This year I set a 40-book reading challenge for myself. COVID-19 times certainly helped with freeing time for reading and I have some great book recommendations, especially for those of you looking for gift ideas for your teams.
1. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer- Netflix's corporate culture of freedom with responsibility is discussed and praised in many management circles. In this book, founder, Reed Hastings, and INSEAD professor, Erin Meyer, take us behind the scenes of how it was built. The TL;DR is that Netflix hires highly experienced professionals, lets go fast of those who aren't high performers and gives employees lots of autonomy to make decisions and experiment with projects they deem important. When someone messes up, they deal with that specific situation rather than inventing massive bureaucratic control policies as most big corporates do. Of special interest in this book are the stories about how they messed up policies until they figured out what worked.
Recommended for: leaders who hate bureaucracy and want to build more effective cultures
2. The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway - The success and influence of these four big tech companies are undeniable, as well as the controversy around the power they exert in the marketplace. NYU professor, Scott Galloway, with much wit and skepticism explores how the four have built and fortified their competitive advantage while helping us understand the risks behind letting companies have so much influence over our lives and politics. He also looks into what other companies (like Tesla or AirBnB) could join this group in the future.
Recommended for: leaders who are thinking about building / strengthening competitive positions within their marketplaces and/or improving overall strategic thinking capacity.
3. Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan- if you have ever felt different at work or in a social context because you came from a different background, you'd appreciate this book. Olga Khazan is a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who came to live in a small town in Texas, where she struggled to fit in or relate to the locals. This experience shaped her approach to life and she uses the book to explore how being different can create an advantage for people in terms of stimulating creativity, challenging the status quo, and overall bringing fresh perspectives. Olga interviews different outsiders such as a surgeon with dwarfism, a liberal professor teaching feminism in a conservative Christian college, a transgender mayor, etc) and shares interesting insights from social psychology about group norms and dynamics.
Recommended for: Anyone looking to expand his or her horizons
4. Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson - I was doing a consulting project for a company that went all-remote this year and ran into this little book by the founders of a tech company called Basecamp. The book helped me shape some of the strategic discussions with this client. Basecamp was born as a remote-first company before it was even a thing. In the first part of the book, they are trying to convince the reader of the merits of remote working, something that has thankfully become practically unnecessary after this year's experience. In the second part of the book, they share many practical insights about how to operationalize this culture: how to hire for remote, how to motivate remote employees, basics of ergonomics, tools and strategies for collaboration and teamwork, etc.
Recommended for: anyone trying to navigate the challenges of remote teams and build a sense of a team who is focused on results
5. Who: A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart - Many companies and leaders struggle to hire top performers despite all best efforts. Irregular or repetitive interview questions, confusing job descriptions that aren't focused on expected results, hiring for unclear fit, are just some of the reasons why this happens. In Who, executive recruiter, Geoff Smart, shares a simple framework peppered with stories of hiring failures and successes to help companies higher A-players. Many executives I've spoken to found this framework very useful for filtering and interviewing candidates.
Recommended for: Leaders who are going through the pain of hiring and retaining top performers and/or HR professionals involved in recruiting