Clients often approach me after a speech or consulting engagement to ask me what books I recommend to help them on their journey to becoming better leaders, innovators, salespeople or marketers.
I respond to these requests with great care. Some executives grab a book off the shelf, send it to all of their direct reports and hope their colleagues will find the same inspiration they found. Some organizations hire a consulting firm like mine to do their magic, figuring that some outside power holds the key to their success. The key is how to apply the ideas and approaches of books and consultants to your situation.
Naturally, each of the books I recommend is like a medicine - each is focused on a specific group of symptoms or challenges. While I have my core group of ideas that form the foundation of my approach, I think it is valuable to keep testing and adapting ideas based upon what works.
With that in mind, here are my favorite "over the counter" ideas on entrepreneurship, innovation and business discipline:
Blue Ocean Strategy provides research-based, yet simple approaches to create uncontested market space. The key to this book's power is its distillation of Chan and Mauborgne's research into usable concepts, supported by approachable examples. Strategic moves, not industry structure or technical innovation alone, drive Blue Ocean opportunities. This book also helps organizations recognize and manage their portfolio of opportunities in both Red and Blue Oceans. Tools to visually assess positioning and to map new opportunity, combined with solid analytical and change management approaches, make Blue Ocean Strategy's principles simpler to apply.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset leverages years of research into what distinguishes successful entrepreneurs from those who fail. McGrath and MacMillan articulate how the winners approach change, risk, uncertainty and opportunity. There are practical tools here to apply the rituals of "habitual entrepreneurs." Discovery-Driven Planning is a powerful execution discipline to help sort facts from assumptions as innovation ideas are tested and applied.
Hard Facts - Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense dismantles six widely held half-truths in leadership, strategy, change, talent, incentives and the connections between work and the rest of life. Pfeffer and Sutton also give some straightforward recommendations for how to make sense of "new" ideas, how to leverage your own knowledge and wisdom - and to separate flawed ideas from useful insight. They propose "evidence-based management" as a way to help leaders make better decisions.
Do all three of these books agree in all areas? No. But all three demonstrate and advocate smart thinking, as well as offer good advice. And in my experience, all three offer ideas that work, and complement each other in areas that matter.
What do you think:
- Are there other books and thought frameworks that you have found success with? Why did they work for you?
- What recommendations do you have for someone thinking about hiring a consultant?
- How does your organization deal with the "Book of the Month" syndrome?
Learn more about these books: