Topics:   Corporate Governance,Director Education,Leadership

Topics:   Corporate Governance,Director Education,Leadership

May 15, 2019

Books and Authors for Summit and Beyond

May 15, 2019

Chances are, your hectic year of board meetings is slowing down, making way for a little relaxation and time to reconnect with a good book or two. Whether you’re jetting off to another business engagement; enjoying some sunny time with loved ones; or in pursuit of knowledge, entertainment, or both, there is always plenty to read. But what should you pick up first? We’ve rounded up some suggestions for the summer months ahead.

Prepping for Summit

The 2019 NACD Global Board Leaders’ Summit will feature a lineup of leading thinkers and innovators, some of whom are also highly respected authors, or who (in addition to working their day jobs) also find the time and energy to write. While you might not be looking to wade through hundreds of pages on your trip to the beach this summer (or perhaps you are!), the authors featured at Summit have written books on a wide variety of director-centric subjects that you may consider slipping into your weekend bag.

Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change by Beth Comstock

Failure is an option. That’s what Comstock, who was vice chair and a division CEO at General Electric Co., writes in her 2018 book. Imagine cheers on people looking for a leadership playbook. Among the best advice? Believe in these two maxims: “Tomorrow can be better than today,” and “You have the power to make it so.”

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson

Artificial intelligence (AI) is real, it’s here, and it shouldn’t be scary. This rational and reassuring work is a strong antidote to all the headlines about AI replacing tens of thousands of jobs and thus becoming a transformative power of destruction. Instead, H+M provides a clear-eyed guidebook to the opportunities that AI presents amid what we now think of as the fourth industrial revolution.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Certain moments—positive or not—change us. What could leaders do if they understood how to create experiences that elevate insight, pride, and connection? The Heath brothers have researched exactly what happens in the lightening-strike instants that shape our lives, and explain how we can stop leaving those moments to chance.

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin brings her affectionately titled “guys” together in her latest volume. The goal? Identify those qualities that have helped bring great American presidents successfully through trying times. Kearns brings the best of her narrative prowess to bear to help us understand what made Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Johnson the right people in office at the right time. (Look for an interview with Goodwin that appears in the May/June issue of NACD Directorship, landing in members’ virtual inboxes next week.)

The Fog of Data by Jason Schenker

A leading futurist explains how the recent proliferation of data creates political risk, drowns out the possibility of gleaning insights amid all the noise, and ultimately has become the greatest challenge to putting information to work. In spite of it all, Schenker does see a path forward through the fog. 

The Leader’s Bookshelf by James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell

Published in 2017, after Stavridis spent years speaking with active and retired four-star military officers, The Leader’s Bookshelf was crafted as a testament to the power reading had in shaping some of our greatest leaders. From Grant to Twain and from Tzu to Kipling, Stavridis and Ancell’s passion project contextualizes why each of their recommendations cultivates any leader’s understanding of what it means to wield power with humanity.

Odysseys of the Mind

Titans of science fiction—films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Godzilla and the television series Star Trek—helped earlier generations cope amid the profound, disruptive pace of change in the twentieth century. Now, with the mainstreaming of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and other technologies, it’s time to revisit the genre to make sense of the human implications of cutting-edge technologies in this century.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Chiang came into the national conversation when this collection’s eponymous story was adapted into the 2016 film, Arrival. The Hugo Award-winning author takes the reader on a ride with a man whose intelligence has been augmented, paints a steampunk world of robots powered by mysticism, and contemplates what science will mean as a human practice once computers become more efficient than our own minds. Ready for more? A new volume of Chiang’s short stories (reviewed here by Joyce Carol Oates) landed earlier in May.

Machines Like Me: A Novel by Ian McEwan

Should we heed the primal fear that what we create will ultimately turn against us—or itself? In a reimagined 1980s London, a love triangle develops between Charlie Friend, the narrator; his upstairs neighbor, Miranda; and Adam, one of the first synthetic humanoids. The acclaimed British author Ian McEwan raises the question of whether an artificially intelligent robot can be made to understand the human heart—and if a robot can help humanity understand the meaning of love.

East Meets West

History matters. It’s there for us to learn how to avoid the mistakes others have made, and to provide a way forward when progress is mired by indecision or some other crisis. These stories can help you chart your business through disruption today, and beyond.

Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad by Gordan H. Chang

They came by the hundreds and when the last spike was driven into the Utah dirt, the Chinese workers dispersed and disappeared into cities and towns around the country. Now, 150 years later, a Stanford history professor tells the incredible human story of how from 1865 to 1869 as many as 20,000 immigrant Chinese laborers worked on the Central Pacific Railroad, which, when united with the Union Pacific Railroad, connected east to west. As our nation debates immigration policy, this is a timely reminder of who made America.

IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon by James W. Cortada

Before Thomas J. Watson took the helm, IBM was a hodgepodge conglomerate without a way forward. Cortada, a former IBM executive, explores the ups and downs of the iconic company. While early reviews favor other chronicles of the enduring company’s history, corporate history buffs will want to add this one to their collection. 

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond

The McArthur Fellow and UCLA professor takes a critical look at history-altering moments of history in Japan, the former Soviet Union, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, and Austria to tease out this question: how do nations cope? Diamond’s latest epic spends 512 pages looking at the human elements of coping at scale—acknowledging fault, appraising performance, and looking outward to become better nations. 

On Inquiry and Consensus

There are no grounds for consensus without asking the right questions—and doing so is a skill directors at most companies are always honing. One title looks at a quiz-master’s path to the White House, while the other is about the art of crafting better questions itself. 

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

The author posits that in order to get a great answer, you have to craft the perfect question. Luckily, Berger is ready to guide readers in the right direction, looking at the culture of questioning that has helped the likes of Google, Netflix, and Airbnb to thrive.

Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward by Valerie Jarrett

Jarrett is the longest-serving advisor to any American president, having served in the West Wing for the full two terms of President Barack Obama. Jarrett’s personal chronology takes readers from her birth in Iran to boarding school in western Massachusetts, undergraduate school at Stanford, and law school at the University of Michigan—then onward to Chicago’s City Hall, the C-suite and boardroom and, ultimately, the White House. (An interview with Jarrett, who spoke on May 14 at the NACD Chicago Chapter, will run in the July/August issue of NACD Directorship.)

What will you be reading this summer? We’d love to know. Share a recommendation by leaving a comment in the boxes below.