The Business Heretic’s Library vol. 1
“There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli (anticipating Nassim Taleb’s book by over a century.)
Leaders are readers. Ever hear that one?* Beware, though: what you read is just as important as the fact that you’re reading at all.
I’m often asked what I read, probably because I make no secret of how much I read – about a book on week (I know, get a life). Just this week a young, ambitious friend requested some recommendations to round out the drivel in her library. Oiy! The things 20th-Century mentors foist upon our youth!
Submitted for your consideration: rather than garbage in, garbage out, how about trying heresy in, heresy out?
The motto of the leaders of tomorrow isn’t saying “think outside the box” – not even close! The leaders of this exciting new century ask, “Box? What’s a box?”
The Future of Management by Gary Hamel – Despite its prosaic title (ouch!), here’s my promise: if you stop at these first two books, and if you actually use what you learn, you will radically transform your career and your business for the better.
But don’t stop at just two books. There’s so much more to learn!
Adapt by Tim Hartford – Why success always starts with failure (and that’s okay!). If I had read this book in 2004 or before, Coiné would be a global brand today. Strong claim? Read the book. (My review here)
Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies – Here is a how to book: how to turn your stodgy, has-been enterprise into something exciting – and thriving! A truly remarkable leader. (My review here)
Maverick by Ricardo Semler – Certainly the most amazing company on earth, Brazil’s answer to Gore Associates. Way back when I was teaching English at my first school in Boston, a colleague introduced me to Professor Clovis, who factors heavily in this turnaround story. He turned me on to his boss’ book, and opened my eyes to how inspirational business can be!
The Synergist by Les McKeown – A compelling how-to on working effectively on leadership teams. As a “V” through and through, one who has always butted heads with “Processors,” this book has profoundly changed how I think (and act) in a business setting. Another must-read!
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb – Warning: you’ll never respect a statistic again. Taleb, A Wall Street quant who made “a fortune of the century” by understanding the shortcomings of the Bell Curve, explains in excruciating detail why we shouldn’t fall prey to the false idols of the statistician. (Here’s another warning: this book really wanders, and gets esoteric on almost every page. It’s a hard read if you didn’t study philosophy, history, economics… You might want to pick up the Cliffs Notes.)
Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner – Setting vision in your work and life. This book is exactly the opposite of our previous entry, which is to say it’s a pure pleasure to read from page one to the end. Blanchard and Stoner write it as a story, not a treatise. You’ll want to digest it in one afternoon – but don’t! Rather, take it in small doses so you can digest each vital lesson they share.
First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham – How to manage, pure and simple. The overarching lesson of this book is that great managers do things differently – profoundly differently – from their peers. The details explain exactly how.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clay Christianson – From tactics back to strategy for today’s last recommendation. Christianson gives a highly entertaining, incredibly informative keynote. That’s what made me open this book, and am I glad I did! If you want to know how little guys keep putting the Goliaths of the business world up against the ropes again and again and again, this book is for you. Read it; then read it again. Oh, and Dear CEO: if you’re still relying on EBITA instead of “money” to measure your success… um… Christianson thinks that’s dumb. I’d take his advice before it’s too late.
Like this list? It’s just a start. Subscribe to Switch and Shift below for much, much more where this came from!
*You’re reading right now: congratulations, Chief!
Now what? Now go to our Business Heretic’s Bookstore and stock up on these must-read titles – and the many we’ve added since this post first came out! You can thank me later
Note: this post was modified on August 1, 2012 to remove Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer. It’s a truly excellent book – I ranked it third! Unfortunately, it turns out that it is also at least partially a work of fiction. Mr. Lehrer admitted to lying in chapter 1, and the publisher has recalled the work. More on this in an upcoming post. – Ted