Six books to read if you’re interested in business

By Tim Gibson

If you’re interested in business, you’ll almost certainly enjoy reading books about the subject. A quick browse of the shelves in any bookshop will show you that there’s a plethora of volumes to choose from. So how do you select the best?

The answer is simple: follow our recommended reading list of six great books for business. And if you’ve read one that hasn’t made our shortlist, please let us know. We may like to read it ourselves…


1) Good to Great by Jim Collins

Any book by the American business guru Jim Collins is worth spending time with, but Good to Great is a classic of the genre. It’s sold three million copies worldwide, and remains a go-to guide for many corporate leaders.  

Drawing on his extensive studies of 1,435 Fortune 500 companies, Collins identifies the traits that yield commercial success.

Some of his findings are surprising. For example, he argues strongly that successful businesses do not waste time developing grand strategy documents or values statements, which he says quickly become chokingly bureaucratic. Instead, they employ bold thinking that motivates their people to get things done and rewards them for success.

Read this book, and it will change your conceptions about how to run a thriving business.


2) Originals by Adam Grant

Everyone likes to think of themselves as the originator of the next big idea. In his book, university professor Adam Grant tells the stories of people who have genuinely developed something new.

Grant believes that everyone has the capacity to be truly original, if only they develop the right dispositions. In his book, he explores what these dispositions are, and provides strategies to help readers develop them.

Like Jim Collins, Grant specialises in anecdotes that show business leaders taking a bold approach to their organisation and motivating staff with their inspirational presence. But there are also some surprising suggestions, including that CEOs may be better to take a back seat when it comes to sharing their vision with colleagues, in order that people who are directly affected by it can get others on board.

Whether it changes your outlook or not, Originals is an entertaining read that will deepen your respect for anyone prepared to swim against the tide – in business or any other sphere of life.


3) Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Want to understand what makes people tick? That’s crucial knowledge for any business person to have, especially if it helps them influence others.

Nudge is a guide to the way people make decisions. It suggests that we can all be encouraged to perform certain actions by a variety of factors. Chief among these is a desire to act in ways that are shared with “people like you”, or to conform to societal expectation.

The book also shows that people do not always respond well to commands, but are much more effective when made to think that a course of action has been freely chosen. Its implications for management, leadership and customer relations are profound – not least because the book’s argument is grounded in a thorough engagement with real-world examples.


4) Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

If you like the insights of Nudge but long for a more erudite analysis of why people make the choices they make, look no further than Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s bestselling volume on human decision making.

Like the authors of Nudge, Kahneman is not addressing a business audience in particular. His focus is broader, and his language is more academic in tone. In many respects, the distinction he makes between fast and slow thinking (the former is closest to intuition or instinct, while the latter is a more deliberative process) is crucial to the success of Thaler and Sunstein’s thesis.

Read the two books in harmony and you’ll have a profound insight into the way humans think, and how this affects their behaviour. Such knowledge will almost certainly shape your approach to business, and help you achieve the results you long for.


5) Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

If the books listed so far are mainly focused on how to achieve success, Black Box Thinking is concerned with learning from our mistakes.

Matthew Syed is a journalist for The Times, and writes with wit, clarity and economy. His central claim is that, if we want to achieve success, we have to learn from failure.

Syed draws on a wide range of examples, from aircraft engineers to athletes, to show that analysis of mistakes yields positive outcomes in the long term. As a tool for performance management, and for being realistic about the limits of human achievement, it’s a valuable book. And if it helps readers deal with the inevitable experience of things not going to plan, that makes it all the more worthy of consideration.



6) The Ethics by Aristotle

Here’s a leftfield suggestion to round off our list. Ditch the business section of your bookshop and head for philosophy and politics.

In The Ethics (full name The Nicomachean Ethics), Aristotle provides an account of goodness, and argues that people can only become morally virtuous through practice, rather than learning abstract rules.

How does this relate to business success? Well, other than providing you with some interesting intellectual conversation for your next board meeting, it also shows just how people learn to do the right thing. And it’s not by being given a load of rules to adhere to.

Rather, your colleagues will learn how to behave well if they’re given the chance to develop the habit of behaving well. Which has profound implications for your Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, we’re sure you’ll agree.


© 2018 Just Recruitment Group Ltd.

Posted on Thursday Mar 1