Six Top Tech CEOs List Their Favorite Books

Six Top Tech CEOs List Their Favorite Books
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Here is an excerpt from on book recommendations by six tech CEOs such as Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer, Jeff Bezos, Tony Hsieh and Mark Zuckerberg, books include The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Design of Everyday Things, Tribal Leadership, Competing Against TimeBuilt to Last and more.

I’m always interested in what other people are reading. Yesterday, I searched the web for book recommendations from prominent business leaders. I unearthed a few gems. In a Reddit AMA, Bill Gates revealed that his favorite book of the last decade is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. It’s fitting. Gates, an optimist, regularly blogs about promising breakthroughs in healthcare, technology, and the worldwide reduction of poverty and violence. (Gates recommended Pinker’s book to the TED audience this year.)

Marissa Mayer’s favorite book is The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman. This book is a classic in the design industry (Proctor & Gamble CEO A. G. Lafley featured it on his book recommendations) and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in design. Norman coined the term affordance, the notion that technology should conform to specific human interactions. Buttons and flat doors afford pushing, while handles afford pulling.

An article in Business Insider has recommendations from Tony Hsieh, Tim Cook, and Jeff Bezos. Hsieh cites a book I’ve never read, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, and Cook lists a book I’ve never even heard of, Competing Against TimeBezos is a fan of Built to Last. (See a few more recommendations from Bezos.)

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Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Bill Gates] The Better Angels of Our Nature

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species’ existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.

Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Marissa Mayer] The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

First, businesses discovered quality as a key competitive edge; next came service. Now, Donald A. Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, reveals how smart design is the new competitive frontier. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how–and why–some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.

Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Tony Hsieh] Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, & Halee Fischer-Wright

Within each corporation are anywhere from a few to hundreds of separate tribes. In Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright demonstrate how these tribes develop—and show you how to assess them and lead them to maximize productivity and growth. A business management book like no other, Tribal Leadership is an essential tool to help managers and business leaders take better control of their organizations by utilizing the unique characteristics of the tribes that exist within.

Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Tim Cook] Competing Against Time

Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Markets by George Stalk

Today, time is on the cutting edge. In fact, as a strategic weapon, contend George Stalk, Jr., and Thomas M. Hout, time is the equivalent of money, productivity, quality, even innovation. The ways leading companies manage time – in production, in new product development, and in sales and distribution – represent the most powerful new sources of competitive advantage. Time consumption, like cost, is quantifiable and therefore manageable. Today’s new generation companies recognize time as the fourth dimension of competiveness and, as a result, operate with flexible manufacturing and rapid-resource systems, expanding variety and increasing innovation. Factories are close to the customers they serve. Organization structures enable fast responses rather than low costs and control. Companies concentrate on reducing if not eliminating delays and using their response advantages to attract the most profitable customers. As Stalk and Hout explain, virtually all businesses can use time as a competitive weapon. Using examples of leading Japanese and American companies they illustrate the processes involved in becoming a time-based competitor and how managers can open and sustain a significant advantage over the competition.

Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Jeff Bezos] Built to Last

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins & Jerry I. Porras

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?”

Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the 21st century and beyond.

Tech CEOs book recommendation: [Mark Zuckerberg] The Aeneid

The Aeneid by Virgil

Fleeing the ashes of Troy, Aeneas, Achilles’ mighty foe in the Iliad, begins an incredible journey to fulfill his destiny as the founder of Rome. His voyage will take him through stormy seas, entangle him in a tragic love affair, and lure him into the world of the dead itself–all the way tormented by the vengeful Juno, Queen of the Gods. Ultimately, he reaches the promised land of Italy where, after bloody battles and with high hopes, he founds what will become the Roman empire. An unsparing portrait of a man caught between love, duty, and fate, The Aeneid redefines passion, nobility, and courage for our times. Robert Fagles, whose acclaimed translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were welcomed as major publishing events, brings the Aeneid to a new generation of readers, retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original Latin as well as its powerful blend of poetry and myth. Featuring an illuminating introduction to Virgil’s world by esteemed scholar Bernard Knox, this volume lends a vibrant new voice to one of the seminal literary achievements of the ancient world.


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