9 Big Idea Business Books You Need to Read Now
A business book needs to possess the chops of practical substance, and more than glint of mass-market flash, wouldn't you agree? So whether you need a new read for a beautiful spring day or for a weekend vacation, here's a list of nine titles that will challenge and inspire you this spring.
1. "Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant" by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
Blue Ocean Strategy is a contrarian business book and the only one I've ever read cover-to-cover," says Carey Smith, founder and CEO of $125-million Big Ass Solutions in Lexington, KY. "The authors emphasize searching for spaces without competition and then staying ahead of it. Opportunity is always in the unexplored." In other words: If disruption and business model innovation on your radar, this is the book for you.
2. "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek.
All companies exist to make money. What separates yours from all the rest? Why does it exist--what is its transcendent, inspirational purpose--over and above profitability? Sinek's book can help you formulate these questions and articulate the answers. "The biggest takeaway from the book is, as Senek says, 'People don't buy what you do they buy why you do it,'" says Zach Kaplan, CEO of Inventables, a Chicago-based startup that provides software, supplies and machinery to digital designers and manufacturers. "His book and his TED talk on the same topic caused me to think hard about why we exist at Inventables."
3. "The First Mile" by Scott D. Anthony.
Whether you're a startup or a mature organization, the lifeblood of your company comes from the process of turning ideas into action. Anthony's book (which comes out in early May, but which I've already read, thanks to the power of media-privileged advanced copies) is a primer on how to do it, by an innovation expert who's worked side by side with the legendary Clayton Christensen. (Christensen is the coiner of the term "disruptive innovation" and an evangelist of Peter Drucker's theories about articulating what "job" your customers are truly paying you to do.)
4. "The Innovator's Extinction" by David Ulmer.
A footnote in "The First Mile" calls this unheralded gem "a fun, somewhat subversive book." Perhaps most enticing, Anthony warns readers: "Some of the advice in this book should be followed with caution, but Ulmer bears the scars of trying to drive innovation inside several large companies, and a lot of his observations ring all too true."
5. "Lincoln the Unknown" by Dale Carnegie.
Everyone's heard of Carnegie's classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Few have heard of this out-of-print (but still available on Amazon) rarity, which he wrote four years earlier. In an era where Lincoln's people skills have received their fair share of appreciation, this book, which Carnegie spend three years working on, provides even deeper insights about one of our nation's greatest leaders.
6. "Five Frogs on a Log" by Mark L. Feldman and Michael F. Spratt.
If mergers and acquisitions are part of your future, this book will help you get ready. For Brian Twibell, CEO of RedVision, a $51 million provider of real estate title searches based in Parsipanny, NJ, Five Frogs is a well-worn bible. It guided him through RedVision's four acquisitions, helping him grow the company to 517 employees--up from 72 in 2007.
7. "The Circle" by Dave Eggers.
First, a warning: This is a novel. Second, another warning: It's not a page-turner. The plot won't intrigue you, the characters (perhaps intentionally) won't inspire you. Where Eggers' book deserves high marks, however, is for its ideas about the contemporary workplace: Specifically, the way that company cultures and social technologies can lead to workaholism, a blurring of the lines between public and private, and a blinding self-absorption in the name of corporate zeal.
8. "Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change" by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon.
Any book about how to run better meetings deserves your attention. Ertel and Kay make it easy, with actual tool and checklists that will prove fast and practical to your and your top team, every time out.
9. "Ask Not" by Thurston Clarke.
As a leader, one thing you have to do is give speeches. Ideally, those talks will move and inspire people. Clarke's book provides an incisive anatomy of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. Even if you're already a public-speaking ace, you're bound to find practical tips on giving better presentations from learning about JFK's process.