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Are these the best business books of all time? 5 February, 2009

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.
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135659489_a1ffd4ceb6ChangeThis has been inviting people to nominate their top business books, (the ones that actually made a difference rather than the ones you picked up in an airport and didn’t get past chapter four). Now, in a delightfully post-modern twist, there’s going to be a book about the books – The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. You can see the list of those that made it here.

All the usual suspects are there Good to Great, In Search of Excellence, Tipping Point, Getting Things Done (which I own and have never finished to my wife’s constant amusement). It’s a good list.

The ones that I would have nominated that are already in include: Flow by the fantastically named Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury, the brilliant Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie and The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley.

Ones I would add:

  • The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Ros Zander – my all time favourite and one of the few I return to again and again. Particularly relevant just now it gives an uplifting view of living, working and managing today.
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath – the best storytelling book I’ve come across with some real practical insights that I use time and again.
  • Unstuck by Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro – great, quick fire ways of thinking yourself out of problems.
  • Slideology by Nancy Duarte – the best book on presentation design ever by a long, long way.
  • How Customers Think by Gerald Zaltman – a complete eye-opener that clearly demonstrates that there is no such thing as a rational decision.
  • We, Me, Them and It by John Simmons – the best book on writing for business (all his other books are pretty damn good too).

Having said this, one thing about the 100 best list and the books on it – there is a danger with adopting such a canon of work that we fall into a sort of business and marketing orthodoxy. So, if I want permission marketing, I read Seth Godin. Presentations it’s Garr Reynolds. Viral it’s Malcolm Gladwell. While I love all these books, it’s really important that we regularly step outside the accepted canon (in fact outside business altogether) to find truly fresh, original thinking.

Too many theories (particularly in marketing) become established largely down to a catchy title and an engaging writing style without the evidence to back them up. As interesting and fun as this can be, it can also cost a whole heap of money for very little return.

Now, time to get back to our new Twitter-based campaign…

(Image by Butterflysha on Flickr)

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