I’ve read a number of great business books over the years and some of the best are also what I’d call great ‘life’ books. As is the nature of lists, one is forced to choose, but my choices don’t reflect best or “top 3”…just ones that I recall well that have stuck with me and I’ve often recommended them to people for a good non-fiction read.
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
I actually read this during my MBA for extra curricular reading (as in, it wasn’t assigned) but found the book made a far greater impression on me than any of my assigned texts in marketing and advertising. From simple advertising precepts like “reverse type ads are not effective” to the more biographical aspect of the book, it’s an enjoyable and accessible read. Although some may find in today’s hyper fast, hyper connected environment, that Ogilvy may seem anachronistic, overall, the advertising for people not in advertising perspective coupled with the Mad Men zeitgeist is sure to make it a fun and memorable read.
The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Coming from a background in product development, I found this book a good professional as well as personal read. So much of business, or success in business, even if you’re not in what most consider a ‘creative’ field, is rooted in being creative. Think of the market cap of Apple and their products to where Nokia is today. We’re fortunate enough in Canada to be able to pursue careers that we feel would be rewarding vs. ‘just having a job’. I found this book helps illuminate activities in my personal and professional life that gave me satisfaction and a framework to understand and build on those. “Work” is creativity and the workplace is dominated by psychology, not numbers or power point charts. Flow is a great book to help understand yourself a little more, and guides you to a place where you can realize a greater satisfaction through your work.
Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
A friend of mine who worked at IBM gave me this book during the dot com era when I was at my first start up. With the major decline in factories and the physical production of goods in North America contrasted against the growth of the knowledge economy, Selling the Invisible is really a mandatory read for anyone in a service-based business. If you’ve never sold anything tangible, being able to conceptualize and convey the real service you’re offering – that nugget or root benefit – is paramount to building a successful company. I read the first field guide back in the 90s, and there’s a new 2012 edition available on Amazon.
Runner’s up list: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini; Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore; Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.