Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A few good books

Some good books I happened to read recently and would recommend to others:

  1. Freakonomics: This is top on the my recommended must-read. It is a very popular best-seller, and for a very good reason. Steven Levitt, the author and professor of economics comes out as very intelligent and inspiring, and brings out several examples where conventional wisdom seems as obvious reason but wrong. The right reasons are not obvious, but intriguingly true. For example, he argues reduction in crime in the 1990s was not due to better policing, better economy or better gun-control, all of which seem obviously true, but due to the abortion becoming legal way back in 1970s - the criminals for 1990s were never born!
  2. Who says Elephants can't dance?: MBA types working in a corporate environment would love to read this book by Louis Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM. He describes his experience in fixing IBM's woes and bringing it back on track. Lots to learn from a great leader, who brings to bear his experience and wisdom in finance, marketing, organization structure, corporate governance and so on, to turn a huge ship around. An interesting thing that caught my eye was Mr. Gerstner's resolution not be obnoxious as he got older - we must all make such a resolution.
  3. Getting to Yes: Many of us lack negotiation skills, communication skills or people skills. This book, written by 3 co-authors based on a Harvard project, will be an eye opener, and will change the way we think and react to situations at work, home or outside. It helps us think about creating win-win situations out of what could otherwise become a losing proposition for one or both parties.
  4. The Economic Naturalist: Again, written by an economist, Robert Frank, this book answers a boat load of enigmatic questions about things that happen around us. As an example, why does drive-up ATM machines have Braille dots on keypads? It's just cheaper for the bank to order and use same key pad on all ATM machines.
  5. Winning: The author is Jack Welch, the legendary & former CEO of GE (co-author is Suzy Welch). Interesting read on corporate dynamics, and a great reference for managers, leaders and executives. Part of the book talks about how corporations should work, and part on how corporations actually work, so it got a bit confusing at times. It also talks about how you can manage your career given the way it actually works. For example, the author talks a lot about the need for candor (how it should work), but also states not showing positive attitude can be suicidal to your career (how it actually works). So, you should speak out, but also watch out, and how to manage that trick is not easy to tell. Nevertheless, this is a difficult topic to write about, and the author is done a great job in documenting advice about almost anything that relates to running a company (strategy, hiring & firing, M&A, managing careers & bosses etc).

No comments: