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Off The Shelf: 6 Of The Best

by Tom O'Connor on December 6th, 2011
Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Apple's Steve Jobs - go Kindle to iPad

Amazon's Jeff Bezos & Apple's Steve Jobs - go Kindle to iPad

In spite of the phenomenal growth of the internet, book sales continue to flourish – both in physical and e-book formats. 

In the business category, books that integrate commercial & strategic learnings with some human interest angle are especially popular. 

And, in this regard, 2011 has given us another bumper crop. 

Fans of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Starbucks & Facebook have been particularly well-served this year – with 6 notable new books delving deeply into what makes these companies succeed. 

1. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
This is the standout business read for 2011 – selling 383,000 copies in its first week of public availability in the US and taking just 45 days to become Amazon’s best-seller for all of 2011, across all categories. 

It has been  universally well-received. Time magazine says: 

“It’s nearly impossible to shrink down Steve Jobs’s legacy
into mere sentences, but Walter Isaacson’s comprehensive  biography
of the Apple chief somehow manages to do so in 571 pages”.

2. Idea Man: A Memoir by the cofounder of Microsoft (Paul Allen)
This 358-pager, details the origins of Microsoft  from the pen of its joint founder, Paul Allen –  the person who came up with the  Microsoft name and negotiated the purchase of the QDOS operating system, that set in train their licencing relationship with IBM. 

It also details the many other adventures he has engaged in since splitting with Bill Gates in 1982 – in the worlds of sport, film, technology, philantropy, etc. 

His take on Gates is probably the most interesting part, but his account of how he managed to hold onto his Microsoft shareholding, securing his present day nett worth – estimated at $13 Billion – is especially memorable: 

Allen was prepared to cash in his entire shareholding to Gates for $10/share – but Gates was only prepared to offer $5. So, Allen stayed in and rode its stratospheric market appreciation – all by default! 

3. One Click: Jeff Bezos & The Rise of Amazon.Com
On the evidence of Richard Brandt’s One Click book, detailing the growth of Amazon, one has the feeling that had it been Jeff Bezos, instead of Gates, that was negotiating with Allen, things might have turned out differently. 

For Bezos is a person that doesn’t underestimate possibilities – in fact, ‘get big fast’ is his most colourful catchcry. 

In this vein, Brandt not only documents a) the success factors that have propelled Amazon to a market valuation of >$80 Billion, but also b) the thinking behind Bezos’ Blue Origin project – that aims to establish “an enduring human presence in space”. 

4. The Facebook Effect: The Real Inside Story of Mark Zuckerberg
Technology writer, David Kirkpatrick, tracks how Mark Zuckerberg’s  dorm experiment in Feb. 2004 has grown to have 500 million users – and an estimated market valuation of $100 Billion. 

In the same vein as Allen and Bezos, Zuckerberg is portrayed as stubbornly self-confident. The book presents a picture of a person who never doubts  the growth potential of his idea. 

This is most clearly shown in the manner in which he resists all offers to buy him out early –  holding firm in the face of opposition from colleagues and employees wanting to cash in. 

This book carries a 5-star rating among Amazon reviewers. 

5. In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
This is the book that peers most thoroughly into the phenomenon that has become Google

The author, Steven Levy, a longtime technology journalist spent three years with open access to the Googleplex HQ in Mountain View, California, researching the Google DNA. 

It is thoroughly informative on many fronts – the culture, the technology and the business – and carries a 5-star rating among Amazon reviewers. 

6. Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul
Starbucks might appear light years away from the high-tech world of Apple, Google and Facebook, but the issues faced by its legendary CEO, Howard Schultz, are no less profound – in first building the small Seattle coffee shop  into an international blockbuster and then rebuilding it anew when the global recession hit in 2007.

Schultz’s obsession with the ‘romance of coffee drinking’  is really no different to Steve Jobs’ obsession with designing aesthetically tactile computers – or to Jeff Bezos’ obsession with ensuring website visitors seamlessly click their way to whatever book their heart desires. 

In telling his personal story here, Schultz has won numerous plaudits – particularly, for his unwavering adherence throughout to the organisation’s core values. 

For some of the same reasons, he has just recently been named the 2011 Businessperson of the Year by Fortune Magazine –  with, Jeff Bezos, by the way, picking up the runner-up slot.  

Amazon reader reviews have been effusive in praise of the book and Strategy & Business magazine has described it as: “the pick of the 2011 harvest”. 

If you have other favourite business books from the class of 2011, that you’d like to share – please leave details in the comment box below. Thank you! 

PS. For related Torc articles, please click on the following links:
1. Trapattoni: some lessons in management                      
2. Management: Machiavellian Style  
3. The Leader as Teacher 
4. Leadership: Ready, Aim Fire  
5. Rebuilding Group Morale

PPS. For related training programmes, please click on the following links: 
1. The Leader as Teacher  
2. Leading with Emotional Intelligence
3. Leading with Teamwork & Collaboration
4. Leading with Innovation & Creativity 

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