The year 2004 was an inflection point for global businesses, as the first tough years of the 21st century finally gave way to a welcome surge in profits, cash flow, and market value. Executives are once again focused on growth and innovation, although their optimism is tempered by the grim news of continuing war, rocketing energy prices, and slow job growth. That sober optimism is reflected in strategy+business's fourth annual survey of the year's best business books.
As in prior years, we've invited noted business practitioners, scholars, and journalists to select and judge the most significant and useful books in their areas of expertise. While this approach is admittedly subjective, we believe the books our contributors have selected are the ones most likely to prove stimulating and insightful for s+b readers.
Some of the essays that follow are on subjects of perennial interest to executives. Strategy experts Chuck Lucier and Jan Dyer, for instance, see the outlines in this year's books of a new framework for viewing corporate strategy. They consider their top choice -- Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan -- to be "the best description we've seen of how real-world managers develop integrated strategies." Recommended in the "Leadership" category is Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Why a book about a politician who died 200 years ago? Because, as Bruce A. Pasternack and James O'Toole write, "there is a useful leadership lesson on almost every page of this remarkable biography."
Other essays examine books in behavioral economics, IT and innovation, change management, consumerism, and the Internet bubble (yes, there was an upside, writes former IBM VP John R. Patrick). Our 12 essayists review 35 books in all, and we think you'll agree that they constitute a thought-provoking cross-section of the best thinking about business today.
by Chuck Lucier and Jan Dyer
by David K. Hurst
IT & Innovation
by Steve Lohr
by Bruce A. Pasternack and James O'Toole
by Frances Cairncross
by John Jones and Elizabeth Powers
by John R. Patrick
by Diane Coyle
The New Consumer
by Kate Jennings