Books

John Con­nolly on the five best busi­ness books of the past 2500 years

The Australian - The Deal - - News - John Con­nolly jc@jcp.com.au

You spend a lot of money buy­ing busi­ness books, look­ing for that sil­ver bul­let to help you stay in busi­ness, or in a job, or both.

The truth is that a few busi­ness books have one good idea and many of the most pop­u­lar ones have lots of bad ideas. To­day we save you hun­dreds of dol­lars and hours of read­ing time, with our bluffer’s guide to five of the-big­gest sell­ing busi­ness books of the past few mil­len­nia.

The Art of War

Sun Tzu (5th cen­tury BC)

Any book rec­om­mended by Mao Ze­dong and Tony So­prano has to be a must-read. We haven’t got Mao’s re­view but Tony says: “I mean, here is this guy, a Chi­nese gen­eral, wrote this thing 2400 years ago, and most of it still ap­plies to­day! You know most of the guys that I know they read Prince Machi­avelli, and I had Carmela go and get the Cliff-Notes [study guide] once and … he’s okay. But this book is much bet­ter about strat­egy”. Buy The Art of Strat­egy, a new trans­la­tion (2000), by RL Wing, for an eas­ier read.

The Prince

Nic­colò Machi­avelli (1532)

The founders of the Amer­i­can rev­o­lu­tion, Mafia boss John Gotti (the real Tony So­prano) and JR Ewing all loved Nick’s book. Its pop­u­lar­ity is sur­pris­ing given Nick was a mi­nor Floren­tine of­fi­cial who was un­em­ployed when he wrote The Prince. Ba­si­cally, Nick says when you take over as CEO, do the big write-downs and nasty stuff straight away, ap­point ex­ec­u­tives who will tell you the truth rather than suck up. And in your “pri­vate deal­ings with your em­ploy­ees show that your judg­ments are ir­rev­o­ca­ble”.

The Wealth of Na­tions

Adam Smith (1776)

Adam looked like Marty Feld­man, tu­tored in proper Pol­ish, went to univer­sity at 14 and lived with his mother most of the time. No need to read his long book be­cause the mes­sage for man­agers is: ev­ery­one acts in their own self-in­ter­est (so tell your em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers what’s in it for them) and for those push­ing for coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tions – spe­cial­ists out­per­form gen­er­al­ists.

Busi­ness Ad­ven­tures

John Brooks (1969)

A New Yorker writer, John put to­gether a col­lec­tion of busi­ness sto­ries from the 1950s and 1960s that has be­come one of both War­ren Buf­fett’s and Bill Gates’ most cher­ished books. As Gatesy says: “Brooks’ work is a great re­minder that the rules for run­ning a strong busi­ness and cre­at­ing value haven’t changed. For one thing, there’s an es­sen­tial hu­man fac­tor in ev­ery busi­ness en­deav­our. It doesn’t mat­ter if you have a per­fect prod­uct, pro­duc­tion plan and mar­ket­ing pitch; you’ll still need the right peo­ple.”

The Halo Ef­fect ... and the Eight Other Busi­ness Delu­sions that De­ceive Man­agers

Phil Rosen­zweig (2007)

Black Swan au­thor Nas­sim Ni­cholas Taleb calls this book “one of the most im­por­tant man­age­ment books of all time”. If you only read one of th­ese books in its en­tirety, this should be it. As Phil says: “When a com­pany’s sales and prof­its are up, peo­ple of­ten con­clude that it has a bril­liant strat­egy, a vi­sion­ary leader, ca­pa­ble em­ploy­ees and a su­perb cor­po­rate cul­ture. When per­for­mance fal­ters, they con­clude that the strat­egy was wrong, the leader be­came ar­ro­gant, the peo­ple were com­pla­cent and the cul­ture was stag­nant. In fact, lit­tle may have changed – com­pany per­for­mance creates a halo that shapes the way we per­ceive strat­egy, lead­er­ship, peo­ple, cul­ture and more.” Bot­tom line: “The driv­ers of high per­for­mance are sound strate­gic choice and rig­or­ous ex­e­cu­tion.”

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