Your holiday reading list

The great Christmas reading listIt’s been a big year. Now is the time to settle down, relax and recharge – and what better way to do that than by reading some of the best business material produced in 2010?

Here at SmartCompany we’ve compiled a list of some of the most informative videos, articles and books to keep you inspired and challenged over the Christmas break. Covering everything from the property collapse in the United States and a phone tap scandal in Britain to the inner-workings of Facebook, here are 10 books, videos and articles that are must-reads over the upcoming break.

TED Talk – Dan Pink: Question Motivations

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There are plenty of methods business owners use to get their employees motivated – perks, raises and a little bonus here and there are some of the more common techniques. But do they actually work? Former political speechwriter Dan Pink has investigated corporations all over the world and says that traditional incentives don’t often produce the best results.

Using examples such as Google, and Australian software company Atlassian, Pink argues that every workplace needs to have three aspects in order to motivate – autonomy, possibility for mastery and purpose. If you want to work on getting your staff motivated in 2011, then this is well worth watching.

The Lords of Strategy

Strategy – it’s one of those words that strikes fear into the hearts of every entrepreneur. But Walter Kiechel says that if businesses only understood where strategy comes from, and how modern business strategy was developed, then they would run more successful companies.

Chronicling three consultancy giants – Boston Consulting Group founder Bruce Henderson, Bain & Company chief Bill Bain, and McKinsey & Company chief Fred Gluck – Kiechel documents their successes, and delivers a few lessons for entrepreneurs along the way.

Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners

The subprime mortgage crisis may have been the catalyst for the global financial crisis sparked over two years ago, but its effects still resonate today. The American property market is in chaos and the seemingly endless stream of foreclosures is postponing any hope of a recovery.

Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibi, who has covered in detail the 2008 and 2010 election campaigns along with various aspects of the financial crisis, documents the thousands of foreclosures still occurring and drills down into just how much the property market, and the country, has been dramatically altered by poor banking regulation.

The Facebook Effect

Facebook has become the largest social network in the world by far, reportedly turns over several billion a year and many tech analysts believe the company is heading towards one of the biggest IPOs in history.

But the origin of the company is much more interesting. In The Facebook Effect, author David Kirkpatrick had access to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to interview him on a number of occasions, and what follows is a detailed and thorough analysis of how the company was born – including descriptions of legal battles with Facebook co-founder Eduard Saverin

With Facebook becoming one of the most scrutinised companies of the year, thanks in part to privacy complaints and a blockbuster movie, The Facebook Effect is worth reading for one account of the inside story.

Those interested should also read The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the book on which the film The Social Network is based.

Islands of profit in a sea of red ink

This year SmartCompany was lucky enough to add to our blogging line-up management expert Jonathan Byrnes, senior lecturer at MIT. His Islands of Profit blog is a brilliant resource for managers who focus on profitability above all else and this year Byrnes also released a new book called Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink which starts with a simple premise – 40% of your business is unprofitable, and you need to fix it. Leading US SME website Inc named it one of the best books of the year for business owners, and we agree.

Tom McKaskill

Our management expert Tom McKaskill is something of a national treasurer in the world of Australian entrepreneurship and we think we’re very lucky to have him writing for us. If you’re going to spend part of your holiday thinking about strategy this year – and we know entrepreneurs can’t resist this – then make it the intro to his brilliant 14-part Growth Secrets series. If you want to download more of Tom’s great work, head to his website, where you will find a raft of free resources.

Michael Lewis

Here at SmartCompany, we think US author Michael Lewis is one of the finest business journalists in the world and certainly one of the more insightful chroniclers of the GFC through his book The Big Short. This year he took a look at the situation in Greece, where huge debt levels have left the economy teetering on the brink of collapse. Lewis’ travels take him from a remote monastery to inner Athens, where the broken state of the financial system is almost unbelievable.

The seedy side of the media

One of the biggest media stories of the year came out of Britain, where revelations about the use of phone taps by the New Corporation publication News of the World continue to reverberate through celebrity circles. Ironically, it took a US publication – the New York Times – to fully expose the depths of the scandal. And while we are on the Times, check out this piece on America’s most notorious computer hacker.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to drive your career and create a remarkable future – Seth Godin

It’s a simple question – can you be replaced? According to Seth Godin, the answer should be a resounding “no”, and that goes for entrepreneurs as well.

Godin’s book encourages readers to become one of those linchpins in any business, no matter what role you perform. His basic premise is that all workers need to be investing in what he calls “emotional work”.

If you’re in a management role, or have taken the leap to create your own business, Linchpin is a valuable resource for any person wanting to make sure they stick around and can outperform themselves in any role.

21st Century Enlightenment

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All of these books and articles might take you a while to get through but here’s one you can enjoy in just a few minutes – Matthew Taylor explores 21st century enlightenment and what it can do to help solve challenges we face in both business and society today.


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