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Rethink your business strategy with help from these books

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Now that you know what books will help you set the fundamentals for strategic thinking, let’s get into specifics. The titles listed below are some of the most recommended books by CEOs all over the world. They’ll challenge the strategy you had for your business and make you rethink every principle.

Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

In the introduction for an interview he had with the authors of “Blue Ocean Strategy”, Ryan Holiday wrote that: “I don’t remember who originally told me to read Blue Ocean Strategy but I’m glad they did because this simple recommendation would substantially shape the course of my life and my career“.

I second that. It’s one of those must-read books that will challenge everything you thought you knew about competition.

The idea behind the blue ocean strategy is simple: instead of competing in an overcrowded industry, fighting over a shrinking profit pool (a red ocean), you should focus on creating your own market (a new blue ocean).

This book comes with tens of cases of strategic moves from organizations that are active in multiple industries, over a time span of 100 years. It will also present you a systematic approach for making the competition irrelevant.

Its authors are Professors of Strategy at INSEAD and co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute. Kim and Mauborgne rank in the top 3 management gurus in the world and are the recipients of numerous academic and management awards around the world. Kim is an advisor to several countries, and Mauborgne served as a member of President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the President’s two terms.

The Innovator's Dilemma When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail Management of Innovation and Change - Clayton Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail – Clayton Christensen

This is one of the most recommended books from our website. Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are among the ones who were influenced by it in their business approach.

Clayton Christensen, a legendary Harvard Business School professor, defined “disruptive innovation” through this book. He shows how even the most successful companies can do everything right, yet still lose market leadership because they ignored the waves of innovation.

This book will offer you both failure and success examples as a guide, together with a set of rules for how to capitalize on disruptive innovation.

Vladimir Oane, Founder of UberVU, said that “Clayton’s book not only defined “disruption” (a word that is still abused by journalists to this date) but it introduced me to strategic thinking. When I read the book I probably missed a lot of the nuances around corporate politics, as I barely had any work (or life) experiences. But I keep re-reading it from time to time and always find new insights.

Only the Paranoid Survive – Andrew S. Grove

Another book recommended by Steve Jobs, who said that: “This book is about one super-important concept. You must learn about Strategic Inflection Points, because sooner or later you are going to live through one“.

Under Andy Grove’s leadership, Intel became the world’s largest chip maker in the world. In this book, he reveals his strategy of focusing on a new way of measuring the nightmare moment every leader dreads: when massive change occurs and a company must adapt or risk to disappear.

Andrew S. Grove participated in the founding of Intel, and became its president in 1979 and CEO in 1987. In 1998, he stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of Intel, but continues as chairman of the board. He also teaches at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

The Strategy Paradox – Michael E. Raynor

“We tend to wrongly think that strategy is about coming up with a genius plan and then committing to it. In fact, this is often a recipe for disaster, particularly in business. Though success often requires a total investment in a particular strategy, this is also the recipe for extreme failure. It’s a paradox. Michael Raynor’s book has important thoughts on this inherent paradox as well as approaches for mitigating and avoiding it.”

“The Strategy Paradox” is one of the books recommended by Ryan Holiday (the quote above belongs to him). It explains how leaders can break this trade-off and achieve results.

Some of the principles you’ll encounter in it:

– The Board should not evaluate the CEO based on the company’s performance, but instead on the firm’s strategic risk profile.
– The CEO should not drive results, but manage uncertainty.
– Business unit leaders should not focus on execution, but on making strategic choices.
– Line managers should not worry about strategic risk, but devote themselves to delivering on commitments.

Michael E. Raynor is a director at Deloitte Services LP. In his research and client work he explores corporate strategy, innovation, and growth across a wide variety of industries.

Playing to Win How Strategy Really Works - A. G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works – A. G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin

Two of today’s best-known business thinkers get to the heart of strategy, by explaining what it’s for, how to think about it, why you need it, and how to get it done.

This book was recommended by Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, who said that:
The entire company has organized around “Playing to Win” […]. Listen, there are many ways to deploy strategy in companies. This is one I found to be particularly helpful because organizations have a lot of trouble making decisions, particularly at our scale. So this notion of where to play, what countries, what market segments, what products, and where not to play because we can’t do it profitably, has been a very good discipline. … And then once you determine where you’re going to play, how to win. That is through a combination of where you are going to excel versus competitors. It’s actually been a really good common framework that we can apply across HP. It’s easily understandable and actually forces the tough trade-offs.

A.G. Lafley was CEO, President and Chairman of Procter & Gamble. Under Lafley’s leadership, together with strategic adviser Roger Martin, P&G’s sales doubled, its profits quadrupled, its market value increased by more than $100 billion, and its portfolio of billion-dollar brands grew from 10 to 24 as a result of his focus on winning strategic choices, consumer-driven innovation, and reliable, sustainable growth.

Roger Martin is Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and an adviser to CEOs on strategy, design, innovation, and integrative thinking.

Drawn from their years of experience, this book shows how leaders in organizations of all sizes can guide everyday actions with larger strategic goals built around the clear, essential elements that determine business success—where to play and how to win.

The E-Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber

This was one of the books that made Tim Ferriss ask himself some questions that dramatically changed his life.

“The E-Myth” will make you think differently about your business. By distinguishing between being a self employed and a business owner, he’ll guide you through all the stages of running a business.

Michael E. Gerber started over 40 years ago addressing a significant need in the small business market: businesses owned primarily by people with technical skills but few business skills, and no place to go to get meaningful help. Over the years, his companies have helped tens of thousands of small business owner-clients to successfully transform their businesses into world-class operations.

Is there a book that we missed and you strongly feel like it should be on this list? Or just wanna chat about books? Drop us a line! We don’t bite. 🙂

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