In 2001, when strategy+business first published this now-annual review of best business books, we knew we had a tough audience to please. Indeed, as leadership scholar James O’Toole notes in one of the following reviews, a recent New York Times article about the reading habits of successful business leaders found that they read everything but business and management books.
So every year, we look for nominees in unexpected places. We carefully select reviewers, like O’Toole, who have a wide range of experiences and perspectives, who are willing to look far and wide for the ideas and stories that executives will find most relevant to their work and their thinking.
One theme running through all the essays this year is the presence and power of human behavior in business, especially in the executive suite. Economist Diane Coyle notes that the subject of her choice for the best book on capitalism — the infamous economist Joseph Schumpeter — appreciated that the economy represents “a human order with social, political, and cultural implications.” Futurist Howard Rheingold selected three books this year on behavioral theory. They present provocative views on the ways in which network information technologies — the Internet, mobile phones, PDAs, and the like — are changing the behaviors of billions of people around the world. In reviewing the best books on human capital, R. Gopalakrishnan, executive director of the Indian multinational Tata Sons, deftly relates his observations to his own experiences managing people and watching others do it, too. MIT’s Michael Schrage and journalist Tom Ehrenfeld highlight the importance of humility to innovation and entrepreneurship, respectively. The essay by science and health-care expert Joe Flower exposes the human hopes and fears raised by the risky business of biotechnology.
Of course, our list of the year’s best business books is not complete without a selection on strategy and competition. This year, David Newkirk — the head of executive education at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business — has selected five of the best guides in print for helping executives redirect their companies in an ever-changing world.
Illustrations by Philippe Weisbecker
Reprint No. 07408