5 great books for the busy entrepreneur (and a bonus)

Hello everyone and nice to meet you! I am Ana Maria (Mara), the newest member of the Spherik Accelerator team, being in charge of operations. My position involves numerous types of tasks, one of my favorites being that of Spherik librarian. Due to a very generous donation from Elefant.ro, we now have a small collection of helpful books we hope will be able to increase soon. So, in my quality of librarian and avid reader as well, I will try to provide you with a few tips regarding your next read.

My tolerance for pseudo-science and self-help books is extremely low. Thus, I cringe at just the simple sight of titles such as “Change your life in three simple steps” or “Use the energies of the universe/garden gnomes/pyramids to get what you want”. The world of business books is just as filled with such titles and thus, it may be difficult for an entrepreneur to choose those particular books that can actually teach valuable lessons. Unfortunately, price is not a good clue either, as pseudo-science can be equally cheap and expensive, presumably depending on the ego of the author and the quality of paper.

Luckily, my university years have given me enough space and time to read as many books and articles as possible without regretting a poor choice so much. As a result, I have become very critical regarding my reading list as my time now is more limited and the few hours I can afford to dedicate to reading should be put to good use. So here are the books I believe to be helpful for an entrepreneur (or any person interested in learning something new and qualitative):

The halo effect (Efectul de halou) by Phil Rosenzweig is definitely worth reading by anyone who feels overwhelmed by the huge amount of books promising to show “the way” towards being successful, creative, rich, motivating, a leadership master, etc. What the author says is that it may be useful to read success stories, but you should not expect similar results if you start copying Steve Jobs’ strategies. The halo effect presents numerous cases in which some leaders were hailed for their strategies and management in all business magazines, but then were criticized harshly by exactly the same authors after failing. The book has a very realistic perspective on success and the halo crated around renowned leaders, while also being written in a very pleasant manner.

 The main lesson – do what the market says and not what business magazines tell you.

The back of the napkin (Pe spatele servetelului) by Dan Roam is one of those books that can really provide you with a real-life skill and make your life easier, especially if you are not a big fan of endless PowerPoint presentations and tables. This book teaches you how to use a pen and a piece of paper (even a napkin) to sell your idea to anyone. Briefly, if you cannot reduce your concept or strategy to a simple drawing, then you need work on it some more. You don’t need drawing skills either (anyone can make an arrow or a stick figure), so there is no excuse. I’ve tested it myself and got very good feedback from fellow trainers and participants, so it’s worth adding to your skills.

The main lesson – Anything can be explained through a simple sketch.

The leader’s guide to storytelling: mastering the art and discipline of business narrative (Arta povestirii in afaceri) by Stephen Denning is also aimed at teaching some useful skills. Just like in the case of The back of the napkin, don’t expect results unless you practice and then practice some more. Just reading the book will do little for you, so be sure you devote some time to developing the skills. However, telling stories can be a lot of fun, even in the business world. As you will see, business stories are different from the regular stories we hear, but are very effective. In case you doubt it and think people need tables, numbers and raw facts, remember the fact that Martin Luther King spoke about his dream of children of all races playing together and not about the operational plan to obtain equality in a decade or so. The book presents both examples and “templates” for stories that are useful in all sorts of contexts, from explaining the need to expand up to discrediting unpleasant rumors.

The main lesson – people have always needed stories, so why ignore human nature in something as important as business?

The outliers (Exceptionalii) by Malcolm Gladwell. In the case of this author, Exceptionaliiopinions are very divided, but his writing style really suits my needs and really raises some interesting points. This book made me challenge my manner of thinking about certain topics and about the causes of certain phenomena. Bill Gates has an amazing mind, but he also had the chance to work on a computer for hours at a time when most people hardly knew what it was. The pilots from Korea were very skilled, but plane crashes still happened due to the overly respectful manner of communicating. Some people are naturally good at hokey, but maybe their birth dates also had something to do with it . There are many other such correlations you can find while browsing this book, all of them showing that success stories are not as simple as they are presented in glossy magazines.

The main message – success is brought by a multitude of factors, some quite unexpected, so don’t look for a recipe.

Drunk tank pink (Roz tranchilizant) by Adam Alter is a very interesting book and a light reading as well. Its aim is to show just how easily people are influenced by even the smallest things, such as the color of the light bulbs, the ability to see trees or not and even the name they have. The author presents briefly a lot of studies, so you can choose which ones to pursue further on. Some of them may help you in your business endeavors or even your personal life. As an example, patients who see trees or nature from their room appear to heal faster, people with simpler names tend to climb the corporate ladder more easily, while the simple presence of a picture presenting human eyes can reduce thefts and vandalism, just like blue lights similar to those used by the police do.

The main message – the human mind is influenced by the smallest details.

Last, but not least, I believe every good entrepreneur should know how to work with his/her mind, as this is the most important resource one has. It may seem odd at first for me to recommend the book written by a magician, but as far as I am concerned, Tricks of the mind (Trucuri ale mintii) by Derren Brown has taught me how to use my mind than most educational resources. To clarify this, Derren Brown uses some chapters in the book to debunk pseudo-science and practices such as spiritualism. He is a  very skilled entertainer, but never claims to be more than this and thus he is rightfully annoyed by those who do. What Derren Brown offers is a series of great methods to increase your mind’s potential. The book provides a very useful method to use peculiar mental images to remember boring lists and concepts, even if they contain dozens of elements. As an example, he shows how to learn all the results of all the football finals since the 80’s and up to now, without actually remembering anything. Also, you can learn how to get rid of unpleasant nagging memories, such as a failed presentation in class, or how to surprise your peers with tricks. As far as I’m concerned, it was a most useful and entertaining reading.

The main message – there are no paranormal powers. Your mind is amazing enough as it is.

All in all, these are some books I would recommend to a busy person who has no time to waste on poor choices. I am also looking forward to seeing your recommendations and opinions. Enjoy your reading!

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