By Drake Baer. FASTCOMPANY.November 26, 2012
These 12 books have shaped not only the way we work this year, but how we think and the conversations we’re having. Authored by luminaries like Nate Silver, Clay Christensen, and Susan Cain, these delightful-to-read tomes offer insight into the power of vulnerability, habit, social media, and more.
1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain In Quiet, author Susan Cain argues that introverts are a reservoir of untapped talent–and that progressive managers can create environments in which they thrive.
“Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas,” she tells Fast Company, “we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.”
2. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen As the author of the disruption-defining Innovator’s Dilemma, Clay Christensen is one of the most esteemed minds in business. In How Will You Measure Your Life?, he investigates what it means to have a fulfilling career, and finds that it is both a focused and open process.
“I believe that we can, in a deliberate way, articulate the kind of people we want to become,” he says. “As the rest of life happens to you, you can utilize those things to help you become the kind of person you want to be.”
3. Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, by Robert Pozen Bob Pozen once simultaneously served as president of Fidelity Management, lectured full-time at Harvard Business School, and wrote for the Harvard Business Review–meaning that he’s earned the right to write a book called Extreme Productivity.
“If you want an active schedule,” he tells us in an interview about turning career plans into daily actions, “you have to husband your time so you can act on the things that are important.”
Nate Silver has become a bespectacled icon for his prediction prowess–as you might of heard, he called every state of the presidential election (and pulled 20+ percent of the New York Times’ web traffic on election night). But as he observes in The Signal and the Noise, we as a culture have grown forecast obsessed–something all businesses would do well to be aware of.
“We need to stop and admit it: we have a prediction problem,” he writes. “We love to predict things–and we aren’t very good at it.”
There’s a myth about how entrepreneurs have to be invulnerable. Brené Brown will have none of it.
“If you are alive and in relationship, you do vulnerability,” she tells us. “If you are alive and in relationship and in business, you do it hourly.”
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores how habits shape our lives–and how savvy businesses can shape them.
Febreeze, for instance, flopped when it launched as an odor killer, because, as Duhigg says, “the people who needed it, who lived with nine cats, had adapted to (it).” After noticing that people look proud after making their beds–a habit to capitalize on–P&G rebranded the spray as a post-cleaning reward, one that now makes $1 billion a year.
Amy Jo Martin shares her story on how she got the Rock to become a social media machine in Renegades Write the Rules. In our excerpt she argues for why you need to share your life with your followers–whether you’re an an action star or an entrepreneur.
“With more than a billion people using these communication channels,” she writes, “you can’t afford not to have an active role in the conversation.”
Business takes courage, observe the authors–but don’t confuse courage with fearlessness.
“Guts-driven entrepreneurs aren’t fearless,” they write in our excerpt, “They just know how to cope with, and maybe even thrive in, uncomfortable environments.”
In every great career, Frans Johansson writes in The Click Moment, there’s a time when talent and luck intersect in a fit of business serendipity.
“If you scratch underneath the glossy exterior of success stories, you’re actually going to find that behind those things you’re going to find an unexpected meeting, a surprising insight, and that’s what’s behind most success,” he tells us. “It follows then that we should court those types of things.”
When making decisions, Frank Partnoy observes in Wait, you need to be able to understand whether you’re operating at a Twitter or glacial pace–two contexts that might be happening simultaneously.
“What really good leaders are able to do is inspire the rest of the team by their knowledge of the granular,” Partnoy says, “but also be able to step back from the granular and put together the tectonic pieces that need to be placed together.”
Thirty years of research into leadership yields impressive results–like The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, now in its fifth edition. Culled from decades of asking leaders what they’re doing when they’re in top form, the authors distill leadership to its essence.
“Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power,” they write. “You become more powerful when you give your own power away.”
Social media is a game changer, yes, but it’s only part of the larger shift of the Social Era, writes Nilofer Merchant. In our excerpt from 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, Nilofer sketches out the new paradigm’s core principles.
What’s at the center of the social era? Connections. “If the industrial era was about building things, the social era is about connecting things, people, and ideas,” she writes. “Networks of connected people with shared interests and goals create ways that can produce returns for any company that serves their needs.”