Sharpen your knowledge with these recommended reads

The Edge Malaysia

Top 10 business reads of the year

by Jennifer Jacobs on Friday, 23 December 2011 04:21

In our selection of some of the top business and management books of the year, based on the Amazon.com and New York Times best-seller lists, we’ve tried to maintain a balance of books that tell you what is happening and books that tell you how to surf the ever-larger waves thrown up by the shifts we’ve seen this year politically and economically.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 

This authorised biography based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years, as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues, came out a few weeks after Jobs’ death. Isaacson, for the most part, manages to steer clear of Jobs’s famous “reality distortion field” and present a rigorously balanced account of all the key events in the life of the iconic maverick who succeeded in building what was (for a time, at least) the world’s most valuable company and transforming seven industries — personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, digital publishing and retail stores.
The central theme running through the book was suggested by Jobs himself, and that is how he stood at the intersection of humanities and technology, and successfully married the two. Clearly a must-read, and not just for the fanboys.

Boomerang by Michael Lewis 

Boomerang attempts to unravel the tangled web that is the European debt crisis. Most of the material originates from a series of reports Lewis published in Vanity Fair about his adventures in Iceland, Greece, Ireland and Germany, with a look at California.
In his signature style, Lewis does not go for complicated explanations about the nitty gritty of finance. Instead, he attributes each nation’s downfall to its particular weakness, such as Icelanders wanting to stop fishing and become investment bankers.
It is a thrilling read and although his theories may collapse under the weight of investigation and analysis, it does offer an entry point into the complex problems surrounding the debt crisis. If nothing else, you will come away a little wiser and lot entertained.

Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz 
In 2008, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ iconic CEO and chairman decided to return eight years after he had stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the business, concerned that the company he had helped take to such heights was losing its soul. In this gripping, blow-by-blow and endearingly personal account, he details the struggle to maintain the company’s identity while not succumbing to “sensible” advice about how to cut costs — lower the quality of the coffee and slash healthcare.
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki 
Enchantment, as defined by bestselling business guru Guy Kawasaki, is not about manipulating people but about transforming situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes the sceptics and cynics into the believers and the undecided into the loyal. And when done right, it’s more powerful than traditional persuasion, influence, or marketing techniques.
Kawasaki’s lessons are drawn from his tenure at Apple, as well as his decades of experience as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy
Technology reporter Steven Levy takes readers into the Google headquarters itself, the Plex (employee shorthand for Googleplex) to show you how the company works. He recounts an early brainstorming session where one staffer suggested the now famous Google motto “Don’t Be Evil.”
If you read the reviews, you may be tempted to think that the book is one long paean to the greatness of Google. It isn’t. There is a candid account of the mess it made in China.
In its newest initiative in social networking, Google is finally tailing a more successful competitor. Can the company that famously decided not to be evil, still compete?

Poke the Box by Seth Godin 
Asked what his book is about, Seth Godin said it is about the spark that brings things to life. “We need to be nudged away from conformity and toward ingenuity, toward answering unknown questions for ourselves. Even if we fail, as I have done many times in my life, we learn what not to do by experience and doing the new.”
He pointed out that doing something is not the same as taking a risk. “In fact, the riskiest thing we can do right now is nothing.” The message of the book is so simple, it can be encapsulated in one word: Go. Of course you could fail, but as Godin pointed out, if you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity by Josh Linkner 
If there is a theme for the business books coming out this year, it would be about doing everything you can to survive and thrive in the midst of chaos. We live in an era when business cycles are measured in months, not years. The only way to sustain long-term innovation and growth is through creativity-at all levels of an organisation. Disciplined Dreaming shows you how to create profitable new ideas, empower all your employees to be creative, and sustain your competitive advantage over the long term.
It is a five-part system to build, nurture and manage creativity based on the author’s experience as a four-time entrepreneur, jazz musician and venture capitalist, as well as his interviews with over 200 thought leaders — CEOs, entrepreneurs, artists, billionaires and non-profit leaders.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 

Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman talks about a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes: the largely unconscious part that makes intuitive snap judgements based on emotion, memory and hardwired rule of thumb and the painfully conscious part that laboriously checks the facts, but is so lazy and distractible that it usually defers to the other part.
Kahneman uses this scheme to frame a discussion of his findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, and of the experiments that tease out the irrational, self-contradictory logics that underlie our choices. After reading this you will never think about thinking in quite the same way again.

The Great Crash Ahead by Harry S Dent, Jr with Rodney Johnson 

The Great Crash Ahead outlines why the next crash and crisis is inevitable, and just around the corner—coming between 2012 and 2014. Dent says that in the coming years, the greatest surprise will be that the US dollar becomes the safe haven and appreciates just when everyone is calling for it to crash, while the gold and silver bubbles burst along with the stock and commodity bubbles. And real estate will see another round of declines just when everyone thought it could go no lower. The book is about making smart, cautious investments—avoiding the sort of high-risk, high-profit investment schemes that sank the world economy.

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