One of the most revealing questions posed in CIO’s regular Questionnaire is “Which business books have been influential in your career?”. The responses from the UK’s top CIOs are eclectic to say the least. Here are our top five:
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu: It is not known whether the author actually existed but this ancient book, believed to date back to 400 BC, suggests that he made his name as a general when, as a test, the king asked him to train a harem of hundreds of concubines. His tips for successful leadership include the ability to exploit others’ vulnerabilities, maintain a healthy suspicion of motives and act quickly — as well as the qualities of serenity, diplomacy, self-knowledge and diligence.
Classic quote: “Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skilful way.”
The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
: Another ancient book that has been co-opted by today’s powerful and ambitious, The Prince — written in 1513 — is a treatise about achieving and maintaining power. So notorious is the work that the author’s name has become synonymous with ruthlessness and deception — as well as realism.
Classic quote: “It is better to be both feared and loved; however, if one cannot be both it is better to be feared than loved.”
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie: Described as the most successful self-help book ever published, this 1930s manual is all about getting the result you want by using what would now be called emotional intelligence. Divided into four sections — handling people; getting people to like you; getting people to agree with you; and being a leader — it uses examples to show how to get others’ to come round to your way of thinking. Even the legendary investor Warren Buffett said the book changed his life.
Classic quote: “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”
It’s Not About the Bike, by Lance Armstrong: Many of this country’s top CIOs have found inspiration in this chronicle of the cyclist’s childhood, early successes, cancer battle and triumphant comeback. Determination is the book’s main theme —sheer hard work led Armstrong to become cycling’s youngest world champion at 21 and the youngest winner of a Tour de France stage and later win the Tour de France in record time after surviving testicular cancer.
Classic quote: “I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour (de France) because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.”
Organising Genius: The secrets of creative collaboration, by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman: Top business brains have taken inspiration from this 1998 book, which argues that although modern societies are obsessed with solitary genius, it is really group efforts that have changed the world. Citing examples from the founders of the Walt Disney Studio to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign team, the authors make the case for organising gifted people in ways that allow them both to achieve great things and experience the personal transformation such accomplishment brings.
Classic quote: “Throughout history, groups of people, often without conscious design, have successfully blended individual and collective effort to create something new and wonderful.”