Last week, when I attended a local conference on blogging and social media, I expected to come away armed with a long list of goals, a bigger network of blogger friends, and a whole new set of digital strategies, tips, and takeaways. I did not expect, however, to discover a bunch of must-read books—and in an entirely different genre. Sure, I’ve read business books before. Once upon a time, while still in school, I determined the color of my parachute. During my office career, I found out who moved my cheese. And, at some point along the way, I explored the so-called habits of the highly effective types.
But it’s been a while since I’ve visited the business section of the bookstore. And, as I’m finding out, the shelves are filled with intriguing books. Thanks to the media minds at the “Y’all Connect” conference last week in Birmingham (#yallconnect), and thanks also to the kind folks at Church Street Coffee & Books who brought some titles to share, I have quite a bit of business reading to catch up on. If there’s anyone in your life—a spouse, coworkers, a recent grad, or yourself—who could use help with managing time, tapping into creativity, and becoming more productive, these books claim to have all the answers.
After the conference’s keynote speaker recommended this title, it didn’t take long for it to sell out. Focusing on familiar companies we all frequent, from Starbucks to Target, this book argues that “The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. . . . [B]y harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.” Shed some pounds, achieve success, find contentment? Sign me up.
The blurb for this book reads like a compelling TV drug ad: “Are you overextended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed?” Um, how did they know? “Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven’t accomplished the most important things on your agenda by the time you leave the office?” Ok, ok, I admit it! That’s me. No matter what your daily problems, this book promises to fix them by collecting words of wisdom from 20 creative leaders who explain how to “build a rock-solid daily routine, field a constant barrage of messages, find focus amid chaos, and carve out the time you need to do the work that matters.” All, apparently, with none of the nasty side effects found in prescription medicine.
If you are blessed with lots of ideas but even more excuses for why those ideas will never work, it’s time for a wake-up call from Scott Belsky. He’ll tell you first why “Ideas for new businesses, solutions to the world’s problems, and artistic breakthroughs are common, but great execution is rare.” And he’ll also explain how “the capacity to make ideas happen can be developed by anyone willing to develop their organizational habits and leadership capability.” For all those who love the idea of excuses more than execution, beware.
I want to believe the tagline for this title: “You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself. . . . [C]reativity is everywhere; creativity is for everyone.” Kleon makes the idea of creativity completely accessible in this fun little graphic book about how to unleash your inner artist. Apparently, there’s one inside of all of us, just waiting to be let out. I think I feel mine banging on my rib cage now.
Promoting this book at a social media conference seems to border on heresy. But Lanier’s book isn’t recommending that we give up on gadgets—in this day and age, that’s simply not an option. Instead, You Are Not a Gadget points out the problems inherent in some of today’s digital trends and reminds us that humans still control computers, not the other way around. Exploring “the proliferation of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the ‘wisdom’ of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals,” this book might be a bit more tech-focused than those listed above, but it’s a relevant read for all of us living in a digital world.