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Recommended readings

by Bryan Lilly last modified Jan 04, 2010 02:55 PM


Many of these books have been popular best sellers. Below each title is information obtained from Amazon (except where noted, and in some cases I have abridged/shorted the summaries).

Have you read a book that is super and should be added? Let me know… I continuously hunt for new additions!


Here they are:


Good To Great, Jim Collins, 2001, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0066620996, (h), 218 pages plus appendices.

Collins, the author of Built to Last, compares good companies to good companies that became great. Collins’ team of researchers began by sorting through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. They finally settled on 11--including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo--and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn't require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies were several people, culture, and thought‑process issues. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999, Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0684852861, (h), 271 pages.

The authors, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, based on Gallup's interviews over a period of 25 years with about 1 million staff and 80,000 managers from over 400 companies pinpoint "four keys" to evaluate the performance of an organization in general. This reflects the competence of the managers to get the best in terms of: - Selecting the staff for talent (not just for experience, which can be acquired and needs be updated with rapid change in technology), - defining the right results expected (and should be clearly understood by the individual), - focusing on strength of employees (leaving scope for their professional growth), and - finding the right fit for all of them.

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Press, ISBN: 1422118924, (h), 191 pages.

In this primer on the problem-solving power of "integrative thinking," Martin draws on more than 50 management success stories, including the masterminds behind The Four Seasons, Proctor & Gamble and eBay, to demonstrate how, like the opposable thumb, the "opposable mind"-Martin's term for the human brain's ability "to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension"- is an intellectually advantageous evolutionary leap through which decision-makers can synthesize "new and superior ideas." Using this strategy, Martin focuses on what leaders think, rather than what they do. Among anecdotes and examples steering readers to change their thinking about thinking, Martin gives readers specific strategies for understanding their own "personal knowledge system" (by parsing inherent qualities of "stance," "tools" and "experience"), as well as for taking advantage of the "richest source of new insight into a problem," the "opposing model." Each of the eight chapters is well organized, making for a clear and cumulative read. Part inspiration, part logic lesson, this title will provide fresh perspective for anyone prepared to dust off her thinking cap.

The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, 1983, Berkley Pub Group, ISBN: 0425098478, (p), 111 pages.

The One-Minute Manager sold more than a million copies and is a parable about a young man in search of world-class management skills. The authors’ message is so simple it’s brilliant: a “One-Minute Manager” achieves positive results with a minimum of time and effort by being communicative and consistent. Areas covered include goal-setting, motivating, training, praising and even reprimanding employees.



The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Violate Them At Your Own Risk, Al Ries and Jack Trout, 1994, Harperbusiness, ISBN: 0887306667, (p), 160 pages.

[Note from Bryan: the reviews on Amazon are quite positive. A lot of material in this book can be counter argued, and the authors a stretching a bit. However, it's very readable and contains a lot of good advice presented in simple language.] A delighted-customer review on amazon is: "As an MBA in marketing, I absolutely loved the book. It is thoroughly readable and full of well-known success stories and goof-ups in the world of marketing. From Coca Cola to Smuckers and Cabbage Patch Kids to Harley Davidson, you're sure to have some great learnings from the book. A must read for all students of management!"

Marketing Myths That Are Killing Business: The Cure for Death Wish Marketing, Kevin J. Clancy and Robert S. Shulman, 1995 (reprint date), McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 0070113610 (p).

[Note from Bryan: this book presents common misconceptions and then short discussions that clarify. For example, a misconception is that the focus group is good serious market research tool. The authors say, yes but… and then discuss instances where focus groups are misused.] The Amazon description is: Believe that CEOs know a lot about marketing? That databases have all the answers? That if Procter & Gamble does it, it must be right? If you're like most marketers, you're awash in myths like these. They pervade your decision making and cloud your vision. Eventually they'll suck the very life from your organization - whether you're established or start-up, profit or nonprofit, MBA-heavy or mom-and-pop run. So roll up your sleeves, heave common "wisdom" onto the trash heap, and rescue your business before it's too late. In brash and brilliant style, two of the world's most renowned marketing consultants will open your eyes to 170 myths that are killing products, services, and brands. They'll steer you toward radical changes - unconventional, counterintuitive, razor-sharp - that will snatch you from the jaws of death wish marketing. Kevin Clancy and Robert Shulman draw on more than 50 years of combined experience in the marketing trenches and corporate boardrooms. The raw power and sweeping scope of their insights will lead you to rethink your entire marketing strategy, one debunked myth at a time. Here are just a few of the accepted "truths" you'll learn to reject: Partnership Marketing, TQM, Corporate Reengineering, and Brand Equity are surefire ways for building business. The best place to recruit marketing talent is from packaged goods companies. Small shops can't compete with giants like Walmart. Big customers are your best customers. Focus groups are a serious marketing research tool. The most appealing products are the most profitable. Retailers know a great deal about their customers. Buyer and trade promotion are profitable things to do. 100% customer satisfaction and retention are smart business objectives. Finance should be the center of the Business Solar System.

Predatory Marketing: What Everyone in Business Needs to Know to Win Today's American Consumer, C. Britt Beemer and Robert L. Shook, 1997, Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub, ISBN: 0767901894, (p), 304 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this book illustrates the benefit of using simple and informal marketing research to study consumers and to make practical managerial recommendations. A leading consultant basically discusses some of his experiences.] The Amazon synopsis is: Consumer expert Britt Beemer understands how customers think, why they think that way, and what obstacles must be overcome to generate a sale. Here he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of changing consumer preferences and presents his revolutionary predatory marketing strategy for increasing market share.



Blue Ocean Strategy, 2005, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business School Publishing, ISBN: 1591396190, (h), 190 pages plus appendixes.

[Portions of Bryan’s synopsis published in Marketplace Magazine]: This book is about finding new ways to grow. A Blue Ocean is a market where competitors are irrelevant. You create a Blue Ocean by offering products and services that are very different from what the competition currently offers, and by attracting new customers. In developing this Blue Ocean, you must create a focused set of benefits, diverge from competition, and convey benefits clearly with a short tagline. If you work in marketing, you should recognize the Blue Ocean ideas. Blue thinking is similar to the idea of combating Marketing Myopia, which has been in presented in basic marketing textbooks for over 40 years. The notion of divergence is essentially differentiation, which is also fundamental in marketing. And the book presents a strategic canvas idea, which is a new way to present positioning maps. Blue Ocean Strategy successfully ties these marketing ideas together in an appealing way.

Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle, Bill Birnbaum, 2004, Douglas Mountain Publishing, ISBN: 1932632131, (p), 206 pages.

[Amazon’s review]: Strategy consultant, Bill Birnbaum, shares his lessons learned during 24 years helping management teams develop their business strategy. His anecdotal stories offer important lessons and also an enjoyable read. He offers techniques for...(1) Achieving and maintaining focus, (2) Understanding and responding to markets and customers, (3) Leading and motivating people, (4) Managing both projects and processes.



Made in America: My Story, Sam Walton, 1993, Bantam Books, ISBN: 0553562835, (p), 332 pages.

[This synopsis was posted to Amazon's page by a reader.] A surprisingly good read! I didn't really expect to like this book. After all, what could be so compelling about some guy who started a bunch of discount stores in Arkansas? Boy, was I wrong. This book is a jewel. It's a must read for anyone in business, whether a small business or a big corporation. You'll never look at a store the same way again after you read this book. You can easily believe that Sam Walton's approach would improve most business. Work hard. Work smart. Learn from your mistakes. Treat people right (employees and customers). Keep your eye on the ball and the bottom line. Don't listen to naysayers. Keep a smile on your face. Sounds like good advice to me!

 Inside The Magic Kingdom, Thomas K. Connellan, 1997, Bard Press, ISBN: 1885167237, (h), 192 pages.

Those who worry that corporations have become excessively big and powerful must still admit that firms such as McDonald's, Wal-Mart, and Disney have got at least one thing right. They know how to keep the customer satisfied and coming back for more! Connellan, a senior principal in a consulting firm specializing in customer loyalty and coauthor of Sustaining Knock Your Socks Off Service (1993), holds up Disney in particular as exemplary. Here he re-creates a fictional visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom to bring to life examples of the customer service concepts Disney practices. Connellan was neither encouraged nor authorized by Disney management to write this book, but he did attend a Disney University seminar in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, to learn more about the "Disney approach to leadership, people management, [and] service quality."

Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, Kevin Freiberg, Jackie Freiberg, and Tom Peters, 1996, Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub., ISBN: 0767901843, (p), 362 pages.

Those I have read the reviews about how this book is "mushy." I think maybe because they can't believe that a company this good really exists. I am a brand-new employee to SWA, and this book is given to every new employee at the day-long welcome class. After participating in the class, reading this book, and experiencing the SWA culture first-hand, I can safely say that the book does NOT exaggerate! The feel-good style emphasized over and over in the book is a reality. People care about each other. Everyday (as shown in the book) everyone is made to feel valuable--and it makes you want to work harder, work smarter, and spread the LUV. Others may "say" that's what they are doing, but somehow it always comes back to "the rules." Herb Kelleher and crew are breaking the rules--and showing the others how to make a profit while caring about the dignity and welfare of the SWA family. Great and easily read book. Highly recommended.


FOUR BOOKS ABOUT SPECIFIC MARKETING TOPICS (the first two are fun reads… the last two are more focused in purpose. So if you just want something interesting and entertaining on an airline flight while downing cocktails, the first two are fine. Maybe take the others with you on a trip to your in-laws, so you can honestly tell people you need some peace and quiet to digest this important stuff.]

[MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS] Hitting the Sweet Spot: How Consumer Insights Can Inspire Better Marketing and Advertising, Lisa Fortini-Campbell, 2001, The Copy Workshop, ISBN: 1887229094, (p), 255 pages (but large print).

This is a book about how to get to know your customer. It's a research book, but it's really a book for just about everyone in marketing and advertising. Because the better you know your customer, the better you'll be able to do your job in today's tougher-than-ever marketplace. Learn the real truth about "breakthrough" communication. Learn how to be a "consumer detective." And learn about "The Sweet Spot." From an introduction to Ethnography, and improved observation and interviewing skills through useful and practical Mapping and Presentation tools, this book will help you move from Data and Information to Insight and Inspiration.

[HUMOR] MADvertising, David Shayne, 2005, Watson-Guptill Publications, ISBN: 0823030814, (p), 224 pages.

This book showcases Ad Spoofs that appeared in Mad Magazine from about 1950-2000. Many pages show the real ad and the spoofed ad. Some history and stories are presented that describe sponsor reactions, etc. Will reading this book improve your knowledge of advertising? Maybe not. But this is hysterical material.

[CONSUMER BEHAVIOR] Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Paco Underhill, 2000, Touchstone Books, ISBN: 0684849143, (p), 255 pages.

In an effort to determine why people buy, Paco Underhill and his detailed-oriented band of retail researchers have camped out in stores over the course of 20 years, dedicating their lives to the "science of shopping." Armed with an array of video equipment, store maps, and customer-profile sheets, Underhill and his consulting firm, Envirosell, have observed over 900 aspects of interaction between shopper and store. They've discovered that men who take jeans into fitting rooms are more likely to buy than females (65 percent vs. 25 percent). They've learned how the "butt-brush factor" (bumped from behind, shoppers become irritated and move elsewhere) makes women avoid narrow aisles. They've quantified the importance of shopping baskets; contact between employees and shoppers; the "transition zone" (the area just inside the store's entrance); and "circulation patterns" (how shoppers move throughout a store). And they've explored the relationship between a customer's amenability and profitability, learning how good stores capitalize on a shopper's unspoken inclinations and desires.

[PRICING] Power Pricing: How Managing Price Transforms the Bottom Line, Robert J. Dolan and Hermann Simon, 1997, Free Press, ISBN: 068483443X, (h), 415 pages.

Dolan and Simon demonstrate, with scores of in-depth descriptions of how the best pricers in the world operate, how to frame the pricing question correctly and then innovatively develop the pricing strategy. Every aspect of the pricing process is covered -- from defining the issue correctly, gathering the necessary data, developing the price and implementation plan, to a post-audit of pricing performance. Throughout, the emphasis is on breakthrough concepts which have proven to yield quantum leaps in financial performance.



[SALES]         SPIN Selling, Neil Rackham, 1988, McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 0070511136, (h).

[Note from Bryan: this book is about sales for larger items, for example B2B selling.] From an Amazon reviewer: I am a corporate sales professional. That means that I don't do “hit and run,” one-time sales. Tom Hopkins and Zig Ziglar offer great tactics for those kind of salespeople, but they don't work for me. Neil Rackham has hit one out of the park with Spin Selling. Turning everything I “thought” I knew about closing on its head, he provides the power tools for making the most of a sales call. The most important concept here is that you, as a sales rep. are not there when the real decisions get made. Therefore, you must arm your prospects with the tools to represent your company well in your absence. Rackham does not disappoint.

[SALES]         Selling to Zebras, Jeff Kozer and Chad Kozer, upcoming 2008, Greenleaf Book Group, ISBN: 1929774575 (h), 220 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this book should be available during Oct. 2008. This is written in story-format. I’ve read some drafts-in-progress and am delighted with the ideas and writing.]

[NEGOTIATION] Getting To Yes, Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, 1991, Penguin Books, ISBN: 0140157352 (p), 224 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this book fits with sales, but is generally about negotiations when personal conflicts start to get in the way.] An Amazon reviewer comment is: I read this book in an MBA course for Dispute Mediation. Although it was not a required reading, every text and article mentioned this book. You can easily read it in a weekend. Do not expect theory, paradigm, or lofty descriptions-this is cut to the chase stuff that lets you know many techniques for negotiating and helping the other side make a decision that is right for all involved. Some helpful key concepts include eliminating emotions from the process, or dealing with the emotional techniques that the other side may use against you. It also describes BATNA, or the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement-those agreements which may be the most realistic and beneficial terms for both sides. I think that the other book, getting past no, by the same author, is an additional reference that anyone considering this book should also read as an excellent complementary text to the principles outlined in this classic.

[PERSUASION] Influence: Science and Practice, Robert B. Cialdini, 2001, Allyn & Bacon, ISBN: 0321011473, (p), 240 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this is the 4th edition and is renamed. This is a classic that keeps getting republished with slight variations to keep a fresh appearance. The author presents six main reasons people get persuaded and provides a lot of examples and nuances. This is not a quick-light read but is not too dry either.] The Amazon review from one of the earlier editions is: Dr. Cialdini's text became favorite reading after being assigned in 2 different classes in my top-ten business school. Would-be investment bankers to marketing product managers looked to Dr. Cialdini's work to gain insight into our customers' thinking. From others' reviews, some might think this evil --learning a little psychology to gain an edge in a negotiation or to better position a product, but this is done everyday and the ethics of selling a bad product are never defensible. The text does provide the 3 key ingredients to making it to the "must read" lists of a business school -- great tag lines, an easy sense of humor, and naked truths.


FOUR DECISION MAKING BOOKS (definitely read these J): 

Decision Traps: Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them, J. Edward Russo and Paul J.H. Schoemaker, 1990, Fireside Books, ISBN: 0671726099, (p), 280 pages.

Two experts in business management show how to avoid the ten common pitfalls that ensnare decision makers. The very latest research in the fields of business and psychology has been distilled into practical training methods that will save readers from ever making a bad decision again.

Note from Bryan: this book went out of print and was revised under a new title, Winning Decisions, 2002. But the old version is more fun! Making good decisions is largely a matter of avoiding traps, and the original version does a GREAT job in demonstrating traps committed by all sorts of people in all sorts of contexts.

The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, Scott Plous, 1993, McGraw Hill, ISBN: 0070504776, (p), 302 pages.

[This book has an academic flavor but is easy to read and entertaining as well. The author summarizes academic research that illustrates common decision making biases.] The Amazon review: I was recommended this book by my lecturer as part of my Psychology course. Unlike most psychology text books, I found it very readable and enjoyable, due to its effective use of examples and illustrations. I would recommend it to anybody who has an interest in how humans make decisions!

Creative Problem Solving, Robert Harris, 2002, Pyrczak Publishing, ISBN: 1884585434, (p), 106 pages.

This book does not have an Amazon review. The author presents several problem solving suggestions and examples. Among the topics are how to generate ideas, establishing goals, choosing among possible solutions, and implementation. An easy read with simple and good ideas…. Each chapter is short and contains clearly presented Key-Ideas.

Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson, 1998, Putnam, ISBN: 0399144463, (p), 94 pages.

[Note from Bryan: some people love this book… other people say it’s horrible because the ideas are not new. This will take under an hour to read and presents a story that contains familiar resistance-to-change feelings.] The Amazon review: Change can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. The message of Who Moved My Cheese? is that all can come to see it as a blessing, if they understand the nature of cheese and the role it plays in their lives. Who Moved My Cheese? is a parable that takes place in a maze. Four beings live in that maze: Sniff and Scurry are mice--nonanalytical and nonjudgmental, they just want cheese and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Hem and Haw are "littlepeople," mouse-size humans who have an entirely different relationship with cheese. It's not just sustenance to them; it's their self-image. Their lives and belief systems are built around the cheese they've found. Most of us reading the story will see the cheese as something related to our livelihoods--our jobs, our career paths, the industries we work in--although it can stand for anything, from health to relationships. The point of the story is that we have to be alert to changes in the cheese, and be prepared to go running off in search of new sources of cheese when the cheese we have runs out.



Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, 2005, Little, Brown & Co., ISBN: 0316172324, (h), 254 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this book discusses intuition versus analytic thinking; which is better and when. Nice examples of analysis in Market Research exist, contrasted by examples where intuition appears to win. The Amazon synopsis is:] Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of "thin slices" of behavior. The key is to rely on our "adaptive unconscious"--a 24/7 mental valet--that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox, 1994, North River Press, ISBN: 0884270610, (p), 275 pages.

[Note from Bryan: this is a nice production management story but really provides only one or two key learning items.] From an Amazon reader: Goldratt originally wrote the book in the late '80's and it has become a cult classic in b-schools, and especially on the plant floor. If you are seriously interested in the way companies "should" work in the 21st century, you must read this book...and be sure you "get" it.

 The Winner's Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, Richard H. Thaler, 1994, Princeton University Press, ISBN: 0691019347, (p), (200-300) pages.

Richard Thaler challenges the received economic wisdom by revealing many of the paradoxes that abound even in the most painstakingly constructed transactions. He presents literate, challenging, and often funny examples of such anomalies as why the winners at auctions are often the real losers - they pay too much and suffer the "winner's curse" - why gamblers bet on long shots at the end of a losing day, why shoppers will save on one appliance only to pass up the identical savings on another, and why sports fans who wouldn't pay more than $200 for a Super Bowl ticket wouldn't sell one they own for less than $400. He also demonstrates that markets do not always operate with the traplike efficiency we impute to them.

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by Bryan Lilly last modified Jan 04, 2010 02:55 PM