One key to being a strong contributor in an ever-changing world is to continue your education outside of the classroom. Here are some great social science and business books to get you started:
Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell
Besides being a very interesting read, this book really helped me understand the role that luck plays in success. Through the stories of success and failure that Gladwell describes, I gained a new awareness for the importance of being open to the opportunities all around us, obvious and not. Gladwell artfully details how small, seemingly insignificant details of a person’s life can have a profoundly transformative effect and what truly makes for outlying success is a combination of skills and opportunity, not all intellect or luck alone.
This was my assigned book for the class, so I have a particular bias towards it. However, I credit this book with helping me evolve my decision making skills. A lot of times management literature will camp out on the extremes of totally data driven decision making or totally instinctual decision making. This book discusses the pros and cons of each method and recommends a decision making framework that blends the best of both worlds. Essentially, once we develop an expertise through methodical decision making practice, we can begin to rely on our instinctual cues, which is crucial to decision making in crises.
Talent is never enough by John C. Maxwell
Maxwell’s book makes the argument that raw talent is not the only determining factor for success in business or the workplace. In fact, raw talent coupled with poor social skills or low self-awareness will often lead to negative consequences. This book emphasizes that talent must combined with diligence and continual effort towards improving oneself. A lesson that is fairly common sense, but cannot be reinforced enough.
These two books discuss the human predilection towards irrational behavior. Reading about Ariely’s experiments alone is interesting, but he couples his research with a commentary on how we can use our irrational tendencies to our benefit. Or at the very least how understanding and accepting these tendencies will help us make decisions in concert with them, leading to less disastrous consequences overall. Sometimes management books discuss these tendencies and the prevailing message is that we must figure out how to subdue them. What Ariely describes is a much more realistic view of the problem.
The world is flat by Thomas Friedman
I read this book at the very beginning of my MBA (back in 2009) and I constantly make connections between the concepts Friedman discusses and my classwork, professional life, and even personal life. This book covers the history of the information age, the history of globalization, and more importantly the trends that are taking us into the future. After reading this book, I felt grounded in the last 30 or so years of business history and I feel that I am somewhat equipped for what’s coming. More importantly, I am now clued in to the trends and I can see how they are evolving as I follow current events in and out of the business world.