Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 2, 2010 6:14 AM

10 Best Books For Back To School Business Reading

It's back-to-school week... what are you planning on learning this year?

The other morning, I watched the pitter-patter of feet drag their way back to school. The brand-new schoolbags scratched by the pavement, the half-tied shoelaces, and the general sluggish malaise can be best summed up in three words every child despises: "Back to school." Many professionals give off that same sluggish malaise every Monday morning as they wrestle their way through rush-hour traffic to make it to the office while daydreaming about the chance to go back in time and spend the day at school, learning, kicking the empty drinking boxes around the schoolyard - and, lest we forget, the two-month summer break.

Most people leave university with a degree and do not look back.

Some pick up a non-fiction business book here and there, but most would rather spend their free time away from the office in front of the television watching 30 Rock or surfing the Web for LOLcats. Beyond heading down to your favorite bookstore, it has never been easier to read and learn from some of the great business books out there. Amazon just released its latest version of the Kindle, the iPad is amazing for books, but (as I am learning) nothing beats having multiple iPhone apps that allow you to download and read books on both the iPhone and the iPad (I'm currently running the Kindle, iBooks and Kobo apps.)

In the spirit of everybody heading back to school this week (and, yes, we're talking about you, too!), here are 10 recently released business books to get you back in learning mode (in alphabetical order):

  1. Brains on Fire - Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church and Spike Jones (Wiley). If you don't follow Spike Jones on Twitter (@spikejones), you should. Brains on Fire looks at word-of-mouth marketing in the social media generation. This clearly written (and fun) book breaks through the clutter of mass media and helps businesses understand the value of one consumer and how he or she can tell your story for you.
  2. Business Model Generation - A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur and more (Wiley). This features perhaps one of the most beautiful layouts for a business book. With more than 35 contributors, this is more of a roadmap than a textbook that looks at how business models are created, and how to free your organization from linear and traditional thinking.
  3. Extra Lives - Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell (Pantheon). You're going to think very differently of your kids if all they do all day long is play xBox. After reading this book, you may wind up joining them. It turns out some our greatest leaders in the future may well be the hardcore gamers of today.
  4. The Future Arrived Yesterday - The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What it Means for You by Michael Malone (Crown Business). The virtualization of the corporation is a reality. In other words, you may not be working from a cubicle for much longer, as wireless technology and more portable computing devices flood the marketplace. What does this mean for business? Read this book and find out, because, trust me, you don't want to be the last person standing without a chair in this very real game of musical chairs.
  5. Macrowikinomics - Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams (Portfolio). Even though this book is slated to come out only next month, the buzz is high for the follow-up to the best-selling Wikinomics. In Macrowikinomics, Tapscott and Williams look at the new business models and social innovations from companies that are leveraging our new digital tools, channels and platforms to make the world a more prosperous and sustainable place.
  6. Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead - What Every Business Can Learn From the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan (Wiley). While it may not be a great idea to drink the green Kool-Aid at the corporate picnic, it turns out there are many lessons businesses can learn from how the legendary rock band built its audience, changed its business model and turned people from reasonable human beings into diehard Deadheads.
  7. MicroMarketing - Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small by Greg Verdino (McGraw-Hill). Marketing seems to be about "the big idea" (just watch an episode of Mad Men), but maybe the real winners are the companies who think small. Verdino is on to something with his first book, which looks at the many little things that take a great brand from here to there.
  8. Open Leadership - How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li (Jossey-Bass). Li's first book, Groundswell, put hard data against the power of online social networks and social media. In her second book, she looks at what it takes for a corporation to maintain control of the brand (both internally and externally) by leveraging social technologies to open up and transform the organization from within.
  9. The Referral Engine - Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch (Portfolio). Jantsch is the champion of small businesses. His first book (named after his successful blog and podcast, Duct Tape Marketing) helped companies enjoy a champagne marketing experience on a beer budget. In his latest, he helps us understand that importance of referrals and word of mouth as the primary business driver before mass media advertising and PR.
  10. The Upside of Irrationality - The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely (HarperCollins). If you ever wondered why large bonuses make CEOs less productive or why revenge is so important to us as human beings, then Ariely's second foray into behavioral economics is the perfect fare. The author of Predictably Irrational is back with another thought-provoking book that includes humor and insights that will make you the highlight of the next networking event you attend.

Don't forget what Mark Twain said: "I've never let my schooling interfere with my education."

Which recently released books are on your back-to-school reading list? Please share with the rest of the class...

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

By Mitch Joel