10 Thought-Provoking Books for C-Level Executives

10 Thought-Provoking Books for C-Level Executives

Reading recommendations for gaining broader perspective to kick off the new year.

Looking for interesting reading to kick off the new year? Connected Futures editors spend a lot of time talking to CIOs, researchers, and business leaders in our search for interesting article sources and event speakers. Here are some book recommendations that have bubbled to the top for us.

  • Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming of Global Disorder
  • By Peter Zeihan

    In this geopolitical view of the world, Zeihan’s storytelling ability makes this book a great read for understanding how the U.S. became global superpower due to its abundant agriculture and energy sources, plus the availability of cheap water-based transportation. But the U.S. isn’t the only country Zeihan writes about. He also shows how demographics in various countries can make or break them, today or in the future. It’s a great read!

  • The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks
  • By Joshua Cooper Ramos

    For Ramos, the Seventh Sense is this age of constant connection. He is not only referring to the Internet, but all the connections from terrorist networks to currency platforms to DNA databases. What if we could harness the power of them all? Perhaps some of today’s world events would be easier to understand.

  • Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business and the World
  • By Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott

    When we first picked up this book, we wanted to understand what Blockchain is and how it is used. Today, of course, you can’t go to an industry event or to a business news site without blockchain being front and center. The father/son duo of Tapscott and Tapscott do a great job of not only explaining currency, but also giving boundless insight on how this technology might just change the world.

  • The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake our World
  • By Pedro Domingos

    Artificial Intelligence allows computers to accomplish tasks that once only humans could do: reasoning, problem solving, acquiring and using common-sense knowledge, planning, decision-making, understanding speech and language, manipulating, navigating, and even learning. “If we succeed, this will be the most important technology in history,” Domingos told a group of CIOs at Cisco’s recent CIO Exchange event. In this book, Domingos shows what a so-called Master Algorithm — one capable of gathering many different kinds of knowledge from data — means to business, consumers and science. Bill Gates has recommended this book as one of two must-reads on AI.

  • Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
  • By Cathy O’Neil

    Speaking of algorithms, this book shows us some of their potential downside. Today’s decisions about things that affect our lives (our car loan, our college acceptance, how much we pay for services) are based on algorithms, rather than a person’s judgment. But are these algorithms taking in all the right details? For example, a person could be rejected from getting a loan because he or she is deemed high risk, based on that person’s zip code — he or she lives in a poor neighborhood. Is that fair? O’Neil asks that those developing algorithms take responsibility for their work and add in the human factor.

  • Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
  • By General Stanley McChrystal

    In this book, McChrystal points out that, “Traditional leadership doesn’t work anymore.” That is true on the battlefield as it is in business. The new role of the leader, he says, is to create an environment where individuals flourish. McChrystal shows that if he can change and decentralize leadership during a war, business leaders can do the same from their boardrooms.

  • Digital Vortex: How Today’s Market Leaders Can Beat Disruptive Competitors at Their Own Game
  • By Jeff Loucks, James Macaulay, Andy Noronha and Mike Wade

    Recent Connected Futures coverage references core research from Digital Vortex. That’s no coincidence. What you’ll find when you pick up this great read is a picture of industry disruption as a volatile vortex. It sweeps everything that can be digitized into toward its center, while discarding all that can’t (like, for example, clunky paper-based processes). The authors use primary research to show which industries are being disrupted the fastest and why — along with how savvy organizations are transforming to become digital disruptors themselves.

  • The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability and Avoiding the Next Collapse
  • By Mohamed El-Erian

    Today’s executive is deals not only with challenges within their own organizations, but also with external macro-factors like market upheavals, economic shifts, and geopolitics.
    In this book, El-Erian sheds light on these external forces and explains which path our current state of economic affairs could take. He uses a combination of insights from the global economy, finance, and behavioral science to understand how recent unforeseen outcomes (such as elections in the U.S. and France, along with Brexit, just to name a few) can create uncertainty, but with the right knowledge we can prepare for any outcome.

  • Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era
  • By Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

    The authors take a look at how America needs to redefine its education system. Are today’s kids learning the right skills that will prepare them for the future workforce? They have high GPAs, SAT scores and other credentials, but do they have the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that they need in the real world?

  • X: The Experience When Business Meets Design
  • By Brian Solis

    In the digital era, according to Solis, customer experience is your brand. The purpose of this book is to get executives to rethink digital marketing strategies. How should they build their business models, products and services, marketing, to create unique and creative customer experience?

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