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Nine Books for Responsible Entrepreneurs to Read in 2013: to change how you think about business

Building an Entrepreneurial Mind through Reading

My list includes books on understanding yourself as an entrepreneur, your customers thinking and how the market works beyond what is visible.  None are written for business audiences exclusively, but have significant thinking to contribute. Only two are new, but the old ones lay a ground missing from some more popular ones. They are often focused on how to think about about very complex situations and how to be more systemic in thinking.


1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert Cialdini

We have been so brainwashed by the behaviorist we not longer understand how we can create influence.  Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.


2. The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion

Author John Hagel and co-authors first offer the obvious:  Information now flows like water, and we must learn how to tap into its stream. Individuals and companies can no longer rely on the stocks of knowledge that they’ve carefully built up and stored away. We must learn how to tap into the stream. But many of us remain stuck in old practices—practices that could undermine us as we search for success and meaning.

In this revolutionary book, Hagel et all, reveal the adjustments we must make if we take these changes seriously. In a world of increasing risk and opportunity, we must understand the importance of pull. Understood and used properly, the power of pull can draw out the best in people and institutions by connecting them in ways that increase understanding and effectiveness. Pull can turn uncertainty into opportunity, and enable small moves to achieve outsized impact.


3.The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

The Self-Developing Organizations I guide businesses in creating work from the same principles as offered here. If you cut off a spider?s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish?s leg it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but now starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world.

What’s the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women’s rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths?


4. False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World

by Alan Beattie

This book will rearrange most of what you know about how economics works. If you think you will ever be impacted by more than local (and you certainly will) read this book. It seems far fetched from first glance but it will make you better at strategy and product development. From a deep study of the fates of different countries, economies, and societies-why some fail and some succeed. Here, he weaves together elements of economics, history, politics, and human stories, revealing that societies, economies, and countries usually make concrete choices that determine their destinies. He opens up larger questions about these choices, and why countries make them or are driven to make them, and what those decisions can mean for the future of our global economy.

Economic history involves forcing together disciplines that fall naturally in different directions. False Economy explains how human beings have shaped their own fates, however unknowingly, and the conditions of the countries they call home. And though it is history, it does not end with the present day. Beattie shows how decisions that are being made now-which have either absorbed or failed to absorb the lessons from economic history-will determine what happens in the future.


5. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

by Daniel Pink

There are two books by Pink in this list. I think some of his ideas miss the mark, but mostly on how to implement his ideas to change things. He is a researcher and author, not a practitioner. He can be forgiven for that. But his research and theory is impeccable. His point in New Mind, is that the future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers-creative and holistic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.

Drawing on research from around the world, Pink outlines the six fundamentally human abilities that are absolute essentials for professional success and personal fulfillment-and reveals how to master them. A Whole New Mind takes readers to a daring new place, and a provocative and necessary new way of thinking about a future that’s already here.


6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Also by Daniel Pink, this one tears into the theory of motivation that has and still drives more organizations, education and even families. He firmely disprove it. I have been writing about this for twenty years and was delighted to see Pink give the research a national stage. He gets the implementation really wrong it this one. He suggests using “feedback” which is from even more mechanical paradigm. But he has not knowledge of a developmental paradigm. But the research in the first half of the book is exquisite.

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money–the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink. In this book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction–at work, at school, and at home–is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does-and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation–autonomy, mastery, and purpose–and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.


7. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

by Ori Brafman (of Starfish) and his brother, Rom Brafman

This books looks into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think and the way your position your offerings in the market.

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us).


8. The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It

by Joshua Cooper Ramo

This may seem an unlikely recommendation for business owners, particularly entrepreneurs. The importance of this book is how Ramo is thinking. Disorder exists in the business and economic world that entrepreneurs must navigate. His mind is amazing and entrepreneurial in how he looks at dynamics.

Ramo’s idea is that America is in great peril for its future. In The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo puts forth a revelatory new model for understanding our dangerously unpredictable world. Drawing upon history, economics, complexity theory, psychology, immunology, and the science of networks, he describes a new landscape of inherent unpredictability–and remarkable, wonderful possibility. And how to navigate it.


9. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

by Dan Tapscott

The initial book on teaching the world about the power of mass collaboration.  Wikinomics explains how mass collaboration is happening not just at Web sites like Wikipedia and YouTube, but at traditional companies that have embraced technology to breathe new life into their enterprises.

This book and Tapscott’s follow up book, Macrowikinomics, was the first to reveal the nuances that drive mass collaboration, and how masses of people (both paid and volunteer) are now creating TV news stories, sequencing the human gnome, remixing their favorite music, designing software, finding cures for diseases, editing school texts, inventing new cosmetics, and even building motorcycles.

Learn more about The Responsible Entrepreneur on a free tele seminar on Jan. 10th 2013.  Sign up here to participate or listen to the recorded call. It will focus on the six strategic questions that must be answered and how they must be, to succeed in business and have the platform to change the world. .

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3 Responses to Nine Books for Responsible Entrepreneurs to Read in 2013: to change how you think about business

  1. Annalie Killian December 20, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    Hey Carol, I am also enjoying Anti-Fragile by Nassim Thaleb. I really like his asymmetry of skin-in-the game vs soul-in-the-game vs no skin in the game whilst taking all the upside whilst transferring all the downside to another party or generation. In a way, Adam Smith’s notion of Limited Liability entity has saddled the planet with downside long after the upside was sucked out by irresponsible executives.

  2. Beth Tener December 20, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Great list, thanks. I also recommend Owning Our Future – Journeys to a Generative Economy by Marjorie Kelly. She offers an insightful analysis & “pattern language” for how to create business models/societies that enable self-organizing towards conditions that support life.

  3. Kevin Kauzlaric April 14, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Carol, I really like your #1 pick, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. I’ve used the lessons from that book many times over in my consulting work. Any entrepreneurial businessperson ought to know the 6 principles for persuading others. In addition to your list, I would recommend for businesspeople who want to be more responsible to check out the new book by John Mackey the CEO of Whole Foods. The book is called, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. The authors explain how to create value for all the stakeholders of a company, including customers, employees, suppliers, investors, society, and the environment.

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