It seemed such a simple idea. Do a bit of research, get recommendations from a selected list of business experts, check the business book best-seller lists and come up with the definitive list of 10 business books everyone should read (before they waste any more shareholders money). Well it turns out it is not that simple.
Start with the best-seller lists – there are a lot of them, Amazon, HarperBusiness, Forbes, New York Times and they don’t agree with each other. And do you mean, ‘of all time’ or ‘recently’. More importantly you have to edit the lists to get to genuine thought-leaders rather than the highly topical, self-help, or ‘get rich quick’ titles. Current best sellers are any titles that help you get rich quick, digitally, sustainably, in a recession.
Do you include biographies (Warren Buffet is a winner) or profiles of ‘great organizations’ (Google is popular but then so was IBM 20 years ago)? However, if you do a bit of sensible editing you can get to a useful list. So then you take the pulse of a reasonable sample of business leaders and experts to get their favorites. Just because a book is a best seller does not mean real shakers and movers found it interesting and useful. It is worth remembering that more than 85% of all business books are bought but never actually read – what does that tell you? So you ask the experts about what they not only bought but read and found useful – Valuable? Up to a point. What you find is that people are very different and make some very esoteric choices. I don’t just mean “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu which is of course about war not business but has important lessons or Machiavelli’s “The Prince” which is about conniving politics – ditto. No I mean really esoteric. One of my favourites is ‘Longitude’ by Dava Sobel – essential reading for the serious innovator.
Finally, someone we really respect, Judie Lannon, editor of Market Leader, makes a killer point. Do you mean titles or authors? She then tells me of several writers she likes rather than any individual title e.g. Charles Handy.
Not so simple after all. But when was anything worthwhile meant to be simple? So here it is, 25 not 10, essential Best Business Books everyone should read. How was the list compiled? Combination of all of the above. These are best sellers by thought-leaders, of durable value, highly rated by a broad sample of business experts and I have made sure that the consistently good writers have one of their most famous books included.
They are in alphabetical order!
Barbarians at the Gate – Bryan Burrough
Behind the Scenes in Advertising – Jeremy Bullmore
Blue Ocean Strategy – W.Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
Built to Last – Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
Competing for the Future – Gary Hamel & CK Prahalad
Competitive Advantage – Michael Porter
Eating The Big Fish – Adam Morgan
Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubnr
Funky Business – Jonas Ridderstrale & Kjell Nordstrom
Great to Good – Jim Collins
In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters et al
No Logo – Naomi Klein
One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People– Stephen R, Covey
Technology’s Long Tail – Chris Anderson
The Age of Unreason – Charles Handy
The Essential Drucker – Peter F. Drucker
The Great Crash 1929 – J.K. Galbraith
The Innovators Dilemma – Clayton M. Christensen
Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
The New Age of Innovation – CK Prahalad & MS Kishnan
Up The Organization – Robert Townsend
When Giants learn to dance – Rosabeth Moss Kanter
You won’t agree – I don’t entirely agree and I compiled it! There are several titles in this list that are there because there sales are stunning and they were seminal, not necessarily because they are the absolutely best title on that topic. You must have spotted some terrible omissions.