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Timeless Recommendations

Table of Contents

So much of what we consume has a shelf life, which, when turned around, means we can use time as a filter for quality. Anything that survives a certain number of years, has utility beyond now.

For me, I try and avoid reading too many recent books (inspired by Tim). I also avoid recommending anything too new, and have found my recommendations settling into a few key books and podcasts. Rather than write them out many times, I’m publishing them here instead.

1. Books

  • The Effective Executive (Peter Drucker) – This has been my most referred to book in my professional career. The subtitle of “getting the right things done” captures the essence of the book.
  • 7 Powers (Hamilton Helmer) – A highly effective famework for identifying strategic power for an organization. At Spotify we made use of this framework, which is also used by Netflix leadership. The Acquired podcast uses it to analyze various companies and has interviewed Hamilton too.
  • Creativity Inc (Ed Catmull) – Creativity is rarely repeatable, let alone in a large organization. Pixar is one of the few that has sustained creativity over a long period of time, and this is an inside account of how they retained inspiration.
  • Mr China (Tim Clissold) – An insiders account to doing business with and in China over many years. While the examples are from a while ago, they highlight the historical perspective and complexities.
  • The Evolution of Co-operation (Robert Axelrod) – My math mind loves the idea that the incentives of co-operation can be captured algorithmically. The idea that repeated application of Prisoner’s Dilemma explains much human interaction also appeals. Finite and Infinite Games is also a good read here.
  • High Output Management (Andy Grove) – Much of the why behind how Silicon Valley tech companies work comes from this book. As with most things, it is worth going back to source to understand today.
  • On Writing Well (William Zinsser) – the best guide to writing non-fiction. Communicating effectively is critical to sharing your ideas, so do it well.

Absent from my book list are biographies, one of the key ways of learning about the history of any industry or human endeavour. The timeless advice is to read widely and deeply about the people who came before. However, it will depend a bit on your own interests as to which ones to recommend.

2. Podcasts

  • Manager Tools – Thanks to a recommendation from a great friend when I started my management career early in the 2000’s, Mark and Mike have provided weekly council on how to be a great manager. If you are in an organization and in any way responsible for other people, add this to your podcast player of choice.
  • Founders – Reviews of biographies of founders. No matter how much you read, you are unlikely to keep pace with David Senra. He will help you learn directly from history’s greatest entrepreneurs. While the podcast is amazing, you will get so much more from it if you read some of the books. The episodes will help you figure out your own interests and where you can go deeper.
  • Acquired – The stories behind the formation of great companies. If you are in the business of building anything new for the world, this will help you understand how it has been done before. Amazing research and compelling storytelling make it a fun listen too.