Last week I issued a challenge. I wrote:
"I have come to the conclusion that most (maybe all) business and strategy books are useless. They over-generalize. They offer little value. I go in with such high expectations, based on reviews and descriptions, and am almost universally disappointed."
"If there are business and strategy books that really are worth reading, I want to build a library of them — and begin to hand them out to people who I work with, work for, and provide advice to. I know the value that books can provide in helping to shape people's thinking and support their intellectual development. I just haven't found any business books that provide that kind of value."
Here are some of the responses that I have received so far:
- Lukas Peyer suggested Strategy Bites Back by Henry Mintzberg, adding "Its full with stories - one to a few pages long - looking at strategy from different and unusual angles. It is funny, thought-provoking and not edifying at all."
- Steven Devijver suggested two books: "The Responsibility Virus" by Roger Martinand and "A Strategy of Constant Change" (which he wrote, and offers as a free ebook).
- Roni Turner nominated Passion vs. Pension by Colin Turner.
- Mike Duley offered that "Flawless Consulting" by Peter Block was "among my "within reach" books that works for taking your team to the next level."
- Holly Jocoy suggested "The Publicity Handbook" by David Yale and Andrew Carothers — and then added separately, "I think strategy books need to have actual examples that people can "crib" from. Otherwise, book may as well be a coaster 4 cups."
Further, my friend Brad Berens promoted the challenge on his blog, MediaVorous, and on his blog at iMedia Connection (he also created a hashtag on Twitter: #bizstratbooks). He has received some pretty interesting responses, including this analysis of business and strategy books more broadly by Don E. Schultz of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and Agora, Inc. Thanks Brad, and Don.
I am very pleased with the response so far — I have about a dozen books on my list (I will post the full list later) and have begun to pursue copies so I can read and review them all myself. I will begin posting my comments here, and on other blogs and sites where I contribute, soon. My expectations remain low, but the fact that people would offer suggestions of books that they have personally used, and benefited from, gives me some hope that good business and strategy books do exist.
At the same time, I am surprised that only a handful of authors, publishers, or people in the book industry responded. Its possible they didn't hear about my challenge. Its also possible that the authors, publishers, and people in the book industry who deal with business and strategy writing realize that few, if any, of the books they produce are really adding value to the discusison. As I think about it, maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I haven't heard from book people.
Keep sending your suggestions, comments, and ideas — if you have a must-read book or author, I want to hear about it. And if you have thoughts or experiences with any of the books on the list so far, let me know.
The challenge goes on.