If you’re looking for a career boost, you might enroll in a continuing education class or some other form of training. Or maybe you spend your time combing Harvard Business Review or another business-focused publication. But don’t overlook the value of books: the original form of deep learning and study. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, provide valuable insight into others’ lives and perspectives and allow us to learn from their experiences, all from the comfort of our home or office. If you want to deepen your knowledge, you can do little better than consulting a good book.
For those who work in business technology, this kind of continuing self-education is a must. This demanding field requires employees to be familiar with the ins and outs of new and established technologies, as well as possess a deep knowledge of operations, marketing, data, and human resources. Creativity and management skills are a must. The books we’ve listed will help improve your work life and teach you to better manage your time, yourself, and others.
Cal Newport’s Deep Work presents the issue of productivity at work through the lens of so-called “deep work”— work that is deeply creative, innovative, and smart. Each of us is only capable of a few hours of deep work every day, and that much only under the most ideal conditions. Newport outlines the differences between deep and shallow work, and gives the reader tips and tricks to maximize deep work time.
Deep work is vital for anyone whose work relies on innovation and big ideas. Without adequate work time to think, brainstorm, and plan, we remain chained to shallow, meaningless tasks like answering emails, or stuck in unnecessary meetings. This information is important for anyone who wants to think and work with significance, and especially for anyone who manages others. If you like this book, you might want to check out some of Newport’s other books, like Digital Minimalism and A World Without Email.
Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim
Though this book focuses on technology companies, there’s something for any business technologist to take away here. Accelerate explores how technology can improve business efficiency in practice. The authors’ data-driven approach offers performance-minded readers insight into why they endorse certain methods over others. From a business technology perspective, Accelerate can help readers quantify the value of digital transformation and how best to communicate that value, both internally and externally.
If this book interests you, you might enjoy another book by author Gene Kim, titled The Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project is a satirical novel rich with humorous and accurate commentary on business, technology, and management.
You might know Brené Brown from her podcast Unlocking Us, or for her research about imperfection, shame, and empathy. Brown, a well-respected social work researcher and professor, also writes about leadership in Dare to Lead. Real leadership, Brown says, is not about power over your employees or fear-based motivation. It’s about deliberate vulnerability, kindness, and courage.
That all sounds great in theory, right? Brown’s book offers not only theoretical observations about the nature of leadership, but also real, practical steps you can implement to become a more empathetic and effective leader for your team. Even if you’re self-employed or you don’t manage anyone, Brown’s insights are well worth reading.
Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
From one of the co-founders of Pixar, Creative, Inc explores how to foster creativity, both as a manager and as an individual. Pixar is of course known for its wildly successful use of computer animation to create award-winning films that go on to be popular culture classics. Catmull takes the lessons he learned in working at Pixar and applies them to creativity and productive work. Like Brown’s book Dare to Lead, Catmull focuses on how managers can create a culture of creativity and emotional safety, where employees feel able to take risks, be brave, and give their best work.
Delving into the topics of creativity and management can be useful if you have big decisions coming up and want to recenter, or if you want to shake things up. If this book inspires you, you might also check out Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.
Business technologists are often called upon to clearly articulate their concerns or choices. Often they have to balance competing interests to find a profitable, mutually agreeable solution. Marketing, and specifically branding, may seem like an afterthought for someone of this specialty. But far from it— marketing is all about telling stories, and management positions are too. Not stories in the fictional sense, but in the sense that you constantly have to decide when and how to communicate information to coworkers and business partners. Good communication is at the heart of every successful business, and there’s no better way to improve these skills than by studying branding and messaging. This book is a great introduction for anyone new to marketing and branding.
Those were five books to bring your business technology career to the next level, with some bonus recommendations thrown in. What books do you recommend for those in business technology? Happy reading!