Nine Business Books To Read In 2016 by Natalie White, Stanford Business
What is the best business book you have read? Stanford GSB alumni share their top picks:
Business Books – The Filter Bubble By Eli Pariser
–Susan Akbarpour (MBA ’11), founder and CEO of Mavatar
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In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for all users, and we entered a new era of personalization. With little notice or fanfare, our online experience is changing, as the websites we visit are increasingly tailoring themselves to us. In this engaging and visionary book, MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser lays bare the personalization that is already taking place on every major website, from Facebook to AOL to ABC News. As Pariser reveals, this new trend is nothing short of an invisible revolution in how we consume information, one that will shape how we learn, what we know, and even how our democracy works.
The race to collect as much personal data about us as possible, and to tailor our online experience accordingly, is now the defining battle for today’s internet giants like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking our personal information to sell to advertisers, from our political leanings to the hiking boots we just browsed on Zappos.
As a result, we will increasingly each live in our own, unique information universe—what Pariser calls “the filter bubble.” We will receive mainly news that is pleasant, familiar and confirms our beliefs—and since these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation and the democratic exchange of ideas.
Drawing on interviews with both cyber-skeptics and cyber-optimists, from the co-founder of OK Cupid, an algorithmically-driven dating website, to one of the chief visionaries of U.S. information warfare, THE FILTER BUBBLE tells the story of how the Internet, a medium built around the open flow of ideas, is closing in on itself under the pressure of commerce and “monetization.” It peeks behind the curtain at the server farms, algorithms, and geeky entrepreneurs that have given us this new reality, and investigates the consequences of corporate power in the digital age.
THE FILTER BUBBLE reveals how personalization could undermine the internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas, and leave us all in an isolated, echoing world. But it is not too late to change course. Pariser lays out a new vision for the web, one that embraces the benefits of technology without turning a blind eye to its negative consequences, and will ensure that the Internet lives up to its transformative promise.
Business Books – The Hard Thing About Hard Things By Ben Horowitz
“Unless you’ve done it, you just don’t have enough empathy around what it means to build a company. You have the least number of people to talk to but you need it the most. The decisions are not black and white. There is so much gray.”
–Dennis Yang (MBA ’02), CEO at Udemy
Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.
While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.
Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.
Business Books – The Everything Store By Brad Stone
“I loved it as entrepreneur therapy. It’s helpful to look at a company that has become so successful and peer behind the curtain to see how much adversity even Amazon had to deal with in the beginning when they were getting the business off the ground. I find that reading about the struggles of other entrepreneurs has a way of helping me keep seemingly very similar challenges of my own in perspective.”
–Jonathan Beekman (MBA ’09), founder and CEO of Man Crates
Amazon.com’s visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until now.
Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, and his book is the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. The Everything Store is the book that the business world can’t stop talking about, the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.
Business Books – First Things First By Stephen R. Covey
“Being a CEO requires goal setting and prioritization. Most startups die from indigestion, not starvation. I do an exercise every week with a friend of mine. At 8:30 every Sunday we go through our ‘first things first’ things for the week. We put it on a spreadsheet and we are accountable to each other. Each week we check in to see how we did against our previous week’s goals and set new goals for the following week. In addition to work, I pick one or two things to do with my wife and my kids that will be special. I’ve been doing this for six years. Setting aside time in your calendar to stop, reflect, and plan is really important.”
–Josh Becker (JD/MBA ’98), CEO of Lex Machina
I’m getting more done in less time, but where are the rich relationships, the inner peace, the balance, the confidence that I’m doing what matters most and doing it well?
Does this nagging question haunt you, even when you feel you are being your most efficient? If so, First Things First can help you understand why so often our first things aren’t first. Rather than offering you another clock, First Things First provides you with a compass, because where you’re headed is more important than how fast you’re going.
Business Books – The Power of Now By Eckhart Tolle
–Ai Chloe Chien (MBA ’13), cofounder and COO of Homemade Cooking
It’s no wonder that The Power of Now has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 30 foreign languages. Much more than simple principles and platitudes, the book takes readers on an inspiring spiritual journey to find their true and deepest self and reach the ultimate in personal growth and spirituality: the discovery of truth and light.
In the first chapter, Tolle introduces readers to enlightenment and its natural enemy, the mind. He awakens readers to their role as a creator of pain and shows them how to have a pain-free identity by living fully in the present. The journey is thrilling, and along the way, the author shows how to connect to the indestructible essence of our Being, “the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death.”
Featuring a new preface by the author, this paperback shows that only after regaining awareness of Being, liberated from Mind and intensely in the Now, is there Enlightenment.
Business Books – Value Proposition Design By Alexander Osterwalder
–Ai Chloe Chien (MBA ’13), cofounder and COO of Homemade Cooking
Value Proposition Design helps you tackle a core challenge of every business — creating compelling products and services customers want to buy. This practical book, paired with its online companion, will teach you the processes and tools you need to succeed.
Using the same stunning visual format as the authors’ global bestseller, Business Model Generation, this sequel explains how to use the “Value Proposition Canvas” a practical tool to design, test, create, and manage products and services customers actually want.
Value Proposition Design is for anyone who has been frustrated by business meetings based on endless conversations, hunches and intuitions, expensive new product launches that blew up, or simply disappointed by the failure of a good idea. The book will help you understand the patterns of great value propositions, get closer to customers, and avoid wasting time with ideas that won’t work. You’ll learn the simple but comprehensive process of designing and testing value propositions, taking the guesswork out of creating products and services that perfectly match customers’ needs and desires.
Practical exercises, illustrations and tools help you immediately improve your product, service, or new business idea. In addition the book gives you exclusive access to an online companion on Strategyzer.com. You will be able to complete interactive exercises, assess your work, learn from peers, and download pdfs, checklists, and more.
Value Proposition Design complements and perfectly integrates with the ”Business Model Canvas” from Business Model Generation, a tool embraced by startups and large corporations such as MasterCard, 3M, Coca Cola, GE, Fujitsu, LEGO, Colgate-Palmolive, and many more.
Value Proposition Design gives you a proven methodology for success, with value propositions that sell, embedded in profitable business models.
Business Books – High Output Management By Andrew S. Grove
–Tony Xu (MBA ’13), cofounder and CEO of DoorDash
The essential skill of creating and maintaining new businesses—the art of the entrepreneur—can be summed up in a single word: managing. In High Output Management, Andrew S. Grove, former chairman and CEO (and employee number three) of Intel, shares his perspective on how to build and run a company. Born of Grove’s experiences at one of America’s leading technology companies, this legendary management book is a Silicon Valley staple, equally appropriate for sales managers, accountants, consultants, and teachers, as well as CEOs and startup founders. Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance—throughout, High Output Management is a practical handbook for navigating real-life business scenarios and a powerful management manifesto with the ability to revolutionize the way we work.
Business Books – Zero to One By Peter Thiel
–Tony Xu (MBA ’13), cofounder and CEO of DoorDash
The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.
Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.
Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.
Business Books – Losing My Virginity By Richard Branson
–Emrecan Dogan (MBA ’10), founder and CEO of ScoreBeyond
That’s the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none.
Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that “since we’re complete virgins at business, let’s call it just that: Virgin.” Since then, Branson has written his own “rules” for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy.
Many of Richard Branson’s companies–airlines, retailing, and cola are good examples–were started in the face of entrenched competition. The experts said, “Don’t do it.” But Branson found golden opportunities in markets in which customers have been ripped off or underserved, where confusion reigns, and the competition is complacent.
And in this stressed-out, overworked age, Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in Branson’s life. Losing My Virginity is a portrait of a productive, sane, balanced life, filled with rich and colorful stories:
Crash-landing his hot-air balloon in the Algerian desert, yet remaining determined to have another go at being the first to circle the globe
Signing the Sex Pistols, Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Boy George, and Phil Collins
Fighting back when British Airways took on Virgin Atlantic and successfully suing this pillar of the British business establishment
Swimming two miles to safety during a violent storm off the coast of Mexico
Selling Virgin Records to save Virgin Atlantic
Staging a rescue flight into Baghdad before the start of the Gulf War . . .
And much more. Losing My Virginity is the ultimate tale of personal and business survival from a man who combines the business prowess of Bill Gates and the promotional instincts of P. T. Barnum.