I regularly pass on to other people many of my business and marketing books -- mostly bought, some received as courtesy copies from publishers and authors.
While I still prefer to read the physical souvenir of someone's work, in print, I don't have to hang on to all of them forever.
My philosophy is that knowledge needs to flow through networks to become really valuable overall. I don't give my copies of everything away. If I really like a book and I want to hold onto it, I buy more copies for others.
There are two kinds of books I hold onto:
- those with a personal and special dedication from the author
- those where I wrote furiously in the margins
Writing a book is hard work. Writing a book that teaches you something different, that literally rewires your operating system through the ideas/actions of the authors. Ideas and actions that are now built into you in the way you think and behave [thank you, Peter]... those are keepers.
I thought it would be fun to share ten books that jumped out at me from my bookshelf as standing the test of time -- still as useful today as when they were published. These books taught me something different in a way that rewired the way I operate in business.
In no particular order:
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (Amazon affiliate link) by Malcolm Gladwell.
Conceptually, you probably already knew that there are people who are really good at connecting others, you met them at networking events and saw them climb the company ladder (they were the nice ones, BTW). You also probably knew about go-to people -- those who have useful information at their fingertips - and sales people.
However, in the book Gladwell distills the stories and salient points about connectors, mavens, and salesmen in a way that made me aware of those characteristics and smart at identifying them and utilizing that knowledge in business .
A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (Amazon affiliate link) by Dan Pink.
Dan is a friend, a super smart, fun, and interesting writer and researcher. He's responsible for turning me on demographics and free agents. It was a thrill when he published this book. First off because we organized at event at the Charter School for Architecture and Design here in Philadelphia, which he features in the book and for the students/benefactors of which Dan bought the balance of unsold books that night.
Secondly because Dan helped a pragmatic business culture like that prevalent in the US, to learn about the business relevance and importance of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.
The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life (Amazon affiliate link) by Twyla Tharp.
This is anything but a soft book. What is your idea of mastery? At what moment do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp? When you work, do you love the process or the result? Tharp asks many excellent questions like those to help you exercise your filters and thinking, and she adds stories that teach for good measure.
I think I've now read this book three times -- and I constantly refer back to it and to my notes in the margins. When you're in a rut, you have to question everything except your ability to get out of it. This book has helped me figure out creative solutions, which are essential in a world that is changing more rapidly than we'd like.
Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force (Amazon affiliate link) by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba.
It's amazing how many companies are still grappling with this concept in 2010. Ben and Jackie literally wrote the prelude for so many of the social activities we're implementing today. We had the fortune of hosting Ben at a Fast Company network event back when the book came out.
Customer evangelism works, business is about people. Understanding the love (listening), giving to receive, spreading the word, bringing customers together, going from sampling to evangelism, and creating a cause -- these are all very relevant, still. I recommended this book to many a company over the years. I hope they bought copies for their management teams.
One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China (Amazon affiliate link) by James McGregor.
I'm a big believer in understanding the whole economic ecosystem in which a business operates. This book was a tremendous asset and eye opener for me. We all know that there are rules, and then there's reality in every country where you do business. I was made in Italy, and worked with Japanese companies for several years.
This book is probably not for the small or mid sized business owner, as the author deals at a high level with large scale transactions. However, it is excellent in helping you understand the Chinese business persona. That's its biggest value to you.
The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage (Amazon affiliate link) by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore.
The principles that companies should charge for the value they add and that designing for the middle sacrifices that value. In other words, the intangibles are far more important than the tangibles in the competitive world because, obviously, you can replicate the tangibles.
The authors style is packed with information, so much so that sometimes it is a bit dense to read. However, they were the first to talk about work as stage and experience development. Both concepts have changed the way we look at any business today.
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (Amazon affiliate link) by Chris Anderson.
We're obsessed with lists -- both for wanting the top items and to be recommended on one or more. In the digital medium, the tail of available items is longer than we realize, it's now within reach economically, and all those niches, when aggregated, can make up a significant market.
Anderson makes a compelling argument illustrating it with examples. What parts of this new reality are important to your business? What's in your inventory, how do you move/distribute/price it? Can you enroll the market to help you pull what you have? If you haven't read this book, you're missing out.
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy (Amazon affiliate link) by Charles Fishman.
If you think this book doesn't apply to your business, you might want to reconsider. You'll realize that shopping is important, and that Wal-Mart shapes where we shop, the products we buy, and the prices we pay -- regardless of whether we shop at those store or not.
Fishman's research for the book will teach you about operational choices, which in turn influence packaging, presentation, economies and the countries in which those products are sourced. Ever the experienced storyteller, Fishman was a guest at one of the Fast Company network best attended events.
Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present (Amazon affiliate link) by Bob Johansen.
This is a book about using foresight to inform strategy and innovation. If you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a business problem that needs solving, buy this book. Today we're surrounded by dilemmas -- problems that cannot be solved and won't go away.
Without practical ways to make sense out of complexity when problem solving is not enough, leaders will continue to fail. Think this is just an issue for CEOs and CMOs? Think again. Accounting has become a risky profession.
Developing a sense of timing and situational awareness grounded in vision, understanding, clarity, and agility is the skill for today and tomorrow. And mapping of data- and story-driven potential outcomes is a very important tool for holding complexity in your mind.
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant (Amazon affiliate link) by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
Would you rather optimize your current offerings in very competitive landscape? Have you ever seen those analyst quadrants and reports showing crowded industries/offerings? Would you rather be incrementally better at what all those others do, or would you choose to take a step back and redefine the space you're in? I know which one you're picking.
You want to create a blue ocean -- a new value curve. That means you'll need to make some changes in your offering. This book will help you think through which factors you should reduce, which you should eliminate entirely, which you should raise above industry standards, and which you should create net new.
These are just ten off my shelf that I still refer back to on a regular basis. What other business and strategy books from the last 10 years have stood the test of time? And by that, I mean have rewired the way you think about business and given you information and results?