The year is over. Time to take a look back at the best books we’ve read in 2019.
Business Learning Institute thought leaders Tom Hood and Bill Sheridan are rarely seen without a book in their hands, so they put their heads together recently and compiled a list of their favorite business and business-related books from 2019.
Now it’s time to update the list with our favorite books from the past six months.
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott
Great bosses are those who can be open and honest with their people and still care about them as people. In this remarkable book, Kim Scott, an adviser at Dropbox and Twitter and a member of the faculty at Apple University, offers a blueprint for how to do that. “Radical Candor,” she says, “is the sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other. It’s about providing guidance, which involves a mix of praise as well as criticism — delivered to produce better results and help employees achieve.” This is, without a doubt, one of the best books on leadership I’ve ever read.
The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek
Like so many other thoughts that come out of Simon Sinek’s head, this one is magical. Those who play the Finite Game are obsessed with beating the competition, with being No. 1, with winning. Those who play the Infinite Game, on the other hand, see the big picture. They’re focused on advancing their mission, improving people’s lives, and making a difference. The Infinite Game isn’t about crushing anyone or being the best. It’s about purpose. Sinek helps us understand that we only win when we advance our own mission. This book will make you reassess your purpose as a leader. It’s not to win. It’s to serve.
Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love, by Richard Sheridan
“Menlo Innovations, my version of a joyful company,” says author Richard Sheridan, “is on a personally selfish yet noble journey. I desperately wanted to work in a joyful place with joyful people achieving joyful outcomes. I wanted to have fun at work while producing wonderful results within a sustainable business.” How great would it be if we all could build a workplace like that? Sheridan offers us a blueprint for doing just that.
Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath
We’ve been talking about “inflection points” for years now. Daniel Burrus, the world-renowned futurist we’ve partnered with on our award-winning Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance Edition learning system, calls them “Hard Trends” — things we know will happen, with absolute certainty. If we can spot them early and identify the opportunities they provide, we will set ourselves up for future success. Rita McGrath says inflection points “may seem sudden, but are not. Every seemingly overnight shift is actually the final stage of a process that has been subtly building over time. Armed with the right perspectives and tools, smart leaders can anticipate inflection points and leverage them to create a real competitive advantage.” This book will help you see those inflection points before anyone else does. Important stuff here.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
I’m late to the game on this one — this book was first published in 2006. It’s lessons, though, are timeless. Dweck says humans can be divided into two camps: those with fixed mindsets, and those with growth mindsets. Citing scores of studies and tons of research, she illustrates how those with growth mindsets — those who believe their talents, intelligence, and abilities can be developed — are much more likely to flourish than those who don’t. This book will make you think differently about your career, your relationships, how you raise your children, and how you lead others.
The Professional Service Firm 50: Fifty Ways to Transform Your Department into a Professional Service Firm Whose Trademarks are Passion and Innovation, by Tom Peters
How do we differentiate ourselves from the competition in an era when technology is leveling the playing field for all? Leadership expert Tom Peters says it’s all about “extreme humanity” — knowing our clients and serving them better than anyone else. “Everybody wants to do everything faster, and faster, and faster, but the stuff that matters — like excellence, like client service, like getting to know your clients better — it takes the same damned amount of time that it did 100 years ago,” Peters told me recently. “It remains the competitive advantage.” This book shows you the way … in a way only Peters can.
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
The one novel on my list, and again, I’m a few years late to the game on this one, but what an amazing work. It paints a picture of tragic loss in a post-9/11 world and offers a glimpse of how we might try to reconcile that loss with the unknown opportunities that lie ahead. This is the first of Tartt’s books that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.
These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore
I have always been a fan of history, curious about how and why things came to be. As one who lives in Maryland and is surrounded by history in one of the original 13 colonies, I found this book taking me back to the founding of America in 1492 through the election of current President Trump. Consider this an updated civics lesson. In a nation full of division and partisanship, maybe some truths and lessons from our history will inform our debates going forward.
Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, by George Gilder
Tech guru George Gilder offers his views on what’s next in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or “life after Google.” While it’s hard to imagine any of the current tech behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple, or Amazon getting disrupted, he believes the future will be decentralized and probably living on a blockchain. It is a thought-provoking look at the business models of today’s tech companies and potential disruption on the horizon. If you want to know more about the tech industry and blockchain, I recommend this book.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck is the creator of the research on mindsets, and in particular the growth mindset. I happen to believe that mindset — or, more importantly, a *growth* mindset — is essential to thriving in an exponentially changing world. A recent McKinsey study shows that growth mindsets can have a multiplier effect of six times. Carol covers the challenges of the fixed versus growth mindset and offers ways to create an environment that fosters a growth mindset and a foundation for a winning culture we all can use.
Questions are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life, by Hal Gregersen
I saw Hal speak at the 2019 DigitalNow conference and was blown away. He worked the audience through one of his “Question Burst” exercises after his keynote and truly opened our eyes. Hal is a senior lecturer at MIT and has studied the art of asking great questions. My favorite is the story of Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who asked a different question that changed the trajectory of Salesforce. The book has an entire chapter that walks you through the transformative “Question Burst” exercise.
Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters, by Lisa Bodell
After seeing Lisa speak at the Digital CPA Conference in December, I immediately grabbed this book, which reminds me of Seth Godin’s quote, “We are so busy doing our jobs, we can’t get any work done.” This book is a field guide to fighting complexity and the secret to improving productivity. After taking her complexity quiz, I know I need this more than ever. I’m willing to bet you do, too.