In a post-Covid world, check out these must-read books to help build a more resilient organization, create a modern work culture and maintain a powerful growth mindset.
When asked to divulge the secret he’d used to build a business empire, Warren Buffet once replied, “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Buffet was right, of course — the majority of us won’t find the time or energy to read 500 pages in a week, let alone a day. In fact, Pew found that on average, Americans only read around 4 books a year.
Luckily, that means that to build a competitive knowledge advantage in your field, you don’t actually have to spend 80% of your waking hours reading, as Buffet does. You’ve just got to do a bit of targeted study every day.
And now is a great time to cultivate a daily reading habit. With the Covid-19 pandemic upending the whole concept of “business as usual,” it’s never been more critical for business leaders to reassess their organizational health and reinvest in their institutional knowledge base.
If you’re looking for proven ways to build a more resilient organization, create a modern work culture and maintain a powerful growth mindset, get your hands on these must-reads.
1. No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
How did Netflix grow from a DVD-by-mail curio into a world-beating entertainment company with 170 million subscribers across 190 countries? In a nutshell, by hiring the best talent available; building a culture based on constant, candid feedback; and removing needless workday controls like PTO approvals.
This first-person account from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and business professor and author Erin Meyer brings readers all the way inside Netflix’s 15-year journey to the top, detailing the mistakes and learnings that helped them achieve sustained, exponential growth in a rapidly changing industry.
This is a fascinating and incisive foundational text for entrepreneurs who want to build a more empowered, efficient and inspiring workplace culture, but be warned that the Netflix way is not for the soft at heart. Case in point: At Netflix, there’s no room for “adequate” performers, who are either coached or let go as a matter of policy.
2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz achieved the kind of entrepreneurial success most of us only dream of way back in 2007, when he sold his company Opsware to HP for over $1 billion. Since then, he’s gone on to co-found and manage Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture-capital firms.
Unlike most first-person business books, which tend to double as paeans to their ego-fueled writers, Horowitz marshals his experience to illuminate the pitfalls most young entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses tend to face and the mistakes they often make in those moments.
Throughout, he leans into topics that other business leaders would rather pretend don’t exist: for instance, what happens when you realize you need to let go of a trusted friend. But If you can stomach Horowitz’s strong medicine, you’ll learn invaluable lessons that will help you diagnose the psychology behind institutional failure, build a better place to work, scale more easily and, ultimately, become a stronger CEO.
3. How I Built This by Guy Raz
Guy Raz is the creator and host of National Public Radio’s wildly popular How I Built This podcast, where he interviews the most successful business builders on earth about the companies they’ve founded and the movements they’ve started. The podcast is entertaining and instructive on its own, but if you want all of its most valuable and interesting learnings distilled into a single, engrossing reference, pick up a copy of Raz’s book by the same name.
How I Built This is perhaps the most engrossing, personable text out there meant to cover the full entrepreneur’s journey. Raz captures the pathway from inception to growth to stability with engaging, instructive clarity. No, these stories aren’t meant to provide a perfectly reproducible roadmap to success. But if you don’t have a mentor with whom you can share experiences or stress test ideas, or if you often feel like you’re going it alone, this book will open your eyes to a whole world of entrepreneurs going through the same challenges and dilemmas as you and show you the novel methods that some of today’s most innovative thinkers use to overcome them.
4. Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson
No business book list can ever call itself complete without at least one entry from a sportsy performance guru. But even if you’re not normally taken in by the self-mythologizing, wreathed-in-cigar-smoke types who tend to write these books, Phil Jackson’s is a take worth learning from.
Known by his players as the Zen Master, Jackson is a Buddhist and a legendary motivator who won 11 NBA championships as a coach by maximizing the talents of mercurial greats from MJ to Kobe to Shaq. He has more to say about motivating high-performers and getting strong egos to work together than perhaps any other modern figure in sports.
That heartwarming moment where Coach Ted Lasso leaves a different, carefully selected book in each of his athletes’ lockers? That’s a patented Jackson move. So is taking the time to get to know your players individually so that you can coach them according to their learning styles.
That may sound basic, but that’s the point. Jackson borrows from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to talk about the essential importance of our shared drive toward self-actualization. Then he uses a collection of engaging anecdotes to underscore how managers can surface and address that drive for the good of both individuals and the team. These aren’t radical new concepts, but they’ll give you foundational insights you need to more fully express your own vision for a winning corporate culture.
5. Good to Great by Jim Collins
What separates the good companies from the great ones? If we had the answer, we could distill the qualities that create greatness and infuse them into our own organizations. Thankfully, that’s already occurred to former Stanford business professor Jim Collins, and he’s kindly done the painstaking research on our behalf.
Collins and his team examined the habits of 11 businesses that met their criteria for “greatness” by recording 15-year returns at least triple the general market. He compared these high-achieving businesses with control companies that were similarly situated and resourced, but only producing average returns.
By teasing out the commonalities between the high-performing cohort, as well as the differences between the great businesses and their comps, Collins isolates the six elements that actually contribute most to greatness, analyzes each one and assembles them into a roadmap.
But the book is so much richer than even its eye-opening principal findings suggest. For instance, if you’re always making “to do” lists, but have never thought about the merits of making a “stop doing” list, Collins will show you why it will benefit your bottom line to change your habits of mind.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor