For good physical health you need two things; a healthy diet and regular exercise. The same is true for your mind. You need a healthy diet of good ideas and concepts that will exercise your mind. The books I’ve chosen below have done more than simply expand my knowledge, they helped me think differently.
The best books make your mind come alive with new concepts and ideas not simply re-enforce what you already know. Many of the books in the list I bought not through recommendation or desire for a particular topic but on the basis that just as the body needs a varied diet, so does the mind.
Don’t confine yourself to one topic; If you want to think different, you need to read different books.
Here is my top 7 in no particular order:
Competing Values Leadership: Creating Value in Organizations
by Kim S. Cameron, Robert E. Quinn, Jeff DeGraff, Anjan V. Thakor
Theories abound in management and leadership, but every now and again one comes along that really does create a aha moment by putting into context and within a framework aspects of everyday business life. This book describes one of those very practical theories that change the way you think about your business environment. If you want to understand the real reasons for friction within or between teams within your organisation then read this book. If you are involved in mergers and acquisitions – read this book. If you are struggling with change, innovation or growth within your organisation; read this book.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
If you think you know people; blink again. This book opens up the thinking process, and brings science to gut feelings, snap decisions and what the author calls “thin slicing”. If you are involved in decision making, sales, marketing or recruitment then this is a must read.
The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything
by Stephen M.R. Covey, Stephen R. Covey, Rebecca R. Merrill
Many businesses think of trust as a synonym for risk and try to eliminate it within their organisation – and with customers – through processes, controls, contracts and reporting. However, Covey takes a different view; in fact trust is not just a positive attribute, but actually the inherent speed of trust can radically improve productivity and performance as well as reducing cost.
Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy
by Joan Magretta
If you discuss anything about competition or strategy you probably will end up talking about concepts and terms that came from Michael Porter. However, unless you are in academia, you probably don’t have the time to read through 1500 pages of his work! The real value of this book is how skilfully Joan Magretta has condensed it into 208 pages. Time is money so bringing these concepts to life (rather than putting the reader to sleep) has real value.
by Walter Isaacson
Generally I don’t read biographies, but made an exception with the biography of Steve Jobs. This was someone who thought different and acted different and I wanted to know how. The book is a warts and all view of Steve Jobs and his life and clearly he was a complex character. However, his approach to diversity, simplicity, synthesis and excellence make powerful reading. If you want to think differently, learn about someone who did.
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant
by W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne
If you feel like the competition is ripping you apart and driving down value and prices then this is a must read book. Blue Ocean Strategy is about getting out of the blood bath and into uncontested market space. The authors provide many examples of how this has been done, but the value of this book is not that it will give you an immediate answer, but that you start to think differently about the market and learn to identify Blue Oceans that hitherto passed unnoticed.
How To Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Business has a nasty habit of dehumanising people. We call them Prospects, Customers, Clients, Partners, Staff and pigeonhole them based on what they can do for us. We can too easily forget that actually it’s all about people. Dale’s book brings us back to the fundamentals of human interaction and how to succeed by understanding this crucial point and being able to empathise with those we interact with. This is why almost 80 years since its first publication; this book still has the power to make a difference. Not because it takes us forward, but because it brings us back to the core of business.