Fast Company’s best business books of 2012 have shaped not only the way we work this year, but how we think and the conversations we’re having. Authored by luminaries like Nate Silver, Clay Christensen, and Susan Cain, these delightful-to-read tomes offer insight into the power of vulnerability, habit, social media, and more.
1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
In Quiet, author Susan Cain argues that introverts are a reservoir of untapped talent-and that progressive managers can create environments in which they thrive.
“Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas,” she tells Fast Company, “we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.”
As the author of the disruption-defining Innovator’s Dilemma, Clay Christensen is one of the most esteemed minds in business. In How Will You Measure Your Life?, he and coauthors James Allworth and Karen Dillon investigate what it means to have a fulfilling career, and finds that it is both a focused and open process.
“I believe that we can, in a deliberate way, articulate the kind of people we want to become,” he says. “As the rest of life happens to you, you can utilize those things to help you become the kind of person you want to be.”
Bob Pozen once simultaneously served as president of Fidelity Management, lectured full-time at Harvard Business School, and wrote for the Harvard Business Review-meaning that he’s earned the right to write a book called Extreme Productivity.
“If you want an active schedule,” he tells us in an interview about turning career plans into daily actions, “you have to husband your time so you can act on the things that are important.”
Nate Silver has become a bespectacled icon for his prediction prowess-as you might of heard, he called every state of the presidential election (and pulled 20+ percent of the New York Times’ web traffic on election night). But as he observes in The Signal and the Noise, we as a culture have grown forecast obsessed-something all businesses would do well to be aware of.
“We need to stop and admit it: we have a prediction problem,” he writes. “We love to predict things-and we aren’t very good at it.”
There’s a myth about how entrepreneurs have to be invulnerable. Brené Brown will have none of it.
“If you are alive and in relationship, you do vulnerability,” she tells us. “If you are alive and in relationship and in business, you do it hourly.”
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores how habits shape our lives-and how savvy businesses can shape them.
Febreeze, for instance, flopped when it launched as an odor killer, because, as Duhigg says, “the people who needed it, who lived with nine cats, had adapted to (it).” After noticing that people look proud after making their beds-a habit to capitalize on-P&G rebranded the spray as a post-cleaning reward, one that now makes $1 billion a year.