It is clear that an essential part of growing and innovating in business involves reading. Reading can include books, surveys, advertising and finance/sales reports. Once you begin the process of reading to expand and improve your business, you may discover that you have been gripped by a highly contagious addiction. Reading, studying and thinking will lead to exploring ideas, and testing methods both old and new. All of this will drive you to try new ideas and reach different conclusions.
How do the leading executives whose names we know develop their ideas and innovate in their businesses? The answer can be found in the books they choose to read. An essential part of growing a business involves reading. All one needs to do is Google “the best business books to read” and a myriad of articles magically appear! One key similarity among CEO’s is they are constantly reading new materials and books. It is not surprising to discover that Warren Buffet says that he spends about 80% of his time each day reading. Some executives have offered that they try to read at least one book per month. Lists of what business executives choose to read abound. Here are some of the recommendations made by the best thinkers and innovators in the business world.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street — by John Brooks. Recommended by Bill Gates, founder of MicroSoft. Gates once stated that this book “was the best book he had ever read.”
The Inventors Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Firms to Fail — by Clayton M. Christensen. Recommended by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post.
The Amazon description states, “Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. No matter the industry, he says, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know how and when to abandon traditional business practices.”
Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Markets — by George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout. Recommended by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Observing that “time really is money,” this volume compels one to consider how best to spend that most valuable commodity.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses — by Eric Ries. Recommended by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. The success rate of new businesses is dismally low. Ries feels failures could have been prevented for many of these start-ups. Before the end is in sight, he explains ways to prepare, change and conform regarding the size of the company.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future — by Peter Theil and Blake Masters. Recommended by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Believing that there are always new ideas and new frontiers to explore, this book demonstrates how to be an inventor and an innovator.
Rework —by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson. Recommended by Mark Cuban, Shark Tank TV show investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Entrepreneurs starting a new company must think outside the box and not be wedded to the usual business advice. Taking action and talking less is the focus of this book.
Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies — by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Parras. Recommended by Jack Ma, Founder & CEO of Alibaba. Eighteen long-standing established companies are compared to their business rivals, and the authors found specific reasons these special corporations were so successful.
Execution — by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Recommended by Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computer. Dell states, “If you want to be a CEO — or if you are a CEO and want to keep your job — read ‘Execution’ and put its principles to work.”
Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works — by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin. Recommended by Meg Whitman, past CEO of Hewlett-Packard & eBay. The authors suggest a playbook for winning that offers five essential strategic choices that will contribute to becoming an industry leader when followed in a specific, considered way. Whitman required all Hewlett-Packard employees to read this book. She asserted that the strategy outlined would enable H-P to succeed.
The following three books were suggested repeatedly as “must reads” by numerous company executives. Huffington Post contributor Mike Harden provided the following descriptions:
How To Win Friends and Influence People — by Dale Carnegie. “This is, hands-down, the best motivational book in history. Since it was written, in 1936, it has sold over 15 million copies. The book is timeless and appeals equally to business audiences, self-help audiences and general readers. Carnegie believed that most successes come from an ability to communicate effectively rather than from brilliant insights. His book teaches these skills by showing readers how to value others and make them feel appreciated rather than manipulated. I recommend you buy copies of this book for everyone who reports to you. Even better, buy a copy for anyone who deals with your customers or prospects.”
Winning — by Jack Welch. “Welch spent forty years at General Electric, leading the company to year-after-year success around the globe, in multiple markets and against brutal competition. This book is his frank and honest story of how his ‘be-the-best’ style of management became the gold standard in business with his relentless focus on people, team-work and profits.”
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team — by Patrick Lencioni. “This book reveals the five dysfunctions that go to the very heart of why teams often struggle. Lencioni outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team.”
In order to stimulate thought and create a common track in your company, it may be constructive to read and discuss the ideas from one of these books together. Burton M. Goldfield, a contributor to Forbes, wrote an article entitled Employee Development Through Reading – Start a Book Club. Goldfield explains, “I am passionate about participating in the professional development of my employees. At my company, I host Burton’s Book Club, a voluntary program where each quarter I select a book, and our employees form small groups to read and review it. We provide the books at no cost to the participants. Upon completing the book, we gather in a companywide town-hall style event to share our thoughts, and discuss the book’s relevance to the company we are trying to build together. Our book club provides each employee an opportunity to learn new concepts from those outside of our company, but also provides an opportunity to learn from within. Each day we interact tactically with our colleagues, but it’s not very often we get to share ideas outside of normal business context. Reading an interesting book helps to spur conversations and allows us to see fellow employees in a different light. Employees can build a personal collection of very interesting books – all at the company’s expense. Everyone has a lot of fun!”
We have many choices regarding how to read or listen to a book. When choosing an e-reader, bear in mind that there is not a basic universal format, so, whichever e-reader is purchased, one receives the assigned format that comes with that e-reader. Amazon Kindle, Kobe and Barnes & Noble e-readers all support different formats. For example, Google’s ePub has a nice selection of free books; however, Kindle does not support Google’s ePub. With Kindle you have Amazon Prime Reading Library and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The main determining action is to research the book choices available before purchasing the e-reader.
Reading Apps are another way to enjoy reading. Audible (by Amazon) is available for Android, Sonos, Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, Apple iWatch and Alexa. The best feature with Audible is that the individual can change devices mid-book and continue right where they left off. Google play-books, Nook, Epic!, are popular options. Libby is an app that will connect you to books in your public and school libraries. Be sure to do your research and check out the many options available. No need to decide on one app, you may find that downloading a few will better cover all your reading needs.
The books that are currently on my “night stand” include: Becoming — by Michelle Obama and Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe— by Roger McNamee. In the comments section of this article, please share with our readers what books you recommend and why.
Whether you choose to read the book in hard-copy edition, use an e-reader, or listen to an audio version while commuting, watch yourself form new ideas that will stimulate and provoke new directions for your business.
For those of you attending The Clean Show, please stop by and visit me at the Consultant’s Corner sponsored by Cleaner’s Supply (booth 4542) on Thursday, June 20 from 10:00 am – 11:30 am.