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Philly CEOs, Wharton offer their best business book picks of 2018

We polled Philly CEOs and the Wharton School of business for best business and other books.

"Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou. CREDIT: Knopf
"Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou. CREDIT: KnopfRead more

In the spirit of giving, Philly CEOs generously sent in their favorite business book picks of 2018 to the Inquirer. Some said these authors helped them in business, while others said they were inspired by themes of accountability.

Scrub Daddy CEO Aaron Krause picked Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight as his best CEO book of 2018.

On recent sixteen-hour flights to and from Hong Kong, “I listened to Phil Knight’s memoirs of his rise from a humble track star to one of the wealthiest people in the world, amassing over $35 billion and creating one of the most iconic brands in the history of the world," Krause said.

"Shoe Dog is the complete story of the tumultuous roller coaster that all entrepreneurs ride, and are sometimes even thrown from, but gives valuable lessons along the way. I was on the edge of my seat, literally, as Phil guided his company out of the jaws of bankruptcy and loan default on a daily basis until his difficult decision to take the company public in the 1980’s. One of the best reads, with real emotions and helped me feel more vindicated with how I run my business and personal life. I was even motivated to explore -- but later reject -- taking Scrub Daddy public after reading this.”

Arcweb Technologies CEO Chris Cera chose The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz. Cera called this tome “a fast-paced tale of entrepreneurial survival, and he has great advice on many challenges faced by CEOs and founders.”

Michael Risich, founder and CEO of Bolt On Technology, selected QBQ! The Question behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller.

“In a world where we have accepted mediocrity and finger pointing, it is such a difference when people [and companies] use personal accountability. Understanding how to ask good questions and have better communication [internally and externally] really helps people appreciate solving real world problems," Risich wrote.

Due Quach, founder and CEO of Calm Clarity, said two books gave her insights: New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms and Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, the creators of the Implicit Association Test for unconscious bias.

By coincidence, Calm Clarity: How to Use Science to Rewire Your Brain for Greater Wisdom, Fulfillment, and Joy written by Due Quach herself, was just named by Fast Company as a top business book for 2018.

When Quach was an undergraduate student at Harvard, she struggled to feel accepted by her college and her peers. A Vietnamese refugee who grew up in inner-city Philadelphia, she founded Calm Clarity as a meditation class for undergrads and has since branched out to corporations.

Knowledge@Wharton picks

Knowledge@Wharton also shared a list of books with author interviews that were among the most popular among K@W readers – on topics that range from the benefits of being a misfit to why mindfulness could make you a better manager.

The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People by National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner explores what we can learn from the world’s happiest people. The author interviewed the most satisfied nations and reverse-engineered how they achieve that.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou charts the unraveling of biotechnology wunderkind Elizabeth Holmes and her fraudulent blood-testing start-up Theranos.

Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, and Ours by psychologist Nancy Van Dyken exposes what Van Dyken calls “everyday narcissism," which she defines as “a garden variety form of narcissism that we will recognize through people who are prone to pleasing, trying to get other people to please them or take care of them. It’s an unconscious level of wanting to be taken care of and feeling responsible for other people.” Her book offers ways of addressing our everyday narcissism and its toxic effects on ourselves, our loved ones, and our workplaces.

Wharton professor Adam Grant’s new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success breaks people into three groups: “The takers are people who, when they walk into an interaction with another person, are trying to get as much as possible from that person and contribute as little as they can in return, thinking that’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals,” he told Knowledge@Wharton radio. “At the other end of the spectrum, we have this strange breed of people that I call ‘givers.’ It’s not about donating money or volunteering necessarily, but looking to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring, or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached. These givers actually prefer to be on the contributing end of an interaction. Very few of us are purely takers or purely givers. Most of us hover somewhere in between. That brings us to the third group of people, who are matchers. A matcher is somebody who tries to maintain an even balance of give and take. If I help you, I expect you to help me in return. [They] keep score of exchanges, so that everything is fair and really just.”

Gretchen Steidle has written a book called Leading From Within: Conscious Social Change and Mindfulness for Social Innovation about bringing mindfulness into the workplace and the boardroom. She cites an example whereby outdoor apparel company Patagonia went through a period facing major shortfalls.

“There was likely to have to be cuts of up to 150 people in order to meet needs in one particular quarter,” she writes. “The leadership went into a reflective process and asked, ‘Are we making these decisions, imposing them from the top down from a place of fear? How else could we do this more mindfully?’ They decided to be transparent about what they were facing, and the entire staff worked together to create a much more innovative solution that cut costs. Not one person had to be laid off because of that approach.”