For me, summer is for reading trashy novels, and taking advantage of the (hopefully) sunny weather. This year, things will be slightly different. Firstly, Lausanne doesn’t seem to have received the memo about what constitutes “summer” (it’s currently about 12 degrees and raining). Secondly, I’ve decided to finally make my way through the pile of business books I’ve never got round to opening.
I think business books have changed over the years. In the 80s it was all about power suits, big hair, and success through strength. Donald Trump told us about the art of deal making. Peters and Waterman encouraged readers to go in search of excellence. Harvey Mackay taught us to swim with sharks.
By the year 2000, the style of management books had become more narrative in style – think Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (still a favourite).
You’d think that there were only so many ways one could write about business and leadership. But no. A quick search on Amazon yields over two million books – from the perennial How to Win Friends and Influence People to the slightly more demanding How to be F*cking Awesome.
There’s no way that any one person can read all those books in a lifetime. So, as a starting point, here are four I’ll be trying to get through over the next few months.
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
What the blurb says: Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios―into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the ‘Braintrust’ sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture―but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’
Why I’m reading it: Without creativity, your communications is likely to fall short. Sure, you may have the right messages. You may know who you’re talking to and why. But if you can’t deliver your messages in an interesting and compelling way, your audience won’t listen, and they won’t act. This book looks at how you develop a creative culture in an organisation – surely something that all of us, no matter the size of our business, need to strive for.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
What the blurb says: Why is there more chance we’ll believe something if it’s in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast, intuitive thinking, and slow, rational thinking. This book reveals how our minds are tripped up by error and prejudice (even when we think we are being logical), and gives you practical techniques for slower, smarter thinking. It will enable to you make better decisions at work, at home, and in everything you do.
Why I’m reading it: In order to sell something – be it ideas or a pen – we need to understand the fundamentals of how people make decisions and why. We can then tap into that to make our communications more effective. It’s equally important to recognise why we make decisions. As the owner of a new business, it’s vital that I comprehend what decisions I’m making and why I’m making them.
The Misfit Economy by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips
What the blurb says: What do pirates, terrorists, computer hackers and inner city gangs have in common with Silicon Valley? Innovation. Across the globe, diverse innovators operating in the black and gray economies are developing solutions to a myriad of challenges. Far from being “deviant entrepreneurs” that pose threats to our social and economic stability, these innovators display remarkable ingenuity, pioneering original methods and best practices that we can learn from and apply in our own worlds. The Misfit Economy seeks to unveil and leverage this new well-spring of ingenuity. Join us in exploring the dark side of innovation.
Why I’m reading it: Written in a narrative style with lots of examples and stories, this book explores where innovation comes from (constraint, apparently) and the different ways we can learn from the dusky underbelly of criminal activity (but in a totally legal way!) I love getting ideas from unexpected sources and, judging by the number of sentences I’ve already unlined in this book, I have a lot to learn.
Yes, And by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton
What the blurb says: The rules for leadership and teamwork have changed, and the skills that got professionals ahead a generation ago don’t work anymore. Now The Second City [the world’s premier comedy theater and school of improvisation] provides a new toolkit people and organizations can use to thrive in a world increasingly shaped by speed, social communication, and decentralization. Based on eight principles of improvisation, Yes, And helps to develop these skills and foster them in high-potential leaders and their teams.
Why I’m reading it: A fellow entrepreneur once told me that instead of saying “no, but”, I should start saying “yes, if” or “yes, and”. Why? While you don’t have to act on every option, you should give those options a chance to be acted upon. In other words, by saying “no, but” you’re automatically closing doors. I need to get better at saying “yes”. This book is about helping you make something out of nothing – something every entrepreneur can benefit from.
Want to join my business book club? Why not give me a call, a tweet, or an email. I’d love to hear from you.
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.