It is rare that I find one great business book each year – a number of good ones maybe, and a lot of drivel and hype, the management fad of the day.  Even awful ones by top professors and deans at the top MBA schools, who often have little or no historical or contextual perspective outside their own narrow studies or those of their predecessors.  In recent years, The Innovator’s DNA stands out as a winner, one of the best books ever written on the secrets to innovative thinking.

Last week I got two books which stand well above the crowd:

The Sharing Economy by Arun Sundararajan stands head and shoulders above most of the new books pouring out about the sharing economy, multi-sided markets (like eBay, Airbnb, and Uber), and “platforms” (under varied definitions).  Without overhyping this emerging trend, the author covers many examples from across the industrial spectrum.  He clearly analyzes the nature of the varieties of sharing and markets at work, something that is difficult to find elsewhere.  I also found the book engaging and well-written, too often a novelty in business books.  His publisher the MIT Press continues a long tradition of high standards, both scholarly and practical.

The Business Model Navigator by Oliver Gassmann, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik is what I call a “catalog,” which I love.  A catalog is a reference book, listing a slew of different things or ideas; though the best ones, like this one, are still fun and easy to read.  While it is a herculean task to try to define all the possible business models, and an even greater one to organize them and clarify their differences, these authors have done an admirable job of doing so.  They break all the possibilities into 55 different models.  For each, they list the first innovators of the model and classic and current examples of its use.  While one can always debate whether a company fits into one model, or uses two or three in combination, this is a brainfest for any business thinker.  It is an excellent book to have alongside Business Model Generation, a great but very different approach to thinking about business models and their construction.

I think you will find both of these books worthwhile if you want to understand the past – and future – of business, or even non-profit or other enterprises.

For what it’s worth, here are three other great “catalog” style books, all of which I consider “must-haves” :

  1. Brilliant thinker Edward De Bono’s Atlas of Management Thinking.
  2. Brain-changing Universal Principles of Design, which applies to every aspect of business and life (or the very cool and portable pocket edition).
  3. Just for fun, a true catalog, the “successor” to the famous 1970s Whole Earth Catalog, Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities.

I hope to soon update my business reading list, to which all these will be added.  But I must continually recommend Peter Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices and his Innovation and Entrepreneurship, by the best business thinker who was a scholar (not a business executive) who has ever written or lived.

And two books that will expand your mind: How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci and A Whole New Mind – give them to every thinking young person (or old person) you know!

Please let me know your favorite books, or comments on these, here.

Happy Reading and Learning!

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