can discuss innovation and fundamental economic lessons without feeling defensive.

The professors came up with the idea for “Stella” in 2008. Trimble and Govindarajan decided to write the book after a suggestion brought up at the International Thought Leader Network, a corporate workshop firm that Trimble and Govindarajan have a close relationship with.

Trimble studied other business parables, and “diligently took notes about what worked and what didn’t work in each story.” He said he realized that “plot is everything and it is through plot you deliver lessons learned.”

With the help of Joni Cole, a local fiction writer, Trimble and Govindarajan completed a manuscript by 2010. The book was “an absolute joy to write,” Trimble said.

In order to experiment with the accompanying workshop, the professors self-published for about a year, before signing a contract with St. Martin’s Press in 2011, Trimble said.

Trimble hopes “How Stella Saved the Farm” will be influential to readers.

“Our primary audience is managers in established organizations,” Trimble said, describing his “ground zero audience.”

“If this book is a success, it will be because people start to use it and talk about it on their own,” he said, reflecting on the need for multiple people within a firm to read the book in order for the lessons to be truly effective.

The parable has already made an impact. Trimble estimates that around 10,000 copies of the book have been distributed , as it has already been used in presentations and workshops. Former College President Jim Yong Kim recommended the book to many of Dartmouth’s senior executives, Trimble notes.

“The book that starts conversation about innovation,” Trimble said, adding that the book creates “common language and common understanding” within businesses regarding innovation.

Govindajaran is currently out of the country and could not be reached for comment.




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