Must Read Recommended Business Books

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
2008
However, if Nassim Nicholas Taleb is right, any attempts at prediction are a fool’s game. Taleb’s advice is to assume that really crazy things can and will happen. You should set yourself up so that you can benefit from good crazy things rather than being hurt by bad crazy things. His best-selling The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Random House) elaborates on the unpredictability of life, a thesis first expounded in a previous book, Fooled by Randomness. Taleb ridicules the mathematical constructs underlying modern finance in what reviewer Peter Coy called “a richly enjoyable read with an important message.”

The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to Do About It)

By Michael E. Raynor
2008
Unforeseeable changes in the landscape are also a topic of Michael E. Raynor’s The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to Do About It) (Currency/Doubleday), which reviewer Dean Foust called “penetrating.” In this complex work, Raynor contends that successful and failing companies often share many similarities, because “the strategies that have the best chance of succeeding brilliantly are also the ones most exposed to the most debilitating kind of strategic uncertainty.” The Deloitte Research consultant deduces that what is needed is a change in governance structure and a serious commitment to strategic planning, with senior executives mapping out every scenario they can imagine.

Be the Elephant

By Steve Kaplan
2008
Get big! A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Business Week bestseller, Steve Kaplan’s 2005 book Bag the Elephant helped smart businesspeople win and keep those all-important elephants—the big, make-or-break customers. Now Be the Elephant shows businesspeople how to grow their businesses and become bigger. Steve Kaplan has owned 35 businesses, sold 30 of them, and has consulted with more than 100 companies, helping them to grow. Be the Elephant combines dynamic advice, deep real-life experience, and a friendly, no-nonsense writing style to take the mystery and fear out of achieving significant business growth. Kaplan gets readers to understand, without blinkers or delusion, the exact nature of their business. He then shows how to define objectives, identify risks, and get the operation on solid footing in preparation for growth. There are tips on creating the right strategy; how to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of business growth—grow too slow and wither, or grow too fast and lose control; how to create a timeline; develop the all-important USP—unique selling proposition; and avoid the Five Killer Mistakes that can ruin your company. The book is illustrated throughout, including, of course, the many faces of Nellie the elephant.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Hardcover)

By Larry Bossidy , Ram Charan , Charles Burck
2008
Disciplines like strategy, leadership development, and innovation are the sexier aspects of being at the helm of a successful business; actually getting things done never seems quite as glamorous. But as Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan demonstrate in Execution, the ultimate difference between a company and its competitor is, in fact, the ability to execute.
Execution is "the missing link between aspirations and results," and as such, making it happen is the business leader's most important job. While failure in today's business environment is often attributed to other causes, Bossidy and Charan argue that the biggest obstacle to success is the absence of execution. They point out that without execution, breakthrough thinking on managing change breaks down, and they emphasize the fact that execution is a discipline to learn, not merely the tactical side of business. Supporting this with stories of the "execution difference" being won (EDS) and lost (Xerox and Lucent), the authors describe the building blocks--leaders with the right behaviors, a culture that rewards execution, and a reliable system for having the right people in the right jobs--that need to be in place to manage the three core business processes of people, strategy, and operations. Both Bossidy, CEO of Honeywell International, Inc., and Charan, advisor to corporate executives and author of such books as What the CEO Wants You to Know and Boards That Work, present experience-tested insight into how the smooth linking of these three processes can differentiate one company from the rest. Developing the discipline of execution isn't made out to be simple, nor is this book a quick, easy read. Bossidy and Charan do, however, offer good advice on a neglected topic, making Execution a smart business leader's guide to enacting success rather than permitting demise. --S. Ketchum

Made to Stick

By Chip Heath, Dan Heath
2008
Mark Twain once observed, "A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on." His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others–struggle to make their ideas "stick."
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the "Velcro Theory of Memory," and creating "curiosity gaps."
In this indispensable guide, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds–from the infamous "kidney theft ring" hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony–draw their power from the same six traits.
Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. It's a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures)–the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of "the Mother Teresa Effect"; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice. Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas–and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

Barack Obama - The Audacity of Hope

By Barack Obama
2008
A senator and a lawyer, a professor and a father, a Christian and a skeptic, and above all a student of history and human nature, Senator Obama has written a book of transforming power. Only by returning to the principles that gave birth to our Constitution, he says, can Americans repair a political process that is broken, and restore to working order a government that has fallen dangerously out of touch with millions of ordinary Americans. Those Americans are out there, he writes–“waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”