Here is a list of seven short business books that you can read in the same time it takes for you to eat lunch.
Business Books: 1. On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt
Harry Frankfurt is a professor of philosophy emeritus at Princeton University. His essay “On Bullshit” was originally published in 1986 but it became a short book in 2005. Frankfurt distinguishes between the liar and the bullshitter. The liar is concerned about the truth, so much so that he conceals it. The bullshitter, in contrast, is indifferent of the truth. He doesn’t care for it. He cares about impressing the listener and personal gain. Sound like anyone you know?
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On Bullshit: Description
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, “we have no theory.”
Frankfurt, one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.
Business Books: 2. The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead, Charles Murray
This book emerged out of a series of columns Murray wrote for the American Enterprise Institute. His advice is far reaching, from grammar and writing tips to relationship guidance to “the presentation of self in the workplace.” Some of it might appear old-school — “Don’t use first names with people considerably older than you until asked, and sometimes not even then” — but it’s refreshing. Here’s my favorite piece of advice. “Watch Groundhog Day repeatedly.” “[It is] a profound moral fable that deals with the most fundamental issues of virtue and happiness.”
(Check out our interview with Charles Murray)
The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Description
As bestselling author and social historian Charles Murray explains, at senior levels of an organization there are curmudgeons everywhere, judging your every move. Yet it is their good opinion you need to win if you hope to get ahead.
Among the curmudgeon’s day-to-day tips for the workplace:
• Excise the word “like” from your spoken English
• Don’t suck up
• Stop “reaching out” and “sharing”
• Rid yourself of piercings, tattoos, and weird hair colors
• Make strong language count
Business Books: 3. The Peter Principle, Laurence J. Peter
The Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
The implication? “Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”
“Super-competence often leads to dismissal, because it disrupts the hierarchy, and thereby violates the first commandment of hierarchical life: the hierarchy must be preserved.”
The Peter Principle: Description
Back in 1969, Lawrence J. Peter created a cultural phenomenon with his brilliant, outrageous, hilarious, and all-too-true treatise on business and life, The Peter Principle—and his words and theories are as true today as they were then. By posing—and answering—the eternal question, “Why do things always go wrong?” Peter explores the incompetence that runs so rampant through our society, our workplace, and our world in an outrageously funny yet honest and eye-opening manner. With a new foreword by Robert I. Sutton, bestselling author of The No Asshole Rule, this twenty-first century edition of Peter’s classic is set to shake up the business world all over again.
Business Books: 4. Parkinson’s Law, Cynil Parkinson
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
An elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the mailbox in the next street. The totel effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.
(Check out Why We Spend the Most Time on the Least Important Decisions and 11 Undeniable Laws of the Office)
Parkinson’s Law: Description
Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available’. While strenuously denied by management consultants, bureaucrats and efficiency experts, the law is borne out by disinterested observation of any organization. The book goes far beyond its famous theorem, though. The author goes on to explain how to meet the most important people at a social gathering and why, as a matter of mathematical certainty, the time spent debating an issue is inversely proportional to its objective importance. Justly famous for more than forty years, Parkinson’s Law is at once a bracingly cynical primer on the reality of human organization, and an innoculation against the wilful optimism to which we as a species are prone.
Business Books: 5. The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda
John Maeda is the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design. He is an eminent graphic designer, visual artist and computer scientist. Maeda provides a plethora of design advice and creativity tips while expounding the virtues of design thinking in The Laws of Simplicity. If there is one takeaway from this book it is that creative projects typically benefit from reduction, removal and subtraction. My favorite sentence from the book: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”
(Check out To Complete a Task, Leave the Power Cord at Home)
The Laws of Simplicity: Description
Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We’re rebelling against technology that’s too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte “read me” manuals. The iPod’s clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that’s simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design–guidelines for needing less and actually getting more.Maeda–a professor in MIT’s Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer–explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of “improved” so that it doesn’t always mean something more, something added on.Maeda’s first law of simplicity is “Reduce.” It’s not necessarily beneficial to add technology features just because we can. And the features that we do have must be organized (Law 2) in a sensible hierarchy so users aren’t distracted by features and functions they don’t need. But simplicity is not less just for the sake of less. Skip ahead to Law 9: “Failure: Accept the fact that some things can never be made simple.”
Business Books: 6. A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young
Young was an advertising executive with an interest in the psychology of creativity. His technique involved a five-step formula: Gather Raw Materials, The Mental Digestive Process, Unconscious Process, The Eureka Moment, and The Final Stage.
At 27 pages, it’s the shortest book here.
(Check out A 5-Step Formula For Generating Ideas From 1940)
A Technique for Producing Ideas: Description
This short but powerful book has helped thousands of writers, artists, scientists, and engineers to solve problems and generate ideas. Now let James Webb Young’s unique insights help you be more creative in every area of life. Advertising mogul William Bernbach wrote, “James Webb Young is in the tradition of some of our greatest thinkers when he describes the workings of the creative process. The results of many years in advertising have proved to him that the key element in communications success is the production of relevant and dramatic ideas. He not only makes this point vividly for us but shows us the road to that goal.” Newly designed and typeset in a 6-by-9-inch format by Waking Lion Press.
Business Books: 7. The Abilene Paradox, Jerry Harvey
The Abilene Paradox describes an anecdote Harvey elucidates at the beginning of the book. A family in Texas is comfortably lounging when the father-in-law suggests that they drive to Abilene (53 miles away) for dinner. The wife and the husband agree, despite having reservations about the long drive. “I just hope your mother wants to go,” the husband said. “Of course I want to go,” the mother confirms. “I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”
They travel to Abilene and arrive home four hours later, exhausted. “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” the husband said. “Well, to tell you the truth, I really didn’t enjoy it much and would rather have stayed here. I just went along because the three of you were so enthusiastic about going.”
“I now call the tendency for groups to embark on excursions that no group member wants,” Harvey concludes, ”the Abilene Paradox. Stated simply, when organizations blunder into the Abilene Paradox, they take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do and therefore defeat the very purpose they are trying to achieve.”
The Abilene Paradox: Description
Faulty decision-making can have dire consequences, and when it comes to group decisions, the challenges are even greater. Join Dr. Jerry B. Harvey as he clearly illustrates why no organization wants to find themselves goin’ to Abilene.
See how group dynamics can keep individuals from stating their true beliefs for fear of isolation and separation, and how that often leads to mismanaged agreement.
You’ll learn to recognize the warning signs of risky group dynamics and improve decision-making processes throughout your organization.
H/T Policy Mic