Best Business Books of 2022
Best Business Books 2022
The year 2022 has been rough. It has been especially brutal to all the Ukrainians who have lost their homes, loved ones, or their lives.
One of the few consolations, amid this unjust and brutal war, has been the fact that so many great new books were published. Books are always a window to something better. They give hope, perspective, and ideas on how to do better.
There was a huge need for this in 2022. I read 300 new books last years, most of them in the nonfiction/business book category. Yes, I know, that is way too many, and I admit this has turned into a performance, but to be of use to others, here are the best business books of 2022.
1. Richard Rumelt: The Crux. How Leaders Become Strategists.
The year’s best business book is Richard Rumelt’s the Crux. It is also the best new strategy book in a decade. The books name is not as striking as Rumelt’s previous, the 11-year-old Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, but its main thought is even more striking.
According to Rumelt, we have been misled into thinking that a good strategy is all about objectives or is based on a well-intentioned purpose. Or we, mistakenly believe, that you can deduce a great strategy from data.
Instead, Rumelt maintains, a winning strategy is based on a broad understanding, on sound judgement, and in determined action. First you need to realize what is the company’s greatest challenge and most significant opportunity, The Crux. Here Rumelt’s is using mountain climbing terminology. The Crux is the most challenging part of a climb, if you fail it, you will fall down the gorge. When a company has identified its Crux, its core problem or turning point, it should focus all its energies into solving it.
2. Jane McGonigal: Imaginable. How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything.
Jane McGonigal’s Imaginable on is a strong book that punches you in the gut. How is it possible that, after decades of waiting, the pandemic still managed to take us by surprise? How did we fail to predict Russia’s attack on Ukraine? How come each year a new black swan comes along? According to McGonigal, we are surprised because we fail to stop, and imagine what might happen.
McGonigal is a game designer and futurist. Her 2010 book, Reality is Broken encouraged us to gamify things. Reality is boring, using game design tactics, you can make it more engaging. Her 2015 book Superbetter showed you can even gamify managing yourself. All these books are great, but Imaginable is still her strongest so far. It looks at things from the perspective of the entire society. It teaches us to look forward, imagine who we would and could act in various crises and opportunities. It provides us with a valuable skill, that we will need, year, after unimaginable year.
3. Donna Cutting: Employees First: Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization
We can’t treat patients in a hospital if we don’t have enough nurses. We can’t get food is they are no cooks and waiters. And buses won’t, not yet anyway, drive safely without drivers. After Covid-19 we have suffered from severe employee shortages. We need to attract more talent. And the best way is by starting to get current employees committed to the work they are doing. Donna Cutting’s practical guide tells us how.
4. Edward Chancellor: The Price of Time. The real story of interest.
This book should not belong to any list of the best business books, any more than a random book of weather. Interest rates rise and fall, recessions follow bear markets in cyclical fashion, and companies don’t have any other option than to survive, and thrive, regardless of business cycle.
But because it is Edward Chancellor, it deserves a high position on the list.
Chancellor is, perhaps, the world’s smartest economic historian. At least he is the best writer of the lot. He knowns how to explain boring and complex subjects, such as the inflation, interest rates, and state debt, in ways that make it quite tangible and exciting.
5. Wendy Smith & Marianne Lewis: Both/And Thinking: Embracing creative tensions to solve your toughest problems.
Leadership would be easy if all problems would have a simple solution. If we only could, for example, keep on cutting costs to make a better profit, and we would not have to worry about attracting and keeping the best talent.
Wendy Smith and Marianne Lewis’s, both distinguished leadership scholars, new book, Both/And Thinking is refreshingly honest. There are no simple solutions. You must learn to live with ambiguity, and you need to understand paradoxes.
Everything truly valuable requires that you take two, mutually incompatible perspectives into account, simultaneously.
6. Will Guidara: Unreasonable Hospitality
It took Will Guidara and Daniel Humm to turn the lackluster Eleven Madison Part into the world’s best restaurant. This is the story on how they raised the bar, concentrated on what the customers really valued, and, in the process, even learned how to shelter employees from burnout. An inspiring book, that most companies can learn from.
7. Jeremy Utley & Perry Klebah: Ideaflow: The only business metric that matters.
Jeremy Utley is the leader of Stanford’s famous master of creativity program. Perry Klebah used to work for Patagonia. They believe in the formula: The more ideas you throw at a problem, the more likely it is you will find a great solution. A pragmatic book on how you can make your organization more innovative.
8. Sebastian Mallaby: The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Art of Disruption
Venture capitalists have a bad gotten a bad reputation. They are mainly seen as greedy bastards who are only interested in making money, regardless of the consequences. But without venture capitalists we would not have an Apple, a Google, or an Amazon.
The British economic journalist, Sebastian Mallaby wants us to understand venture capitalists, and he succeeds perfectly with this breezy history. This is not a surprise. Mallaby has previously written about hedge funds in similar fashion (More Money than God), about the world bank (The World’s Banker), and on Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve (The Man Who Knew).
We get to know Arthur Rock, the world’s first venture capitalist, whose big idea was to liberate the best engineers from the tyranny or bad bosses and fearful corporations. We also get to follow how Kleiner Perkins, the first venture capital superstar company rises to the top, by investing boldly, and falls back down once it gets overconfident, and start to make foolish bets. We will be informed how behind the Chinese technology miracle is the same, Silicon Valley -bred model, and many of the same investors.
9. Patrick Lencioni: The 6 Types of Working Genius
Now when it is acknowledged even in the corporate world that people are, in fact, individuals with quite different characteristics. Patrick Lencioni is the guru on teams. His The Five Dysfunctions of a Team continues to be best book on how teams work and fail to work.
His most recent book, The 6 Types of Working Genius starts from individual strengths and weaknesses. What gives us energy? What makes us frustrated? Lencioni’s thinking on the subject, and the story he tells about a fictional agency, is strong. The online assessment tool he has built on this theory is somewhat less convincing.
10. Tripp Mickle: After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul.
The value has risen 10X after the death of Steve Jobs. But while the last years of Jobs were filled with innovations (iPhone, iPad), very little truly new has been launched by Apple since 2011.
Mickle’s book takes off where Walter Isaacson’s definitive Steve Jobs biography leaves us. It focused on the story of CEO Tim Cook and head of design, Jonny Ivy. It tells the story of how Apple became better at making money, and worse and creating something new and innovative. This is what is meant by “losing its soul”. A great read, despite its somewhat melancholic undertone.
So, there they are, the year 2022’s best business books.
I left out of the list 5 great nonfiction books that everyone should read, and that I recommend highly, but that do not, even if I would stretch the definition, can be described as “business books”.
They are Helen Thompson’s sobering Disorder — Hard Times in the 21st Century; Gary Gerstel’s The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order; Leadership — Six Studies in World Strategy by the 99-year-old Henry Kissinger; Chip Wars: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller and The Age of the Strongman by Gideon Rachman. All great books on the current geopolitical and political situation.
To wrap it up, here are answers to the two questions I get when talking about my reading habits.
Why do you read 300 books each year?
Because I don’t seem to be able to read more.
How do you, even in theory, find the time to read so much?
Like most things, it is easier to read 300 books in theory, than it is to do so in practice. Business books have an average of 90.000 words, and it takes 4 hours to read one, if you read with a robust 375 words per minute pace. If you manage to read every day of the year, it takes 3,2 hours a day, less than the average person watches TV or Netflix.
In practice, finding 3 peaceful hours to focus on a book is challenging, unless you retort to audiobooks. And audiobooks have the drawback that, with normal speed, 175 words per minute, it takes much longer to consume a book, 8,5 hours. You can increase the speed, double, or even triple it, but it might turn a nice experience into an annoying pain-in-the-ear.
Personally, I have, for the past several years, listened through all commutes, all runs and bike rides, all the extra free time I have, so much so that I have not had a single original thought in years. In my case, this has significantly improved the quality of my thoughts. I addition I also read real, physical foods, and when I’m inpatient, also e-books, on the coach, in bed, in the toilet, in trains and airplanes. These tendencies are not new. I remember my late professor from the University, who had seen me walking with my nose in a book, commenting that it might be effective, but not necessarily safe. It would be only a matter of time before I would collide with a lamppost.
So, keep reading, but let’s be careful out there. Thank you for the year 2022, and happy reading in 2023. All last year’s book can be found on my Goodreads account https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17726464.Marco_M_kinen; and Storygraph account.