One of favorite benefits of Refresh Austin is the chance to learn from the wide array of members and their experiences. Occasionally someone posts a question or suggestion that pulls together many different experiences and ideas as the thread grows. This post is basically a straight up rip-off of one of those threads, but it’s stolen out of love. I hate to see great information and suggestions lost amongst the mailing list – a flare of light that fades into the shadows.
Jan Triplett originally posted this to the group: “I would like to know what business books inspire you – new or old. I would also like to know why you singled them out.” Even better, she kicked it off with three recommendations of her own (Small Is Beautiful, Neanderthals at Work, Big-Box Swindle), which she has also blogged on her site in the post 3 Older Business Books That Inspire, providing a great write-up of each.
Many of my picks match those of other Refreshers who responded, but I’ll include a couple unique suggestions at the end of this post after you’ve had a chance to see all of the other recommendations. There were also several recommendations that are now in my list of books to read.
Norman Harman recommended Presentation Zen, which is one of my favorite books covering how to make the normally boring corporate PowerPoint presentation interesting. He noted that it may not qualify as a business book, but “it applies because so much of business is presenting and selling your project/ideas/product/etc to clients/customers/management/etc.” I’m in full agreement.
Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow was recommended by Marcus Irven.
Dimitri Lundquist, an Information Architect, recommended Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, which he described as “a super pragmatic, and really smart, guide to software and web project management”, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, that teaches you to treat “negotiations not as a zero sum game but as a process of collaborative problem solving in order to arrive at a mutually satisfactory outcome” and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, which “presents a series of tools and exercises in problem solving and communication.” The latter is based on The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, which is currently in my stack of “to read “books on my nightstand. So now I have a follow-up.
Dan Brown included The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, which he said he was not “too fond of the author’s conversational style of writing, but he does a wonderful job of identifying the traps most small-business owners get caught in and explaining how to get out of them.”
Holly Fortenberry pointed the group to Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big which she said is “about choosing not to grow your business beyond a certain point, the point at which you tend to lose your mojo.”
The Design of Everyday Things is easily one of the most recommended books, both on the list and in general among this crowd. Dan Brown noted that “this book will seriously mess up the way you look at things. Not only will you start to notice all the poorly designed objects around you, you’ll gain a deep appreciation for the effort it takes to really design something well.”
Lorin Rivers suggested Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, another one of my favorites as well. He noted it as being “inspiring in a similar way to Small Giants.”
In addition to the books above, I really like slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations as a companion to Presentation Zen for anyone who wants to be engaging instead of reading off of slides. I also recommend Crossing the Chasm and Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, which sadly appears to be out of print, though it is old enough to pre-date wide-adoption of the Web. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is great companion to Getting to Yes.
I hope this is useful and would love to hear your recommendations. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on these books and others you’d recommend.