10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

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With a burgeoning array of thought leaders in social media, innovation and investment, aspiring entrepreneurs are fortunate to have insights from pioneers in a variety of industries that have documented their struggles and successes and why you should care. This is my list of the top 10 books that will enhance your work, outlook and productivity:

  • Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Ranked the #6 on Forbes list of World’s Most Powerful Women, Sheryl Sandberg is a force to be reckoned with.  As an accomplished twice Harvard graduate, Sandberg claimed her place not by selling 115,000 copies in the first week, but through her staunch advocacy of making a dent in the ever-present gender gap.

    Takeaway: ”It’s time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table.”
    Bonus: It was an inspiration for our team here at SMW to undertake Gender 50/50.


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  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder
  • If you are practical, methodical and a do-er, this is your bible. BMG is a strategic management template for constructing new or polishing existing business models Co-created by 470 strategy practitioners.  The canvas illustrates the factors that impact a firm’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers and finances in a chart that aligns and simplifies operations by highlighting trade-offs.

    Takeaway: “Business model innovation is not about looking back…[but] creating new mechanisms to create value and derive revenue.”


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  • The Start-up Of You, by Reid Hoffman
  • Co-authored with Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Ben Casnocha, Hoffman explains how you must treat your career as you would a start-up company in an era characterized by volatile global economies, unemployment and new disruptions. This book gives readers an urgency to take control and how to do it.

    Takeaway: “All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA.”


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  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver
  • Statistician, writer, and founder of The New York Times political blog FiveThirtyEight.com, Silver cautions readers to not get lost in the era of “Big Data” but to extract the correct signal from noisy data. Statisticians or not, Silver’s book provides methods of improving our acuity to valuable data to forecast setbacks as well as successes.

    Takeaway: “Good innovators typically think very big and they think very small. New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look.”


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  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
  • Award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg invites readers to uncover the scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Bold, challenging and ingeniously depicted through gripping narratives, Duhigg expels traditional notions about human nature and uncovers the potential for change and renewal.

    Takeaway: “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”


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  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
  • In an age where people have countless platforms to voice opinions, online and offline, Cain divulges the dimensions of the introvert/extrovert partition and stresses the importance of valuing introverts in society. After reading this, readers will realize that without introverts, we wouldn’t have the Apple computer, the theory of relativity and Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

    Takeaway: “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”


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  • 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, by Nilofer Merchant
  • Social tools are undeniably embedded in the fabric of our personal and business interactions, so what now? Merchant offers new rules for creating value, leading, and innovating. Traditional strategy is insufficient, but this book shows entrepreneurs how to optimize all talents, co-create, creatively inspire employees, and overcome new challenges. This is not the Industrial Era or the Informational Era, this is the Social Era.

    Takeaway: “If the industrial era was about building things, the social era is about connecting things, people and ideas.”


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  • Crowdstorm: The Future of Innovation, Ideas, and Problem Solving, by Shaun Abrahamson
  • How do you organize so many people and ideas to get the best results?  Crowdstorming provides a guidebook to capitalize on the power of Crowdstorming by propelling organizations to engage networks, discover, disrupt, simplify and innovate.  Whether you’re a CEO, founder, or new entrepreneur, Abrahamson will show you how to tap into outside talent and cultivate valuable relationships.

    Takeaway: “Organization’s innovative process is no longer problem solving but solution finding”


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  • Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon
  • In this canon designed for the evolving digital era, readers are assured that creativity is not an attribute reserved for the Peggy Olson’s of the world.  Through graphics, exercises, and examples, Kleon slowly chips away at inhibitions and reveals there is an artistic side to everyone.

    Takeaway: “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room”


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  • Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, by Robert Pozen
  • Professor at Harvard Business School, author of six books and hundreds of articles, full-time chairman of global financial services firm, board member of dozens of charities, husband and father, Robert Pozen knows a thing or two about productivity. For those plagued by countless deadlines, emails and tasks, Pozen reveals that in order to be fully productive, we must deviate from our mind-set: from hours worked to results produced.

    Takeaway: ”Priorities are the yearly goals that I’m most interested in achieving…then they become operationalized through weekly goals.”


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