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The 2015 Business Book Awards

How to Fly a Horse will leave a positive, lasting impact on the life of a lone creative striver, on the thinking of the most traditional business practitioner, and on everyone in-between. Because of that, we believe it also will have a great impact on the lives of organizations large and small.

The speed at which the modern business world changes demands creativity at every level, and this book’s broad content reassures business leaders and on-the-ground workers alike that new ideas can be found and progress created, as long as the hard yards are put in at all levels. Ashton affirms that:

The human race’s creative power is distributed in all of us, not concentrated in some of us. Our creations are too great and too numerous to come from a few steps by a few people. They must come from many steps by many people. Invention is incremental—a series of slight and constant changes. Some changes open doors to new worlds of opportunity and we call them breakthroughs. Others are marginal. But when we look carefully, we will always find one small change leading to another sometimes within one mind, often among several, sometimes across continents or between generations, sometimes taking hours or days and occasionally centuries, the baton of innovation passing in an endless relay of renewal.

Throughout How to Fly a Horse, Kevin Ashton marries history with modern innovation, fact with inspiration, making his book a joy to read and exemplary story-telling at its finest.

Category Winner

General Business

We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business by Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker | AMACOM Books

We Are Market Basket is the story with a little bit of everything. It’s a great company history and narrative, a good management primer, the story of a family power struggle, and a battle between two visions of American Capitalism. It is a story so idealistic that it’s hard to believe it is realistic—that it really happened. It is the story of Market Basket employees striking and Market Basket customers boycotting the store until a popular CEO and the business model he represented and fought for were reinstated. Tell me, how many stories have you heard of people protesting in favor of a CEO? the very foundations and philosophy of free enterprise.

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Category Winner

Leadership & Management

Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia | Portfolio

I use Post-it tabs when I’m reading to flag ideas I want to revisit later. In the case of Everybody Matters, I loaded up the entire book with them. Its management advice seemed tailor-fit for our small company, despite the fact that the book was written by the CEO of an enormous manufacturing company—an affirmation of author Bob Chapman’s humanistic approach to leadership. “The machinery we build is just the economic engine that enables us to touch lives,” Chapman says. “The flourishing of those lives is our paramount concern.” We believe this focus can and should be applied to every company of every size, a task made easier with Chapman’s book at hand.

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Category Winner

Marketing

The Compass and The Nail: How the Patagonia Model of Loyalty Can Save Your Business, and Might Just Save the Planet by Craig Wilson | Rare Bird Books

Is the bottom line really the bottom line? Not always. Companies in the “responsible economy” measure more than just cash flow to determine their success and more than number of purchases to determine their customer loyalty. Patagonia is one of those companies, and Craig Wilson spearheaded their multi-channel marketing efforts for nearly a decade. If you are looking for long-lasting love and not just a one-off purchase from your customer base, you can find Wilson’s brand loyalty secrets in his first book, The Compass and The Nail.

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Category Winner

Sales

The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business by 15% in 15 Minutes Per Day by Alex Goldfayn | Wiley

As a very busy sales person, I really appreciated the simple applicability that Alex Goldfayn brings to the world of often complex sales literature. This book is laid out in very short chapters, with digestible, immediately actionable tips for how we can be better at everything we do. Alex isn't preaching anything we didn't already know, but he reminds us of these simple tasks and lays out how to best experiment with and test them, find the ones that work and have tangible results for us, while eliminating the ones that don’t and our excuses for not doing the ones that do.

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Category Winner

Entrepreneurship

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business by Paul Downs | Blue Rider Press

Paul Downs' book is refreshing (to say the least), in that Downs doesn't pretend he has a blueprint for small business success. Rather, he painstakingly walks readers through actual experiences running his custom furniture business, revealing what too many business books gloss over: running and growing a small business is really, really hard, full of gut-wrenching decisions, and littered with frustrating mistakes. Aspiring and acting entrepreneurs will glean lessons from these stories—both the failures and successes—but the real power of Boss Life is that it mirrors not only IPO chasing, start-up entrepreneurs, but the experience of millions of everyday business owners looking for and working hard to build a solid life for themselves and their employees.

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Category Winner

Personal Development

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle | Penguin Press

Reclaiming Conversation wasn’t a book we expected to see in the personal development category, but this very sophisticated look at conversation in the digital age quickly rose to the top of this year’s awards. Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle finds that electronic devices have come to dictate how humans interact and that it has compromised our ability to truly relate to and empathize with one another. Ironically, it seems being constantly connected online is degrading our ability to connect in real life. This compelling book urges the reader to embrace the intimacy of face-to-face communication and reclaim it as a real means of connection.

Category Winner

Innovation & Creativity

How to Fly A Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton | Doubleday

It can be refreshing to take a break from the books in celebration of the rogue genius. The outstanding narratives like that of Jobs tend to mislead us into thinking of creation as a practice reserved for an elite few. How to Fly A Horse is the smelling salt to your fantasies of genius creativity. Kevin Ashton cites examples spanning centuries and demonstrating the intense collaborative nature of creation. In an age of increasing inequality of all stripes, it is refreshing to have this well-researched reminder that our world is pushed forward not by a few geniuses but by millions of hard-working people.

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Category Winner

Finance & Economics

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve by Roger Lowenstein | Penguin Press

America’s Bank is the genesis story of the Federal Reserve. And the fact that about half the people reading this will scoff at the mention of our national bank shows exactly why Roger Lowenstein’s history of the bank’s creation is so informative and important to the conversation today. Lowenstein’s tale weaves through the rise and fall of our first two national banks, the monetary dysfunction and uneven financial prospects of America as a young nation without a central bank, even as it rose as an industrial power, and leads us into the high drama and fascinating characters involved in creating the bank we know today. It is, as I wrote in an earlier review of the book, drama worthy of an original HBO series and yet demonstrates practical politics at its best.

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