Outstanding Business Books to Read

There’s no shortage of books about improved efficiency and innovation in business. Most of them are forgettable, but here are by best books to read for business that will change the way you think about strategy, management, products and most importantly your customers.

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty

This book focuses on one question: How can large companies generate business impact from non-incremental innovation?

The situation seems paradox. Winning in non-incremental innovation should be the domain of large corporates, not of greenfield startups. Yet, 7 out of 8 corporate startups do not generate business impact . And the media is full of stories that greenfield startups are attacking and even ‘disrupting’ incumbents.

Uber. Airbnb. Amazon. Apple. PayPal.

All of these companies disrupted their markets when they launched. Today they are industry leaders. What’s the secret to their success?

An authoritative guide to the role of online platforms: what they are, how they work, and what they mean for business and economics. Platform Revolution demystifies the concept by providing clear prose, insightful examples, and practical lessons.

Inspired is THE must-read for every person working in or with products. The book explains how to create the holy grails in tech industry and focuses on people, culture, product managers, outcomes and process. It significantly influenced the way I think about products.

What is it about the top tech product companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Tesla that enables their record of consistent innovation?
Most people think it’s because these companies are somehow able to find and attract a level of talent that makes this innovation possible. But the real advantage these companies have is not so much who they hire, but rather how they enable their people to work together to solve hard problems and create extraordinary products.

Dalio shares the principles used in his company, the biggest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Principles is a masterpiece. The main thesis is that finding the truth is the only way to make good decisions. He advocates looking at the company around you as a machine from a higher level with the ability to be tuned.

Too many organizations today suffer from silo-centric behavior and intra-organizational conflict. Yet most don’t understand what’s holding them back from achieving outstanding performance. Value stream mapping is a proven approach to help you visualize and resolve disconnects, redundancies, and gaps in your value delivery system. More than merely a tool to eliminate operational waste, value stream mapping is a highly effective means to transform leadership thinking, define strategy and priorities, and create customer-centric work flow.

In Implementing Lean Software Development, the Poppendiecks explore more deeply the themes they introduced in Lean Software Development. They begin with a compelling history of lean thinking, then move to key areas such as value, waste, and people. Each chapter includes exercises to help you apply key points. If you want a better understanding of how lean ideas can work with software, this book is for you.

Peter Drucker, known as the Father of Modern Management Theory, coined leadership terms and strategies that are still used today. He advocated for a more flexible, collaborative workplace, and the delegation of power. Peter Drucker already anticipated the shift towards a society characterized by entrepreneurship.

Erik and Tim describe in an easy to understand way why deals get stuck in the status quo and what your sales message needs to look like to break this. Because some form of selling is part of everybody’s life, understanding the concepts of The Value Wedge, Power Positions enables you to sell products as well as ideas.

To sell requires to create value by helping clients find viable solutions to their problems. During a meeting with high-ranking people, your primary job is not to sell but to help them address their issues. Your goal is to become an adviser. This resonates very well with the co-creation concept and explains partially why it is efficient to do so.

A company’s strategy must depend on its immediately the environment of its industry. Michael describes the competitive situation in an industry as a function of five basic factors (Porter’s Five Forces). The supplier power. The level of threat from new entries. The power of customers. The threat of substitution. The rivalry amongst current industry participants.

Business Model Generation describes the blueprints of business models of major companies. The illustrative way of describing the process as well as the different models make it an easy, but powerful read.

The book explains habits highly effective people have. Even though I would have called it efficient, not effective, the mook lists some very good habits. Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw. The habits are outwards as well as inwards to have healthy relationships.

In The Goal, Eliyahu leads the reader through a process optimization journey of a factory floor. Three areas are hereby in focus: Throughput (rate the system generates money through sales), Inventory and OPEX (money to turn inventory into throughput). TOC clearly points out flaws that can be found in all companies such as optimization of local optima. It sharpened my thoughts on Value-Based Pricing.

Even though he describes some forms of investments, such as savings bonds which might not be as attractive anymore, Graham also explains a very valid investment methodology based on fundamental stock analysis. The goal is to learn how to avoid allowing emotions to control investment decisions. Rather, Graham provides the foundation for making businesslike decisions.

Even though I have to say that I’m not a fan of investment and money books, I find the easy to follow way in explaining the terminology around assets and liability as well as the visualization of it very helpful. The core of the book is to invest in assets, which per definition put money in your pocket, whereas liabilities take it out. Reading this book gave me a unified way of thinking about investments.

Know when to fight and when not to fight: Seek higher (moral) ground and avoid what is strong. How to deceive the enemy: appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. Know your strengths and weaknesses: You need to know the enemy and yourself. The book requires minimal ability to adapt to the modern world but has strong points.