I have now had the pleasure of interview numerous great minds from the world of business. I know from my own experience as an entrepreneur that my thirst for great business books is one that can not be quenched. It seems like there is a new ‘must-read’ business book being published every week. However, it is my experience that a lot of these books are just regurgitations of previous books, just spun in a slightly different way. So, I decided that I would compile a special reading list of the most important business books. To do that, I needed to put together an expert panel of great minds from the world of business. They are best positioned to guide us on which books should be deemed the most important business books. The list they have put together is extensive and I trust that you’ll enjoy it immensely. But, before we can discover the most important business books, we must first meet our expert panel…
David Burkus is a best-selling author, a sought-after keynote speaker and an associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University. David Burkus’ latest book, Under New Management, challenges the traditional and widely accepted principles of business management. He has delivered keynotes to the leaders of Fortune 500 companies and his TED talk has been viewed over 1.5 million times.
Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, Chief Executive and author. She was named one of the Internet’s Top 100 by Silicon Alley Reporter in 1999 and one of the Top 25 by Streaming Media magazine. Margaret’s third book, Willful Blindness was a finalist for the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book award and the Financial Times named it one of its “best business books of the decade.”
Martin Norbury started his business with no official business management qualifications in 1991, and went on to be a Senior Executive for a multi-million-pound corporation, and was awarded the recognition of being ‘Business Mentor of the Year’. He has also published, I Don’t Work Fridays, in which he explains his five steps to scaling a business. His work has led to him becoming one of the leading business scalability coaches.
Ben is a self-proclaimed true geek at heart for everything nutrition, health and human performance. Ben spends his time teaching others to achieve similar results, via a series of books, blogs and videos. On top of this, he travels the world giving talks and engaging in projects that help change the state of the world’s health. Ben also hosts a podcast on these topics, educates personal trainers and running a supplement company.
You’ve met the expert panel, now – let’s discover the most important business books…
This is one book that I’m constantly referring to. Author, Stack, is a successful CEO, whose main aim is to get employees to think and act like owners. The essence of the ‘game’ is very simple – give everybody a voice. What makes this book stand out so much for me, is that it involves the whole team to get a stake in the outcome. And, because I know how effective Stack’s methodology is, it’s one book that I encourage my clients to read and use within their own businesses.
Most people are looking to become a figurehead in their industry, and this book was invaluable for me to understand the steps I might take to be that person. How are you going to be the go-to person in your sector, this book can help, after all, a strong personal brand can then do as it chooses once it has brand power.
I will say that I’m a huge fan of The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin and had that book been out ten years ago or twenty years ago – I would have loved to have read it sooner, but it wasn’t out! It was really the first book that taught me that you don’t have to settle for either or. Often, the most significant business leaders are those who look at two opposing models and say ‘yes – how can I get this to work together?’.
I loved this book for the mindset shift it created in me. If I wanted to be a world-class leader then I had to ensure I was thinking right and operating from the top right. This book tells fables of situations you commonly find in business and expands your thinking on how that situation could play out positively or negatively for a CEO running a team. And it’s a quick read, winning.
This book was a huge revelation to me in the 1990’s. In my experience, business owners lack clarity when it comes to how their company is really performing, so can only make short-term decisions, based on emotion, at best. The book is so much more than a measurement system, and I would urge any entrepreneur serious about their business growth to read this to understand how to guide their current performance and to target future performance.
Like the best business books, it isn’t only about business but about an approach to life that is more joyful and liberating than any personal improvement book will ever be. Like many books, it hides its revolutionary nature underneath a well-researched data – but take it to heart and everything changes.
Dan Pink did a brilliant job making a well-researched theory (self-determination theory) accessible to the general public. The theory was groundbreaking when discovered but never made the leap from academia to practice. Pink made that happen by adding beautiful prose (that I assume he was intrinsically motivated to write).
Social media marketing is a tough business, and we often don’t think enough about the consumer’s role in marketing. This book lifts the lid on how we need to think about marketing in a busy social media world, making you think critically about your product and how you take it to market to get traction.
It’s hard to say in 2018 how impactful this book was in 2006 when it came out. We were squarely in the “war for talent” and had educational and occupational programs built around the idea that they needed to “find” star performers. Dweck took the field by storm when she suggested that a growth mindset had more to do with success than did the right genes or IQ. As little as 10 years ago, this was a revolutionary idea.
Giving Voice to Values by Mary Gentile tackles the problem everyone knows but few dare to tackle: the values conflicts implicit in organisations that nobody wants to tackle because they feel too difficult and risky. But Gentile shows how you can honour your values and save your company, which depends on people saying what they need to be true.
This book had the single biggest impact on my life because it got me thinking very, very differently. Carnegie opened my mind up to new ambitions, and ways to get on in business and in life. I became captivated and engrossed with personal development, and continue to immerse myself in it. Regardless of which business you’re in, this is an essential skill for all entrepreneurs.
In our business everything is our responsibility, it might have been an action we took 5 years ago or yesterday, but the problems we face in our business are often problems we created by the culture we set or actions we took. Operating your business with 100% extreme ownership is the only way, and if you can get this mantra in your head, in your company, and with your staff, great things can happen.