Brainiac Business Books for Deeper Studying

I love when Co-Founder Larry Page was asked how he learned to run Google. He said, “I read a lot of books.” He then jokes: “[When renaming Alphabet] I read like three books on naming—which is more than anyone else had read. So I decided I was the expert… and actually that was useful. I recommend reading things.

I dropped out of college after just 5 weeks, but I read a lot. Everything. I’ve compiled a list of some “oldies but goodies” (and a few modern) reading options that I found difficult but useful, helpful, or even disagreeable – and that’s okay, too!

Not reading is not okay!

Check out my top recommendations here:

1980s Era

Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or be Planned For (1981)

This may be one of the crystal balls of business management from a legend himself. Russell Ackoff challenges conventional corporate planning methods by advocating for a more holistic and proactive approach. He introduces the concept of "designing" as a forward-thinking alternative to "planning.” A very interesting must-read!

Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations (1985)

Something I have learned throughout my decades-long career is that leadership is nuanced and challengingly intricate. This book highlights its complexities and questions traditional perspectives by facilitating a deeper understanding of how to foster exceptional guidance. Author Bernard Bass helps leaders unlock their full potential and enable even greater success within their organizations.

The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World's Best Companies (1985)

Hailed as “The Book that Sparked a Selling Revolution In 1985” and changed sales and marketing forever, it certainly doesn’t disappoint! Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, Tad Tuleja, and J. W. Marriott Jr. discuss improved ways to sell that align better with customers' buying processes. They emphasize how critical it is to identify key decision-makers and craft valuable, tailored solutions.

1990s Era

Competing for the Future (1996)

In this day and age, every business needs to learn how to navigate rapidly changing industries and landscapes. Through insightful analysis and forward-thinking strategies, Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad emphasize the importance of innovation, adaptability, and visionary leadership in shaping future success.

The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market (1997)

This is a great book for organizations looking to gain actionable insights to redefine their strategies and excel in today's dynamic business environment. Authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema introduce a transformative business strategy that stresses the importance of focusing on one of three core value disciplines to achieve market leadership.

Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance (1998)

If you’re looking to achieve or maintain a competitive edge in your market, you should check out the insights in this book. Michael Porter gives a comprehensive framework for companies looking to enhance their performance via strategic thinking and innovation.

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration (1998)

This book delves into collaboration and leadership behind some of the most successful teams and projects in history – like the Manhattan Project and the creation of Disney's animation studio. Authors Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman examine six of the century's most extraordinary groups and distill their successful practices into lessons that any enterprise can learn from and implement.

2000s Era

Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution (2006)

It’s time for a radical change! At least, that’s what authors Michael Hammer and James Champy say is required to achieve dramatic performance improvements. I enjoyed their concept of "reengineering," which involves fundamentally rethinking and redesigning core business processes to achieve significant breakthroughs in efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (2014)

A story of unbelievable resilience and remarkable success. This noteworthy read details the journey of the University of Washington's rowing team as they went for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics against the backdrop of the Great Depression. I respect the grit and determination of remaining perseverant in times of adversity – which is the most critical moment to do so!

Up from Nothing: The Untold Story of How We (All) Succeed (2020)

Is America still the land of opportunity? I think so, and so does entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist John Hope Bryant. His page-turner offers a roadmap for achieving success and economic empowerment through real-life stories and practical advice. The book is targeted at marginalized and underserved communities and explores the principles and strategies that can lead to individual and collective achievement.

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life (2023)

When was the last time you experienced the feeling of “awe”? What I learned from this fascinating read is that it may be a lot more incremental to our well-being than I ever thought. Author Dacher Keltner draws on extensive research to explore the profound impact of experiencing awe on life satisfaction in relation to emotional and psychological health.

Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines (2023)

Artificial Intelligence is taking the world by storm, and author Dr. Joy Buolamwini, who has been at the forefront of AI research, dives into its pitfalls and threats to society. Dr. Buolamwini is a real-life superhero and discusses “the coded gaze”— evidence of encoded discrimination and exclusion in tech products – and how she founded the Algorithmic Justice League to reduce harm.

Reading On

You are never too old to learn, and it is never a poor choice to refine your business knowledge. So many of the difficult-to-read but revolutionary-to-understand books on this list helped shape my thinking and gave vital insight into key eras and perspectives of societal and corporate evolution. We must continue to seek knowledge and immerse ourselves in diverse perspectives to discover groundbreaking ways to connect, create, and enhance our societies.

Keep reading and keep growing!

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