As with most things in life, the more experience you gain, the better you become. But what if you can’t – or don’t want – to put in the required time?
Luckily we humans are a bright bunch, and we’ve learnt how to evolve not just from our own experience, but also from the experience of others.
It has been said that knowledge is power, and while storytelling has inspired and informed people from the dawn of time; the inflection point of our evolution was the advent of reading and writing, allowing knowledge to be passed on from generation to generation. With the invention of the printing press , mass production saw the distribution of this knowledge. Now, anyone can be published, having modernised the written word with ebooks, podcast and video.
In keeping with this theme, I thought I’d share the 12 books that have had the biggest impact on how I’ve approached business, marketing and entrepreneurship.
As this is a personal list, you’ll see this is biased towards my love of marketing, but in my opinion if you don’t master marketing then you’ll struggle in your entrepreneurial endeavours.
So without any further ado, here are the twelve books I’d recommend any entrepreneur reads:
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More
No doubt you’ve bumped into the ‘long tail’ phrase in your business travels. It is now a well-established phenomenon. You’ll probably grasp the idea of the ‘long tail’ from the first chapter. The idea that the power of the internet and all global communication and borderless commerce is creating a world where you can now sell more product to a more niche market. However, the book is still worth reading in its entirety. Like all good theories the more you think about it, the more you appreciate the beauty and power.
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
If you’ve not heard of the book Purple Cow and you’ve studied any form of marketing you probably want to rethink your chosen career 😉 In all seriousness, this is THE book on modern marketing. It catapulted Seth Godin to cult status and with it ignited a generation of product lead marketers. If you only read one more book this year, choose purple cow.
Outliers: The Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favourite business authors. Malcom is a big picture thinker; his academic-come investigative journalist style of writing keeps you entertained and informed. When I first read Outliers is found myself reciting facts from each chapter to everyone who would listen. Those people would then subsequently want to read this book. I knew this book was extraordinary when I realised that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis heavily reference this book in their hit track – Ten Thousand Hours – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNX-g8TMyyY
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Like most people I was introduced to Simon Sinek via his TedX talk which you can watch here https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action
To be honest, the book is pretty much a slow version of the Ted talk but as with the ‘Long Tail’ if the Ted talk resonates with you, taking the time to deeply understand Simon’s theory is well worth the effort.
Tribes: We need you to lead us
Tribes is the second book in this list by Seth Godin and to be honest I could have added more. What I like about Tribes is that it fits so neatly in-between The Long Tail, Purple Cow and The Innovator’s Dilemma. In Tribes Seth talks about the fact that we’re all now members of multiple ‘tribes’. Distinct groups of people that you can reach at a micro scale. The key to tribes is that we’re not just a member of one tribe, you can support a football team, be a father and an accountant. So by aligning a brand with the football team, you also get to reach an accountant. If you’re looking at a theory to help you gain traction in a market with your business, check out this book.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Others Don’t
Most of the books in their list are a little more practical that Good to Great, but the concept put forward in this book resonated with me. My interpretation of the theory is that leaders that are merely ‘good’ will find the company they created after they leave. While ‘great’ leader creates a legacy that survives beyond their tenure and even life. What struck me was how many people I know who unwittingly only strive to be ‘good’ with no idea of their limits.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Malcom makes a second appearance on my list with Blink. This book blew me away when I read it on a flight between Hobart and Brisbane. Blink essentially refers to that magic human ability to make a snap assessment of a person or situation before your rational brain even has a chance to realise there is a choice to be made. Since reading this book, I’ve learnt to ‘trust my gut’ more, and while it is hard to quantify, I do feel like it has changed me for the better.
Free: The Future of a Radical Price
As I type this review, Free is the book I have on my desk. I’m directly applying the theory from this book to a new Freemium business model I’m working on. Even if you don’t intend to use Free in your pricing strategy, you need to be aware of the power of free in a modern economy where the marginal cost of producing products or services is fast approaching free in many markets.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
A true business book classic Clayton Christensen breaks down disruption and innovation in a way that will almost certainly shake the foundations of your current business’ marketplace security. A book that only grows in importance as we face an ever-increasing about of disruption.
The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think
Filter Bubble was written well before ‘fake news’ was a regular headline which only highlights how insightful Eli Pariser is. In an ever-increasing world of ‘tribes’ on social media, our views will become more extreme as we naturally filter out the noise (arguments) we don’t agree with. Filter Bubble is as much a social warning as a business book and well worth a read to challenge yourself.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Last but not least, one of the all-time classics by Dale Carnegie has an abrupt title that when seen on a readers bookshelf might raise eyebrows from friends and associates. The book is however remarkably altruistic in the way it challenges you to face the world. I wish the book’s title was a little softer. In any case, the book outlines the classic win/win principal to negotiation. There are sections that feel incredibly dated, but not reading this book would leave your business reading lacking.
Of course, I’ve read many more than these 12 books, but these are the books that I most often quote in my business life.
What books would you add to this list?
Which books shouldn’t I have included?