Business Poison by Jonathan MacDonald

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of the latest book by my friend Jonathan MacDonald just before Christmas. He’s been speaking and consulting for years to the likes of Google, Apple, P&G, Unilever, Nestlé and IKEA, and is also a genuinely nice guy.

But onto Business Poison, with the catchy subtitle ‘Diagnosing and treating the infectious poisons that determine your business success”.


It’s a reasonable length book at 84 pages, covering 24 topics. And it’s also a quick read, partly due to Jonathan’s informal but informative writing style. I went through it on the evening it arrived, and a couple of times since then, and much like A User Guide to the Creative Mind by Dave Birss I know it’s going to be a book I’ll be referring back to frequently.

And despite the concise nature, it manages to cover most of the problems I’ve encountered in my time working with businesses large and small, and running my own. Topics include ‘The Poison of Singular Personas’, ‘The Poison of Strategic Misrepresentation’ or ‘The Poison of Presumed Influence’.

Each is covered with a mix of Jonathan’s own experience, sources, quotes etc, and ways to potentially avoid or tackle each issue. I’d hate to think any business was capable of experiencing all of them at the same time (Although I can think of some that probably come close!), but over time the challenges and potential pitfalls you’ll encounter running or working for a business will probably mean you’ll end up with the full set eventually.

If I’m being hypercritical to compensate for knowing the author, I’d say that perhaps some more footnotes, case studies and further reading would be useful – various works are mentioned throughout so it would be handy to have them listed in one handy page for easier shopping.

I haven’t asked Jonathan exactly who he was writing the book for, although I suspect it was a mixture of readers ranging across the various levels of a business.

But interestingly, I found myself repeatedly wishing I’d had Business Poison ten years ago. How many times I encountered one or more issues in meetings and on projects, but didn’t have the experience to properly explain what was going wrong? And how many times did I sit with older, more experienced managers etc, and back down or keep quiet because I felt like I was the only person in the room seeing, or at least acknowledging, there was going to be an issue?

There’s a lot of talk about the rise of the ‘intrapreneur’ within organisations – an entrepreneur that stays within the larger company and attempts to innovate, disrupt and chance on the inside. But it can be a lonely crusade, and having something like this book at home or in your desk will help anyone feel like they’re not alone.

Putting aside the fact I like and respect Jonathan, I’d say that Business Poison is definitely worth reading for business owners and senior managers, particularly those in medium-to-large companies. And I’d say it’s essential if you’re working for one of those businesses and want to be aware of the potential pitfalls and dangers, particularly if you’re hopefully contributing to new ideas and projects. You’ll get an ROI on the £3 price of the Kindle version about 20 minutes into your next project or planning meeting!