At the Dell household, Labor Day marks the undeniable end of summer. It's back to school for the kids and back to the crazy pace that fall brings. (Secretly, I like it that way. I always have.) But the lull of summer is special, too, and a great time to catch up on all those things we have trouble getting to the rest of the year, like that pile of books on the nightstand. I'm happy to say I got to spend part of my summer with some great books written by some very smart people.
I'm often asked what I'm reading or if I can recommend a good business book, so I thought it'd be fun to share some of my summer reading list with Inc. (Spoiler alert: no zombies or 50 shades of anything.) If you're like me--curious and excited about the future--you'll enjoy these.
1) and 2) The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014); and Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Free Press, 2012)
These two really resonated with me. In both books, the authors make a case for a future world that is better, not worse, than the one we inherited. That may seem far-fetched given the problems we see flashing across our screens every day. But there is reason for optimism, and it starts and ends with one of my favorite things, technology.
The premise behind both books is pretty simple: Technology is making possible what was considered impossible just a few short years, weeks, maybe even days ago. Innovation is happening at lightning speed and getting exponentially faster. The results will quite likely be solutions to many of the toughest global issues. Think big here--world hunger, clean water and energy, medical cures, science and space mysteries solved.
The authors of Abundance go so far as to claim that "technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every man, woman, and child on the planet." Before you disagree, read the book. They make a fascinating argument, and make me happier than ever that I ditched my dream of being a doctor to enter the unpredictable world of IT. We live in exciting times.
3) Breakpoint: Why the Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Technology Is in Your Brain by Jeff Stibel (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2013)
Stibel, a brain scientist, uses biology to warn of the inevitable breaking point of all networks, including social networks and the network of networks--the Internet. However, the wave of new technologies on the horizon will show us the way forward and bring competitive advantage to the businesses that understand the nature of networks.
4) Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku (Doubleday, 2011)
Kaku interviews some of the world's best and brightest scientists to find out what they're working on. What he unveils is a future of sci-fi-like innovations and breakthroughs worth sticking around for.
5) Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes (Portfolio Hardcover, 2014)
Downes and Nunes provide some very thought-provoking guidance to existing businesses about how to compete, innovate, and win in this new world of the disruptive startup.
6) The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012)
Thorndike explores the importance of thoughtful capital allocation through the stories of eight successful CEOs. A good read for any business leader but especially those willing to chart their own course.
7) The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (HarperBusiness, 2014)
Ben, an influential venture capitalist (of Andreessen Horowitz) and entrepreneur, candidly talks about the very real thrills and perils of starting a business. This book is loaded with great lessons and advice from a successful leader and innovator.
8) Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2014)
Rifkin poses that the plummeting costs of doing business, brought on by dramatic increases in productivity and the Internet, are driving us toward a hybrid economy of capitalist market and "collaborative commons"--a place where shareable value is as important as exchange value.
9) Business Adventures by John Brooks (Weybright and Talley, 1969)
In this 1960s classic, Brooks, a longtime New Yorker contributor, tells the stories of 12 notable companies and how they navigated the trials and tribulations of corporate life in America back in the day. (Thanks for the recommendation, Bill)