Uber flies all new corporate employees to its San Francisco office where they attend a three-day "Uberversity." And Apple enlists full-time, Ivy League-caliber instructors for its highly secretive employee training program. Every year, companies in the US alone spend hundreds of billions of dollars on learning and development programs. Successful organizations promote a culture of continuous learning to equip veteran employees as well as new hires with the most innovative tools and up-to-date resources.
But enabling your employees to learn on the job doesn't have to cost a fortune. It doesn't even need to take up big chunks of the workday. Thousands of thoughtful business writers have already shared their insights with the world, and and they are a click away on Amazon.com.
Here are my top five books to pass on to your employees that will empower individual leaders, encourage a connected work environment, and help you build an outstanding company.
1. Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson. This 1998 classic warns against the danger of stagnation, arrogance, and complacency. To succeed in a crowded marketplace, a company must constantly keep innovating to create the next great thing that will disrupt its industry. If you don't, your competitors will. Take Uber again. It completely revolutionized the taxi industry following its inception in 2009. Today, the billion-dollar company is testing helicopter service and poised to be among the first companies with self-driving cars for consumer use. As Johnson demonstrates, there's no time to sit back and rest on your laurels when other hungry start-ups are nipping at your heels. Who Moved My Cheese? preaches the importance of embracing inevitable change. Pick up your copy at B&N.
2. Blue Ocean Strategy, by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. For more than a decade, entrepreneurs have been inspired by the book that turned conventional wisdom on its head. Its authors argue that instead of challenging the competition directly, successful companies create "blue oceans" of free, uncontested market space. They examined a study of 150 strategic moves spanning 30 industries over the course of a century to arrive at this proposition, which still remains relevant across verticals today. Consider how Venmo encroached on financial services. Its founders didn't create a new or better bank; they reinvented our method of payment. "The best way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition," the mantra goes. "Capture new demand. Make the competition irrelevant." Read more on how it works here.
3. Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block. "This book is written to support those who care for the well-being of their community," Block begins. Isolation and fragmentation are the bane of connected communities -- from your neighborhood to the workplace. How do you design a community that shifts the conversation from problems to possibilities? And how can you apply those principles across a corporation? Community discusses what it means to belong in terms of membership and ownership and how sheer belonging empowers you to work toward a common purpose. This book even inspired my company's core values: Be an owner; help others. Buy it on Amazon.
4. The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation, by Charlene Li. We know that technological advancements have connected all aspects of our lives like never before. However, from a leadership perspective there still prevails a disconnect between those in the C-suite and the workers on the front lines. The Engaged Leader redefines this professional relationship. Li, a bestselling author and Altimeter CEO, details how effective leaders must leverage new technology to connect with employees at every level. Traditional hierarchies compartmentalize roles and responsibilities to the detriment of creativity and innovation. It's critical to break down the boundaries of rank and demonstrate value among your employees. Read more on Google Books.
5. Exponential Organizations, by Salim Ismail. Technology and globalization are transforming the current business environment at an exponential rate. However, with their linear hierarchies and top-down directives, many businesses themselves remain stagnant -- remnants of a different era that prioritized rank over talent or potential. In his 2014 book, Ismail proposes a new structural paradigm, revealing how today's smartest organizations embrace openness and transparency to become exceptional in a rapidly changing climate. Get it here.
At my company, these five books have empowered LivePersons as owners of our business, creating a connected culture of collaboration and innovation. I guarantee they'll inspire your employees as well. Do you have anything to add to this must-read list? Tweet @RobLoCascio.