Whenever I get the chance, I like to grab a good book and get stuck in. Although in my case, it's rarely an actual book made of paper but usually in the form of an audiobook. But the way I consume it doesn't really change the fact that I consume a lot of (specialist) literature. For the most part, my preferences more or less overlap with my professional interests.
And since my professional interests overlap with those of many of my colleagues, friends, and customers, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my experiences, recommendations, and cautionary tales. Perhaps I can give them a couple of good book tips that they wouldn't have heard otherwise. Or maybe I can save them the bother of wasting their time on certain books.
I've decided to adopt the technique used by Denis Scheck on the German TV show about literature Druckfrisch (I talk more about this in the first post in this series). I don't rank the books or give them points but take a more radical approach: Either it's a recommendation or it's destined for the trashcan.
Here are ten more books in no particular order:
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
A book on price negotiations – written by someone who used to be a hostage negotiator for the police and the FBI. His mission there: Free the hostages without any casualties. Chris Voss derives negotiation tactics from his former job that can also lead to greater success in a business context. An entertaining book that thanks to its unusual background has a lot of exciting stories to tell. Recommended.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
In most companies, managers and other superiors are given an abundance of formal power. They should read this book. It contains lots of thought-provoking impulses that could help them to be better bosses and handle their employees with more respect. "Radical Candor" argues the case for being honest to others, showing them your weakness, and not being afraid to express perhaps unpleasant but ultimately constructive criticism. Recommended.
Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
The founder of the US organic supermarket chain Whole Foods, which he eventually sold to Amazon for 13 billion dollars, describes an approach that uses Conscious Capitalism to establish business ethics that can and should form the foundation for modern corporate leadership. This concept takes up where New Work leaves off: Generally speaking, New Work revolves around respectful, independent, autonomous collaboration, while Conscious Capitalism goes ones step further towards a holistic approach that seeks to integrate environmental and social aspects, among others.
For most companies, New Work is a tool to increase its employees' productivity; Conscious Capitalism, on the other hand, is a concept that radically redirects companies towards sustainability. Accessible and impressive, this book shows how measures that might look good upon first glance but actually cost a great deal of money, can – upon closer examination – lead to fundamental change and improve profitability at the same time. In my opinion, one of the best business books ever. Recommended.
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
Data and information is collected about every person who regularly surfs the internet; some of it is collected by companies such as Google, and some of it is public. This data can be used to learn a great deal about how people behave, and that is precisely what this book is about. The explanations about how big data works are particularly enlightening. The reader learns that big data does not refer to anonymous evaluations of millions of data sets but to drill down into specific situations that are analyzed rigorously. Recommended.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Do you also find that your working day is often full of interruptions? "Deep Work" aims to help you focus and not allow yourself to be distracted so easily. Self-help literature like this often has the reputation of being overly generalistic and not very applicable in practice but Cal Newport has done his research and spiced up his book with lots of demonstrative quotes and anecdotes. This book is a perfect accompaniment to my working day. Perhaps to yours too. Recommended.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Quite good, quite informative, but at the end of the day, this is a collection of anecdotes full of trivialities and without many new insights. Not a must-read, even for Apple fans.
Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles
In business (and in politics, in many cases) many assume that people can be controlled first and foremost with money. And you regularly see the puzzlement on the faces of managers when someone behaves quite differently from how they'd thought and not like the ideal homo economicus. Dan Ariely, one of the founders of Behavioral Economics, uses a wealth of observations to demonstrate deviations from behavior that is considered preferable and rational and isn't afraid to shake up fundamental beliefs from the business world. This book is as educational as it is entertaining and great for anyone who thinks they know a lot about business – it will encourage them to examine their beliefs and the takeaway will be a rewarding one. Recommended.
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
It's a balancing act that many people know from their day-to-day work in strictly regulated organizations and corporations: How do I exhibit trust in a world where control is necessary? The answer provided by the former submarine captain L. David Marquet is "I intend to..." This is a fine approach that helps to establish a trustful, independent way of working in an area that is contingent upon formal power while maintaining the sovereignty of a final decision. After all, we can't have someone taking it upon themselves to set off a nuclear warhead as they wish. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in leadership and in particular to those working in a corporate environment where they can only influence a small piece of a big puzzle.
Schwarmdumm: So blöd sind wir nur gemeinsam (Collective stupidity: We can only be this stupid together)
Great caution should be exercised when it comes to books with the word "stupidity" in the title – all too often they contain stupid stuff themselves. Luckily, that is not the case with this book, though it is pretty bland nonetheless (even if it is a nice read, or rather a nice listen). This book rarely goes beyond looking at common "misdevelopments". Real food for thought is rather scarce. Others have taken on this topic more successfully. You can skip this one.
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
How can you work together in a team in unknown terrain and highly complex conditions as effectively as possible – and that while in permanent danger to life and limb? This is the point of departure and opening question for "Teams of Teams", written by a high-ranking army officer who reflects on a special forces mission. As it turns out, many of the approaches found in New Work and Agile methods could prove useful in such extreme situations too. Trust in your team, personal responsibility and self-organization, scaling, collaboration, and leading by means of Servant Leadership. You can certainly learn something for everyday business from this book. Entertaining and recommended.
So those are my subjective reviews of books 11 to 20. All of the books mentioned can be found on Amazon or as audiobooks on the usual platforms.
There will be more recommendations and rubbish warnings soon! 😀 And again I look forward to hearing your encouragement, objections or critique of my critique – you can leave me a comment here or on Twitter.