Top-Drawer Business Books 2014

Welcome to the 7th edition of Top-Drawer Business Books. The listing’s tongue-in-cheek title describes books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. In short, books that are excellent and should be kept within easy reach for repeated reference.

The Top-Drawer list has always been less than traditional (or duplicative). Too many of the other best business book lists are narrow in definition and focus. As Robert Weider said, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” That is why this list includes books not categorized as “business”.

There are no shortcuts or magic panaceas in business. We have to do the work even when reading, as John Locke stated, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” This list is built on that premise. We avoid books promising four-hour work weeks because they are fables, how-to books that are vacuous and dangerous, and the content of so-called inspirational works that are trite, ineffectual and soon tossed out when met with the blunt adversities found in actual commerce.

Life is too short to drink cheap scotch and to read books that are not ‘Top-Drawer’. This year just 9 made our list appearing in no particular order. Enjoy!

Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise by J.C. Spender

00287aIt is difficult to find a book that splendidly marries theory and practical application. Spender’s attempt falls a bit short and leans more towards theory but that is just fine as long as the reader can apply it to their own situation. The author challenges us to embrace uncertainties and create systems and processes to leverage them. This is how innovation truly comes about. As a bonus, Spender showcases the leading strategy tools employed by consultants and academics.

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson’s last effort was a biography of Steve Jobs. His latest is a meaty and deeply satisfying 560 page history. It takes us back to Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine to Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park and to Tim Berners-Lee and the birth of the World Wide Web. Throughout he reveals the talents that allowed inventors and entrepreneurs to disrupt technology and society. Isaacson explores why some succeed and some fail. There is an engaging thread throughout the historical narrative that is highly relevant to today. Read more

Social Media’s Inaccurate Stereotype?

Let me start with a confession. I am on Facebook. I know, not much of a startling revelation. It is a confession only because so many in my peer group pride themselves on not being on Facebook. Regardless of your opinion of the social network, one must acknowledge their success. As of the third quarter of 2014, Facebook reported 1.35 billion monthly active users. According to Emarketer, this global Facebook population is 53% female and 47% male.

In my Facebook newsfeed it has long seemed that my female friends post more, more often. This led to some highly nonscientific research. Out of my 381 friends (the average Facebook user has 350) just over one hundred of them are female. A rough count of recent postings revealed that my smaller number of female friends were responsible for over 70% of the content in my newsfeed. A quick review of real research normalized and supported my elementary findings.

Rapleaf studied the habits of 13.2 million people on social media. While figures indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, the findings showed that women far outpace men in actual activity. BrianSolis.com and Google Ad when-you-dont-go-on-facebook-for-a-weekPlanner have reported similar findings. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, says women on Facebook have 8% more friends and participate in 62% of the sharing. Women upload more photos, create more status updates, and provide more information about themselves.

Forbes reports that women now average 11 updates a week on Facebook while men provide 5 (this seems awfully low based on what I witness in my newsfeed). A study conducted by The University of Boulder showed that women posted on Facebook 98 times compared to men who posted 32 times (for the period studied). As imbalanced as all this may appear, it is more equitable than Pinterest where over 80% of the users are female and account for 94% of all activity. Women tweet more frequently too as they make up 62% of active users on Twitter. Read more