FORTUNE -- "People do play computer games at work, but they also doodle with pencils. Do you take away their pencils? That's not the way a modern workforce is managed. You've got to trust people."
So said Microsoft's (MSFT) chairman in 1996, according to Impatient Optimist: Bill Gates in His Own Words -- and, like most quotations in this pocket-sized book, it seems as timely an observation as it was back then. Editor Lisa Rogak, whose Barack Obama In His Own Words was a 2008 bestseller, has compiled sound bites from Chairman Bill by topic, from A (acquiring other companies) to W (working with his wife).
The result is like eating salted peanuts: Once you start reading, it's hard to stop. Here's Gates on bigness: "Size works against excellence. Even if we are a big company, we cannot think like a big company or we are dead." On risk: "A little blindness is necessary when you undertake a risk. You have to have a little suspension of disbelief." On creativity: "We tell people if no one laughs at at least one of their ideas, they're probably not being creative enough."
Some of Gates' remarks in these pages shed light on his second career as a major-league philanthropist, like this one, on why corporations should give away money: "Profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. In such cases, there needs to be another market-based incentive -- and that incentive is recognition. Recognition…attracts good people to the organization."
Want to know more about his personal life? Here's a nugget from a commencement address he gave at Harvard a few years ago, about his lack of success with women while he was a student there: "Radcliffe [the women's college that merged with Harvard in 1977] was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were math-science types. That combination gave me the best odds, if you know what I mean. That's where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn't guarantee success." More
Company customer service czar Jim Bush on changing the way that cardholders are treated - and how it paid off.
By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Call-center customer service has become a finely honed discipline, but usually it seems honed to cut time: The agent is superficially friendly, but nothing can derail that person's mission of getting you off the phone fast. Service at American Express (AXP) wasn't much different MOREApr 19, 2012 5:00 AM ET
The company's analytic software gives its 'customer service professionals' a wealth of data to take care of cardholders.
By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Jim Bush sees to it that when a customer calls American Express (AXP), the person who answers engages in unscripted conversation. What makes that conversation productive is a staggering amount of data. A credit card company, through its awareness of customer spending, possesses deep knowledge about MOREApr 19, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Whether it's trying to be great at everything or giving great service away for free, there are plenty of ways in which the best intentions spell business failure. By Frances Frei and Anne MorrissMar 28, 2012 11:31 AM ET
Beware the wrath of the Facebook crank. Several major retailers are simply ignoring customer service complaints via social networks, at their own peril. By Gary M. SternNov 22, 2011 9:28 AM ET
Too many companies have forgotten that the way to create real growth is to encourage front-line employees to trust their own judgment and make customers happy, writes Fortune's Anne Fisher in her June 26 Ask Annie column. Does your workplace have needless rules or systems that keep you from doing your best for customers - or colleagues? In your career so far, what one rule or policy would you have MOREGabrielle S. (CNNMoney) - Jun 25, 2008 9:57 AM ET
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