Best Business Reads of 2021

As part our Christmas event in the RDS. Frank Dillon, business book reviewer with The Irish Times, recently gave us his list of favourite business books of 2021:

The Invincible company by Alex Osterwalder et al: The latest from the inventor of the business model canvas summarises his key ideas on innovation. In an attractively presented and easily accessible volume with a rich collection of potted case studies, this book looks at the balance between exploiting existing business models and exploring new models in order to avoid disruption and ensure longevity.

Net positive by Paul Polman: A timely and inspiring book on sustainability written by Polman, the widely lauded former CEO of Unilever who set the global FMCG company onto a more enlightened path while simultaneously increasing is profits in his decade in charge. He says Net Zero isn’t ambitious enough now. Companies need to give back to the planet more than they take from it and in this way will earn the respect of consumers while also carving out a sustainable profitable future for themselves.

Glass half-empty by Colleen Ammerman: Sub-titled ‘Shattering the barriers that still hold women back at work,’ this book focuses on why so few women make into the top layers of power in organisations. Rather than focussing on what women should do such as ‘lean in’ etc, this book by the Director of the Harvard Business School Gender Initiative looks at the organisational practices and culture that creates barriers for women to succeed and offers practical solutions to overcome these issues.

Winning now, winning later by David Cote: An enlightening story of corporate turnaround by the former CEO of US conglomerate Honeywell. Cote reversed the fortunes of this ailing firm when he took over as CEO in 2002. Reflecting his own no-nonsense tough style, the book explores how he challenged in-grained bad practices in the organisation. Short-termism is rampant in organisations, he says, and he outlines 10 principles to achieve success over both short and long-term horizons.

What’s your problem by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg: Sub-titled ‘to solve your toughest problems, change the problems you solve’, the key idea of this book is that too often we rush into solutions mode in addressing problems, rather than stepping back to see what the real problem might be. Mixing psychology research with his experience as a business consultant, the author explains how to master re-framing, which can be used on both everyday problems and complex issues.

Rethinking competitive advantage by Ram Charan: Old ways of building moats to fend off competition don’t work, says he legendary management thinker here. In the digital age, companies succeed through a combination of building powerful algorithms and having a relentless focus on delighting end customers as in the case of Amazon and Alibaba. The good news is that small businesses can do this too if they learn the lessons he explains in this thoughtful book.