I read a book a week, give or take. So there were a few good books to choose from when it came to selecting my favourites. What I’ve listed below are stand-out small (and big) business reads. All very different but equally insightful and inspiring.
Click on the book title for a direct link to order online.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth
When Angela Duckworth left a high-flying job to teach seventh grade math, she realised that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from the strugglers.
Sharing insights from her landmark research, Duckworth explains why talent does not guarantee success. Duckworth has found that grit, what she defines as ‘a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal’, is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain.
Check out her TED Talk here, where Duckworth explains her theory of grit as a predictor of success.
More importantly, read the book for Duckworth’s fascinating insights, interviews with dozens of high achievers, and her scientific evidence that grit can grow.
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
by Martin Lindstrom
In an era of big data, Martin Lindstrom believes that small clues can yield big breakthroughs.
Lindstrom’s small data theory is this: spending time with real people in their own environments, combined with careful observation, can lead to powerful marketing insights. He is hired by companies around the world to do just that.
Lindstrom shares stories of his work with clients such as IKEA and Google, down to the marketing insights he draws from fridge magnets.
My favourite is Lindstrom’s tale of the Lego company, who recovered from the brink of bankruptcy with his help in 2003. Relying on big data, they had changed the size of their small lego bricks to huge building blocks just a year before. Not long after, the Lego Company was in financial crisis. They hired Lindstrom to work out what they were doing wrong.
Inspired by a conversation with an 11 year old boy about his favourite sneakers, Lindstrom recommended Lego change back to tiny bricks. Read the book for an explanation of the fantastic connection he makes between the two. Lego revamped its strategy, the Lego Movie followed, and the company reclaimed its place in little people’s lives and lounge rooms.
Susan Cain believes the world dramatically undervalues introverts, and presents the implications of doing so. She explores the rise of the Extrovert Ideal, explaining how deeply it has come to permeate our culture.
Cain explains the key difference in the leadership styles of introverts and extroverts, and highlights a range of successful CEOs who are surprisingly, very introverted. Cain refers to a famous study by influential management theorist Jim Collins. Collins discovered many of the best performing companies in the late 20th century were run “by exceptional CEOs known not for their flash or charisma but for extreme humility coupled with intense professional will.”
Those who worked with these leaders described them as quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy gracious, mild-mannered and understated.
Cain has fought her own introverted battle to be able to take the stage. In her passionate TED Talk she argues that introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world and should be encouraged and celebrated.
As an introvert myself, this one struck a cord.
Shoe Dog : A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
by Phil Knight
I finished the final page just last night (in tears), and ran out of time to write a detailed description.
Shoe Dog offers an inside look at the creator of Nike Phil Knight’s entrepreneurial journey and how he built Nike into the brand it is today.
Knight’s account of the sweatshop crisis is touching. On a lighter note, I laughed out loud reading his story of enforcing a dress code on the ‘Buttheads’ at head office when Nike launched their first clothing range.
Surprising, humble and incredibly inspiring. I highly recommend this one.