The 2016 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards Shortlist
December 28, 2016
This week, we have a set of all the books on this year's 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards shortlist to give away.
We announced the 2016 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards Shortlist, made up what we've deemed the best book in each of our eight categories, on December 6th.
This week, we have a set of those eight books for one lucky winner. To learn more about the books that made the shortlist, check out what our editorial and review team wrote about them below.
From the Leadership & Strategy category:
Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways by William C. Taylor, Portfolio
“Standard operating procedure” used to be a valued organization-wide strategy for setting routine and insuring results, but times have changed, and Bill Taylor is our tour guide to companies around the globe that are doing business differently—and, yes, brilliantly. This is not a book about sweeping disruption. Instead, Taylor shines a light on the simple steps companies across many industries are taking to put their values to work and enrich the employee and/or customer experience. All it takes for you to do the same, Taylor asserts, is some imagination, some conviction, and a desire to subvert the status quo. Taylor is a natural storyteller comfortable with letting his protagonists—leaders who refuse to accept ‘business-as-usual’—drive his overall thesis that business brilliance is available to every organization and industry, and not the sole property of Silicon Valley startups.
From the Management & Workplace Culture category:
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Business School Press
Modern organizations face a particularly difficult challenge going forward, not just from competitors or advancing technology, or even the global marketplace, but also from a dual responsibility to grow the company as well as grow the people within the company. While some managers might grouse about the burden, in An Everyone Culture, Kegan and Lahey explain that helping people realize their maximum potential results in higher levels of performance and profitability. After all, most employees are working hard at hiding their deficiencies, so relieving them of that stress allows them to work more productively. The authors lay out the methods necessary to, and benefits derived from, designing a culture that integrates personal development in an organization’s everyday work. The valuable takeaway of this book is that company goals and people goals can become synergistic and satisfying.
Coming out of Marketing and Sales category:
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom, St. Martin's Press
Danish brand consultant Martin Lindstrom has made a career of noticing, of looking up from his screen and scouring his environment for hundreds of thousands of details that fly under the radar of today’s holy grail of big data. More of an ethnographic researcher than pure marketer, he gathers a wide range of clues—from refrigerator magnet arrangement and grocery lists to unused toy train sets and geographic patterns of diabetes—in service of understanding the unmet desires of customers. At a time when the crushing weight of digital tracking makes us feel like numbers and not people, Small Data reminds us that our individuality is still powerful and matters quite a deal to marketers, salespeople, and the world at large.
From the Innovation and Creativity category:
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, Riverhead Books
Steven Johnson's Wonderland is a natural follow-up to How We Got To Now, and it feeds that hunger I have for learning new and amazing things about our past, and how the connect to the world today. Johnson’s narrative leans more toward the story than the lessons learned, but the connections back to our work and life are everywhere in this book. It is a strong argument that play is just as much the mother of invention as necessity. We are moving into an age when things like fine art and gaming are becoming more integrated into our work than ever before, and Wonderland is showing us how, for centuries, entertainments like music and games and fashion to drive forward invention.
In the Personal Development & Human Behavior category:
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, Grand Central Publishing
We can’t ignore the fact that new technologies, workplace realities, media environments, and news cycles are having an extreme effect on people’s attention, behaviors, and daily practices. An overwhelming amount of people are looking for ways to dig deeper, asking what they can do to get more engaged with their work or more involved in causes to aid their fellow human beings, and yet find themselves stuck filtering through the internet and their social media channels, lost in a vast sea of noise. In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author Cal Newport provides extremely valuable insight on developing a deep work ethic to help navigate through the noise, find your purpose, and achieve the goals you care about, but that seem so often impossible to reach. In a climate where distractions are ever present and around every corner, Newport provides actionable ideas to increase concentration and focus to accomplish what he calls "high-priority, high-payoff" work. For anyone passionate about something that seems just a bit out of reach, or intensely intimidating to tackle, Deep Work is the roadmap to help bring those ambitions into better focus and make them a reality.
Emerging from the Current Events & Public Affairs category:
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, Crown
Matthew Desmond’s fourth book is a powerful exposé of the real estate industry in the inner city, focusing on one critically important and, until now, largely overlooked issue: eviction. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a deep and devastating examination of the lives on the front lines of this economic reality—both the tenants being evicted, and the landlords evicting them. Winding its way through the courts, sheriffs department, social services, and even moving companies involved in the process, it contains a thick description of people clinging to “the margins of society” in an American city (our home city of Milwaukee), desperately trying not to fall off. Desmond's book is storytelling at its finest, if most bleak, showing us with learned precision and clarity how eviction is not just a result or condition of poverty, but one of its primary causes.
From the Narrative & Biography category:
Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation by Edward Humes, Harper
Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes takes up the story of modern transportation in Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation. Humes reverse engineers the story of our modern supply chain and transportation infrastructure by walking us through a day in the life of his family and tracing the products they use—from the iPhone to a morning cup of coffee—back to their source, and describing in detail the fantastic and complicated journey they take to arrive at their door. A deep immersion into issues ranging from traffic on America’s freeways and at its ports and airports, to the perfect recyclability of aluminum cans, it is a history of industry and an exploration of the trends shaping our transportation future. What it reveals is that, for all the recent advances in digital technology and communication and the attention they receive, it is our modern transportation infrastructure that has changed our lives and businesses more than anything else.
And, finally, from the Big Ideas & New Perspectives category:
What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet, Belknap Press
Iris Bohnet’s book presents perhaps the most comprehensive roadmap ever written to making equality in the workplace a reality. In What Works, Bohnet acknowledges that we must continue to chisel away at overtly discriminatory behavior facing women and minorities, but writes that real change will happen only when we systematically design against subconscious biases. Bohnet spends significant time identifying and explaining these subconscious biases, not only in our structures, but in ourselves. Using multiple research studies, she describes the ways in which our decision-making is hindered by our habits, and how—if we design strategies to circumvent our biases or remap our brains—we can remove any detrimental defensiveness out of the effort and instead follow a plan.
It's true that What Works is a complicated book. Not because Bohnet isn’t a clear writer—she is both precise and engaging—and not because the methodology she presents is particularly daunting in terms of execution. It’s complicated because gender equality is complicated, especially if we want to make sure we don’t resort to knee-jerk name-calling or victim-blaming. It’s complicated because we simply aren’t aware of all the ways in which we are biased. (And, it’s to Bohnet’s credit that she doesn’t lose sight of other minorities who face similar and/or additional disadvantages and ages-old biases despite her focus on gender.)
Like I said, this is going to be hard as all get out to enact and execute, because not only does the power structure have to become self-aware, we the people who want to fight for change also have deeply entrenched biases that have to be confronted.