The Top 10 Business Books of 2010

2010 had several books worthy of your attention. Chances are you have only read one or two of these and I would encourage you to go back and pick up one or two more.

Let’s start with a book that was published in December 2009, but really found its legs in 2010. In Drive, Dan Pink’s latest riff on the future of work, he argues that the methods of motivation we used during the Industrial Revolution do not work well in the Information Revolution. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are at the core of his Motivation 3.0. Think of Drive is a prompt. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote, there are even more interesting possibilities to consider. [I interviewed Pink in March]

The sophomore effort from the Heath Brothers arrived in January. Switch answered the question so many readers were asking Dan and Chip -”Making ideas sticky is important, but how do we create meaningful change?” Their metaphoric trinity of the elephant, the rider, and the path showed how emotion, rationality, and systems play a role each individually and interact with one another to subvert the changes we hope for. [I interviewed Chip in January.]

Also in January, Seth Godin came out his fourteenth book called Linchpin. The increased trim size and longer page count was a significant departure from his recent efforts. Godin has said that this is the most important book he has written, showing his readers how to work in a world where the old rules are breaking down. He again takes simple words like art and gifts, and redefines what they mean. Linchpin sits alongside Purple Cow and Tribes as Godin’s best work. [I interviewed Seth in January].

I had a particular interest in pricing this year as I was writing Fixed to Flexible and two 2010 books influenced me. Rafi Mohammed’s The 1% Windfall covers 40 pricing tactics in detail and provides a broader framework for how they fit into an overall pricing strategy. William Poundstone takes a different approach in Priceless and demonstrates skill at retelling the history the field of behavioral economics and at the same time taking the reader on a journey across a myriad of topics ranging from from psychophysics to prospect theory to menu design. [I did interviews with both Rafi Mohammed and William Poundstone.]

Youngme Moon wrote a book that whose approach matched its title: Different. The book is written as a personal reflection on marketing as much as it is a business book. Moon actively sheds the position of authority. She asks the reader to consider the same things she sees and draw their own conclusion. The student-teacher approach is incredibly refreshing in a business book world of quick-fixes and absolutely certain answers. [I talked with Youngme for almost two hours several months after the book came out, and she wouldn't let me record any of it :) ]

The Mesh is another book that like Drive describes a fundamental shift. Author Lisa Gansky makes the case for how technology is changing our view of ownership and that sharing will become much more commonplace. Mobile communications are allowing us to declare our location and in return we can find out what restaurant close by has an open table or how many blocks will it take to return the closest ZipCar. eBay and Craiglist have long been sharing centers for unwanted possessions. Couchsurfing and RelayRides lets you share your living room or automobile with someone who needs it. The Mesh is as big an insight as Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. [I interviewed Lisa in November]

The Big Short is Michael Lewis’s account of the economic collapse we experienced over the last few years. He starts his latest narrative saying that his first book Liar’s Poker was intended to be his only book on Wall Street, fully expecting the practices he saw 20 year ago would cause the industry to implode within a couple of years. But same attitudes persisted and in many ways were rewarded. Lewis follows three groups that take bets against the mortgage market and he deftly explain how difficult those bets were without the hindsight we have today. The Big Short is not the only book you should read on the economic events of the last couple of years, but I guarantee it is the one you will enjoy the most.

In the search for better ideas than we have seen, Steven Johnson take his decade of writing about science and focuses it on the genesis of the best ideas. The prompts in Where Good Ideas Come From are familiar bromides (keep a journal, go for a walk, make mistakes, have hobbies, hang out with others), but the depth of analysis and richness of the stories he tells, reminds us again to do all of those things that we have been meaning to do, because innovation is not a clear path from A to B.

And that makes Gamestorming a perfect book to end with. Author Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo pull together is best exercises to help us get from point A to a very fuzzy point B. The book provides over 80 games that can be used in generate ideas, explore ideas, and decide which idea move us closer. The book also describes the qualities games have so that readers can develop their own games to match the situation.