The Best Business Books of 2014

This proved to be an interesting year for business books. In a year during which world governments and corporations have struggled with economic pressures and internal breakdowns, strong leadership has been desperately needed. This was reflected in the business books that rose to the top of many people’s reading lists. At a time when trust in leaders has diminished even more, executives should take time to read and learn from these summaries.

The complete list of 30 books is included below, all of which have been summarized by Soundview as part of its subscription offering. To read descriptions of the individual titles, go to Best Books of 2014 . They are also available for purchase individually.

Work with Me – Barbara Annis & John Gray
Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – Anthony Mersino
Springboard – G. Richard Shell
Disciplined Entrepreneurship – Bill Aulet
Finding Allies, Building Alliances by Mike Leavitt & Rich McKeown
Compelling People – John Neffinger & Matthew Kohut
Coaching for Breakthrough Success – Jack Canfield & Peter Chee
The 80/20 Manager – Richard Koch
Focus – Daniel Goleman
Choosing Change – Walter McFarland & Susan Goldsworthy
The Learned Disciplines of Management – Jim Burkett
Grounded – Bob Rosen
Hacking Leadership – Mike Myatt
Leadership 2030 – Georg Vielmetter & Yvonne Sell
Absolute Value – Itamar Simonson & Emanuel Rosen
Moments of Impact – Chris Ertel & Lisa Kay Solomon
A Team of Leaders – Paul Gustavson & Stewart Liff
Flex – Jane Hyun & Audrey Lee
Brief – Joseph McCormack
The Innovative Sale – Mark Donnolo
Elevate – Rich Horwath
The Purpose Economy – Aaron Hurst
Accountability – Greg Bustin
Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The Road to Reinvention – Josh Linkner
Overfished Ocean Strategy – Nadya Zhexembayeva
How the World See You – Sally Hogshead
The Responsible Entrepreneur – Carol Sanford
Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does – Susan Fowler
Pitch Perfect – Bill McGowan & Alisa Bowman

We’re already working on summaries of the top books of 2015. If you ‘d like to have these titles in your library, become a Soundview Member. You won’t regret it.

New Summaries to Improve Your Skills

The ability to carry out our positions in the most effective and efficient way is often neglected in order to get the job done on time. However it is important to your career and organization to reflect on how processes can be done better or more effectively. Developing skills that can be applied to both your professional and personal life can lead to your highest potential. Learn how to improve your skills by being a better motivator, better communicator, and take better risks with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

pitch_perfect

by Bill McGowan and
Alisa Bowman

Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan and Alisa Bowman

In our professional and personal lives, situations rest on how well we communicate. Bill McGowan, media guru and correspondent, teaches you how to get your message across and get what you want with pitch perfect communication. In Pitch Perfect, McGowan shows you how to construct the right message and deliver it using the right language, verbally and nonverbally. Throughout the book, he distills his ideas into seven principles leading readers to effective communication.

 

why_motivating_people

by Susan Fowler

Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does by Susan Fowler

Top leadership researcher, consultant, and coach Susan Fowler suggests stop trying to motivate people because it doesn’t work. In Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does, Fowler builds upon scientific research on human motivation to present readers a model that will help leaders guide their employees toward motivation that not only increases productivity and engagement but that gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Knowing what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and what does will help leaders bring change in their organizations.

 

little_bets

by Peter Sims

Little Bets by Peter Sims

It is always rewarding when you take a risk and it pays off. In Little Bets, bestselling Peter Sims found that rather than start with a big idea or plan a whole project in advance, you should make a methodical series of little bets, low-risk actions taken to test an idea. This book offers readers a new way to explore and develop new possibilities with engaging accounts of innovators around the world who capitalized off their little bets.

Escaping the “Self-Employment Trap”

Many entrepreneurs, write the authors of Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, don’t know the difference between growing a business and “growing a job.” A job is the responsibility of one person. In contrast, a business functions through a number of individuals in key roles, each with their own sets of responsibilities. In other words, authors Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel write, if as an entrepreneur you are working 70 hours a week because you alone are still responsible for the four core systems of your business finding prospects, closing sales, producing and delivering the product, and collecting on what you are owed you haven’t built a business, you’ve built a job. And sustaining such a job is not possible unless you sacrifice other aspects of your life.

The Self-Employment Trap

In Scale, Hoffman and Finkel lay out seven principles to help entrepreneurs escape the trap of every aspect of the business moving through them — what they call “the self-employment trap.” The first principle is understanding the concept of building a business, not a job. To clearly lay out the difference, they offer a business growth model based on three levels:

Level One is the preparation for launching the business and includes the business plan and making sure the business is viable.

Level Two Early Stage is getting the business off the ground. This is when you start to build a customer base and reach profitability.

Level Two Middle Stage is when you escape the self-employment trap by starting to build out the four core systems described above. Level Two Advanced Stage is when you’ve established a management team, and the systems keep the company running.

Level Three is the exit stage: As an owner-entrepreneur, you can sell the business or be a passive (and proud) owner of the business you launched from scratch.

Many entrepreneurs stay stuck in Level Two Middle Stage because they are focused on operating the business — selling to prospects and delivering the product — and are not taking the time to build a base that will allow others to take over “the job” they are now doing alone. The remaining principles in Scale are intended to help entrepreneurs break out of Level Two Middle Stage.

Through principles two and three, entrepreneurs learn to build a solid foundation for future growth. Principle two covers systems and controls for the business, while principle three offers tools to clarify the market and identify competitors.

Principle four, “Create the Right Strategic Plan,” helps entrepreneurs to do their homework so they can pick the best strategy for their company.  Principle five — “Learn to Read the World So You Build Tomorrow’s Marketplace,” is focused on keeping the company up to date.

In principle six, “Overcome the Predictable Obstacles to Scaling, Pillar by Pillar,” the authors show how to scale the sales and marketing, operations, finance, team and executive leadership pillars of the business.

The final principle is “You Do Have Time to Scale Your Company.” The authors offer a “time mastery system” that will refocus time and effort on tasks and responsibility of true value — and eliminate the work that you should not be doing in the first place.

Hoffman, a former CEO in the Priceline.com family of companies, and Finkel, a successful business coach, have written a practical guide filled with tools and methodologies — many available online — that will help many entrepreneurs finally break free of the exhausting and frustrating self-employment trap.

Book Review: Overfished Ocean Strategy

Overfished_Ocean_Strategy

by Nadya Zhexembayeva

When resources are depleting rapidly and the cost of raw materials is increasing dramatically, businesses need to make resource scarcity their top strategic consideration. In Overfished Ocean Strategy, Nadya Zhexembayeva shows how businesses can find new opportunities in what were once considered useless by-products and develop ways to rapidly refine these new business models. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

“The transformation brings about a new economic reality, where we compete and win using a radically new set of rules. While the companies, people and projects pioneering these new rules are still rare, there are enough of them to suggest the first few essential principles that allow managers to innovate their way into a new world,” writes Zhexembayeva. She offers five essential principles that define the Overfished Ocean Strategy to power up a new and different strategic direction to increase sustainability within your organization. The first principle is “From Line to Circle,” explains to leaders the global value chain of goods and service can be transformed into a circle, where the waste of one process can fuel another. This principle along with the other four will shift your business from stale to fresh.

Additionally, Zhexembayeva presents several examples of how companies across the globe are implementing this strategy effectively, including Walmart and Shell. With Overfished Ocean Strategy, leaders and managers around the world will be able to inspire radical change and drive disruptive innovation within their organizations.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

A MIND-BENDING APPROACH TO THOUGHT

What is 2+2? The answer that comes immediately to mind is, of course, 4. What is 17 x 24? We can arrive at the answer, but only after a little work. In our minds, writes psychologist and former Princeton University professor Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, there are always two systems at work. System 1 is an intuitive-based “automatic” system that can be summarized as fast thinking. System 2 is an “effortful” system — a slow-thinking system that requires an effort (and some time) for us to arrive at the answer.

While these two systems would seem to be well-designed for dealing with the world, in truth, writes Kahneman, the systems create some problems. The reason is that system 1 kicks in when system 2 is more appropriate — or, to put it another way, our trusted intuition can lead us to the wrong answers and the wrong conclusions.

What’s So Bad About Our Minds?

Steve is mild-mannered and detail-oriented. Is Steve more likely a librarian or a farmer? Most people would answer librarian, and they would be wrong. The mistake, as Kahneman explains, comes from the caricature of a male librarian (mild and detail-oriented) that we carry in our minds. In truth, as there are a far greater number of men who are farmers, there are more mild-mannered Steves on tractors than behind circulation desks.

Our biases and “heuristics” — the technical term for “rules of thumb” — can cause us to jump to conclusions, right or wrong. “Librarians are mild-mannered” is a heuristic and leads us to the wrong answer. System 2 thinking will be more accurate in many situations, but as Kahneman notes, we think slowly when we are stumped and don’t have a fast answer to jump to — such as when faced with the problem 17 x 24. When an answer easily presents itself to us (“Steve is more likely a librarian”), we rarely take the time to second-guess our intuition. Thus, we make erroneous decisions and draw erroneous conclusions based on shortcuts we didn’t even realize existed.

For example, Kahneman writes, most people believe they have an informed, objective opinion about which are the most important issues facing their nation. In truth, research has shown that people decide which issues are most important based on media coverage. The reason is the “availability heuristic” — the rule of thumb that people attach importance to events that are easily retrieved from memory, in other words, readily available (rather than buried in distant memory). How do those events become available? The answer, of course, is media coverage.

Priming is another phenomenon that can affect our decisions without our knowledge. A person who’s recently heard the word “food,” for example, will be “primed” to complete the word SO_P as SOUP and not SOAP. Priming is the reason that ballot questions concerning funding for education get far more support from people who vote in polling stations located in schools.

The Marvels of the Mind

Of course, fast thinking is not always wrong — and in many cases it’s necessary. As Kahneman explains, recent developments in cognitive and social psychology have also revealed the marvels of intuitive thinking. Kahneman is not arguing that we are making wrong decisions consistently, only that we are far less rational than we believe ourselves to be.

Thinking, Fast and Slow will have readers looking at the world around them, and at their own decisions and opinions, much differently. This is not a fast book to read, however — nor should it be. There is too much to be savored.