Summer’s over. Everyone’s back from vacation. You’ve got two months until the holiday season kicks off with Halloween and people start to lose focus again. It’s a great time to pick up a business book.
While business books go on trend cycles just like anything else—remember when we were all supposed to take lessons on business from books on Japanese warfare?—some of their lessons are universal. Certain books are classics and people can learn valuable lessons from them, year after year.
Reportedly one of Bill Gates’ favorite business books (which he got from Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett) is Business Adventures, first published in 1969, before some of us were even born. In fact, Gates was so fond of it that he reportedly singlehandedly brought it back into print. The book describes the stories (originally published in the New Yorker) behind a dozen successful—well, at the time—companies. If nothing else, it can be a sobering tale of how even a successful company can be disrupted by upstarts if it fails to take advantage of its strengths.
Similarly, in this day and age of disruption of the usual hiring patterns, the 2012 book Future Perfect by Steven Johnson seems prescient. The book talks about building ad hoc “peer networks” of participants, including businesses, to help solve problems. Basically, crowdsourcing. In fact, the book uses the Internet itself as a model for how such peer networks could operate.
Writer Johnson is also the author of several other interesting books on technology in business, including Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software; The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, and Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation, according to the Highlands Group, which always puts his books on their recommended book lists.
Perhaps the most uplifting of Johnson’s books, however, is Future Perfect, which unlike many other futuristic technology books is upbeat. “If you’re a pessimist—and chances are you are—you should read Future Perfect by the technophilic science writer Steven Johnson,” wrote John Horman in the Wall Street Journal. “In fact, read it even if you’re an optimist, because Mr. Johnson’s book will give you lots of material to brighten the outlook of your gloomy friends.”
Finally, if you’re looking for business trends, one of the current popular ones involves making your products irresistible, even addictive. Depending on how benevolent your goals, books on this subject range from Hooked, which simply talks about building habits; to Addiction by Design, which uses lessons gained from designing slot machines; to Evil by Design, which helps you use all seven of the deadly sins to suck customers in. Of course, you’ll use your newly gained powers only for good.
And if you’re really missing the camaraderie of a classroom setting, book clubs are coming back these days, particularly in business. They not only give you a deadline for getting a book read by a specific time, but they give you a new batch of friends and contacts who, if nothing else, can suggest other books for you in the future. Who knows, one of them could even help you find a new job.
“Book clubs have been shown to boost literary engagement in young people and adults,” writes John Coleman in Harvard Business Review. “And best-selling author Gretchen Rubin repeatedly affirms that groups, generally, are one of the best ways in which to form positive habits. If you believe in the benefits of reading but have a hard time developing a habit of reading, public commitment to a group might be just the accountability you need.”
Here are some suggestions for how to find book clubs in your area.
Meetup. If you haven’t heard of Meetup, it’s a great resource for meeting all kinds of people for all kinds of activities. If you’re into underwater basket weaving, chances are there’s a Meetup in your area where you can meet all the other underwater basket weavers in town. (And you thought you were the only one.) Similarly, most areas offer a number of book clubs on Meetup. Just go to the meetup.com website or download the Meetup app, and then search for “book club.” Traveling on business and you’re at loose ends for a few hours? See if there’s a Meetup in the city you’re visiting.
Websites. A number of websites give you the ability to set up your own business book club. Just Google “business book club” and peruse the choices and see which ones appeal to you.
Libraries. Don’t forget your local library (or literary society, if you have one). Chances are, they’re the repository for all the book clubs in the area, including the ones where people aren’t necessarily on the Internet. Many libraries these days also offer meeting space, electronic books, and even coffee.
If you’re really inspired, you could actually start a book club at your company. Company-wide book clubs both deepen understanding of certain topics and build trust and collegiality among the team, Coleman writes.
You only have to worry if the book club members all decide they want to read Machiavelli.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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