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Highlights from the Decade

strategy+business published its first “Best Business Books” section in Winter 2001. Here, in retrospect, is the book from each year that we think was most significant.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins (HarperBusiness). Although some of the 11 companies that Collins held up as paragons of achievement have since faltered, his ambitious research effort and aspirational principles, including the concept of the Level 5 Leader, set high-water marks for business thinkers.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan (Crown Business). A successful CEO and a celebrated executive advisor teamed up to remind us that the quality of execution makes or breaks a strategy, and ended up defining the corporate zeitgeist after the dot-com meltdown.

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround, by Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (HarperBusiness). Gertsner’s memoir raised plainspoken and enduring principles beyond platitudes by spelling out what they meant in practice, as well as the pain and the weight of the decisions they demanded.

Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds, by Howard Gardner (Harvard Business School Press). This MacArthur Prize recipient applied his theory of multiple intelligences to come up with six levers for crafting messages compelling enough to drive organizational change.

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, by C.K. Prahalad (Wharton School Publishing). Prahalad’s eye-opening analysis of the business opportunities among the planet’s billions of poor people changed the way corporations thought about emerging economies.

Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton (Harvard Business School Press). By explaining the causes of common managerial errors (casual benchmarking, repeating what worked in the past, and following unexamined ideologies), Pfeffer and Sutton pointed the way to better decision making.

Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, by Thomas K. McCraw (Belknap Press). McGraw’s exemplary biography of Schumpeter explored ideas about the inherent instability of capitalism, the impact of new technologies, and dynamics of the corporate life cycle that are as relevant today as they were in the 1940s.

Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter, by Pankaj Ghemawat (Harvard Business School Press). Ghemawat provided a much-needed antidote to the simplistic flat-world vision of globalization with his complex and nuanced view of the many differences between cultures and markets that executives must consider as they roll out their business around the world.

Managing, by Henry Mintzberg (Berrett-Koehler). The iconoclastic Canadian professor made the best case of his career for a more holistic, humane view of managing, which he convincingly declares is as much art as science.

Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance, by Boris Groysberg (Princeton University Press). Anytime we get too enamored of the “great man” theory of leadership we should turn back to Groysberg, who shows how capabilities can be developed within the context of an organization.

— Theodore Kinni

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