2011 brought us some business great books.
Every year, I sort back through what was published to highlight the books that changed how I saw the world. That’s the bar. This year I completely changed my view about the purpose of holding a meeting, I realized startups search for business models and I became more aware of the mental traps programmed into my mind. And that is just the start.
Here are 11 books for 2011 that are still worth your time:
- Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson – This biography shows Jobs and all of the complexity–the tantrums, the showmanship, the extreme diets, his practice of Buddhism. The edges aren’t smoothed. Take the opportunity to read the life story of the man that did more than anyone to shape the way we use computers. (link: My Storify page with reviews and interviews)
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – Ries’ book is beginning of a movement that will change how we practice entrepreneurship. Rather than relying on the notions that luck and determination are the keys to success, the principles behind the lean startup movement based in Toyota Production System, the Agile programming movement, and inquiry using the scientific method. Ries believe entrepreneurship is a professional skill will be taught as completely as management is today and I believe him. (link: Ries’ appearance on The Week In Startups is both informative and entertaining)
- Reality Is Broken by Jane McConigal – Games will save the world. Their use will make us happier. The results will change our behavior. And the future of gaming is about bringing the real and virtual closer together, not pushing them further apart. Just read the first 50 pages that better describe the research into what makes us happy than anything I have read and see if you don’t keep reading the mind-bending book. (link: McGonigal’s 2010 TED talk)
- Read This Before You Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli – As the best of what The Domino Project offered, Pittampalli changes the reason to have meetings. He supports brainstorms and working sessions, but rejects any meeting that is informational, social, or whose purpose is to create consensus. “Meet only to support a decision that has already been made.” The book is 66 pages and free for Amazon Prime customers. No excuses not to check it out. (Link: The Seven Tenets of The Modern Meeting Standard)
- I Moved Your Chesse by Deepak Malhorta – Picking up where the mega-bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese?” left off, the mice of the maze now consider WMMC the gospel but a few renegades question whether the only option is to accept the inevitability of change. The main characters of Max, Big and Zed come to find the maze is the problem and each deal with that realization in their own way. I Moved Your Cheese is not satire or parody, but instead a wonderful counter-argument and extension to the original book.
- Practically Radical by Bill Taylor- Practically Radical is full of stories about large organizations who are finding ways to reinvent themselves. The book represents a kind of journalism that is rare and sorely needed. Each chapter could have easily served as a cover story in Fast Company, the magazine Taylor co-founded. (Link: My interview with Taylor about the book)
- The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman – Fishman, a longtime writer for Fast Company Magazine and the author of The Wal-Mart Effect, takes on the conflicted relationship we have with water and how those conflicts, left unresolved, will only lead to bigger problems as the water we need becomes more scarce. From the opulent water fountains on the Las Vegas Strip to water delivery trucks in India, from a wool processing plant in Australia to a IBM microchip production plant in Vermont, Fishman illuminates the unknown ways water gets used while showing how our attitudes about life-giving liquid must change. (Link: My interview with Fishman about the book)
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kanheman – This nobel laureate with long time partner, the late Amos Tversky, have fundamentally changed our view of how we make decisions. This book is the first time we have been able to access those theories outside of academic journals and college textbooks. Take the opportunity to learn about Kanheman directly from him. (Link: My Storify Page with reviews and interviews)
- Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo – The book, published by PublicAffairs, looks at the ever present tension around the methods that should be used to provide food, healthcare, and education for the more than 1 billion people around the world who live on less than one dollar day. On one side, aid organizations and governmental bodies most often advocate giving aid to help elevate these pressing problems. On the other side, a growing number of groups have pushed for market based solutions. Banerjee and Duflo walk a wonderful middle line that dispenses with rhetoric and instead collects data directly from the people affected. For those who question whether Poor Economics is a business book, they merely need to look at the price elasticity of malaria nets, the power of sampling, and the ever difficult challenge of demonstrating value to customers, even when it is a matter of life and death.(Link: My review after Poor Economics won the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of The Year)
- Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen – This is a book you need to read to be conference-room-conversation-literate for 2012. 10Xers, 22 miles, and Leading Above the Dead Line are going to become the metaphors your colleagues use to impress. The book is nicely paired with The Lean Startup for entrepreneurs managing high growth companies.
- Boomerang by Michael Lewis – Many have ranked this book as a year-end favorite in non-fiction and you might be surprise that it barely makes my list. The inclusion of Boomrang was certain, the rank is a matter of taste. I have always been more partial to business books that applied to working in business. Lewis’ narrative is an important follow-up to last year’s The Big Short as he writes about the economic crises outside the U.S., a topic that is timely with the current consternation in the European Union. You won’t be disappointed. (Links: Lewis’ two Vanity Fair features about Iceland and Ireland)
P.S. Also check out my nine essays about the future of publishing I wrote in 2011.