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Books Managers Should Read

We are avid readers and suggest that all managers become equally avid. Yet it can be a daunting task to keep up with all the business books that come out each year. Maybe this will help. Here is our list of current favorite books that we recommend you add to your reading list.

NOTE: This list is not in any particular order. They have been listed alphabetically.


Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation, Phil McKinney, 2012
(Product and business model innovations are the hot topics of the century. We need to learn that ideas often emerge from asking great questions. Bounce around this book and pick up some good tips.)

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Blah Blah Blah: What to do when words don’t work, Dan Roam, 2011
(This is the third of Dan’s “napkin” books and certainly the most useful. Pictures, especially hand-drawn sketches, can do a wonderful job of replacing a lot of words and numbers. This is a “how to” book and I highly recommend it for anyone who is faced with the task of communicating complex stuff in a straightforward manner.)

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Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, 2005
(I love their concept of finding a blue ocean and what you have to do to get there)

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Changing the Essence: The Art of Creating and Leading Fundamental Change in Organizations, Richard Beckhard and Wendy Pritchard, 1992
(Great intro to the people side of business)

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Competing for the Future: Breakthrough Strategies for Seizing Control of Your Industry and Creating the Markets of Tomorrow, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, 1994
(These guys launched the concept of “core competencies” and therefore are the basic source of all outsourcing ideas.)

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Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, James Adams, 1979
(A great little book about what gets in our way of better ideas.)

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Creative Destruction: Why Companies That are Built to Last Underperform the Market – and How to Successfully Transform Them, Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan, 2001
(Lots of data from the stores of McKinsey. Good message about the need to look to the future and prepare)

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Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoffrey Moore, 1991
(Made me think about start-ups and new products)

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Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America Into War, Christopher Burns, 2008
(The brief explanation of “false knowledge” is eye opening when considering how strategy happens.)

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Defining the Business: The Starting Point of Strategic Planning Defining the Business: The Starting Point of Strategic Planning, Derek Abell, 1980
(This was an eye-opening book to a Bill as a young consultant. The message is still very relevant. )

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I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works: Why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted, Nick Bilton, 2010
(The opening chapter about the porn industry is a bit weird, but brings an important point home – quality trumps “free.”)

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Listening: the Forgotten Skill, Madelyn Burley-Allen, 2005
Great little book to help you improve a woefully neglected skill. Too many people love to talk – but don’t know how to listen.

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Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail, Daryl Conner, 1992
(Great set of tools and “how-to” concepts.)

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Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in the Age of Complexity, Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe, 2001
(Their view of high performance teams is the best)

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Project Management as if People Mattered, Robert Graham, 1989
(Bob opened my eyes to why projects really succeed or fail.)

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Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Gary Klein, 1998
(Great book about decisions in life and death situation. This is not about managers playing with Monopoly Money)

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Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath, 2010
(A very readable book about understanding and bringing about change. The explanations of “direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path” are both memorable and useful. )

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The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself, Damiel Boorstin, 1983
(This history book should be required reading for every team that embarks on “innovation.”)

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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, Steven Johnson, 2007
(Not a business book, but a GREAT story of problem defining and problem solving.)

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The Halo Effect … and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, Phil Rosenzweig, 2007
(A stunningly thoughtful analysis of the misuse of data and information. It made me rethink my favorite business concepts.)

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The Knowing – Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, 2000
(Gets to the heart of why we need better practitioners.)

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The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning, Wick, Pollock and Jefferson,2010
(These guys get it right – if you don’t tie your learning and development efforts to business results you may be wasting a lot of money. It takes some work, but it’s worth the effort.

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Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye, Michael LeGault, 2006
(LeGault takes on Gladwell’s “Blink” and makes a good point)

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To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, Henry Petroski, 1982
(Henry is an engineering historian. His stories about failure are timeless.)

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Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition, Adrian Slywotzky, 1996
(Eye opening book about success and failure.) (NOTE: Slywotzky is a wonderful thinker about business – all of his books deserve a read.)

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Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson, 2010
(Great read for people who are in the “idea business” – which should be most of us in business these days.)

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Got a book that you want to add? Please contact us and give us your recommendation. There are more good books out there than we can ever read, so we’d like to go for the best.