The 7 Best Strategy Books of 2020
Learn how to navigate any industry successfully
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If you’re looking to master the art of strategy, you’re going to need a plan.
How can you learn to get things done in a thoughtful manner? How can you reinvent yourself, save your business, disrupt an industry – or keep from being toppled by disruption? Becoming an expert on strategy requires careful planning, thoughtfulness and years of hard work. Strategy is about effectively plotting a course to success and then carrying through with your carefully formulated plan, which will benefit you no matter what industry you’re in. Need some help? These best books below will set you well on your way to understanding the craft, nature and art of strategy.
Best Overall: Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
This book by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling is the most straightforward and practical book on this list. Sure, learning the history of strategy and how other people or companies have employed strategy can be informative, but nothing is as helpful as having useable takeaways that will be relevant no matter your discipline or specialty. Rather than allowing yourself to be caught up in whirlwinds of urgency, this book emphasizes discipline and planning in a way that you can repeat over and over again, daily and project by project. While the advice proffered inside might seem obvious, it is only when you put it into intentional practice that you’ll see that it’s also highly underrated.
Best for the Businessperson: Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition
You have probably heard the term “shark” used to describe someone who is good at business. But why does one need to be vicious and nasty in order to succeed? Authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne certainly do not feel like it has to be that way. Instead of brutally battling your competitors, this breathtakingly refreshing book argues that the best strategy is to carve out a new “blue ocean” where you can shine without raining on anyone else’s success. This theory is backed up by a comprehensive study of 150 strategic plays in over 30 industries in the last century. Out with the dog eat dog world, in with the making a new space that is all your own.
Best for Your Personal Brand: Rise of the Youpreneur
Some love them. Some hate them. We can definitely live without them. But the personal brand entrepreneurs, the social media influencers and bloggers and podcasters who have turned their name and their personality into their main source of income, aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. The author of this book, Chris Ducker, dubbed this group the “Youpreneurs” ― and since then, the phenomenon has taken the world by storm in virtually every industry. These people bring loyal and engaged fans no matter what they do, and hardly ever play by traditional rules. While this book may or may not enable you to #TreatYoself on the strength of your budding YouTube channel alone, it is certainly an interesting, entertaining and informative read.
Best for the Self-Starters: Good To Great
Some companies and people are born with success in their blood. But others, like Amazon or Walmart, did not have immediately obvious paths to superstardom. So what ultimately separates the great from the good and the great from the market forces? While Amazon hadn’t yet taken over the world when this 2001 book was written, Jim Collins provides an easy-to-understand paradigm for determining how companies can carve out a path to greatness. Inside, he studies 28 companies who were able to consistently beat the stock market for decades at a time. Collins identifies “level 5” leaders, hedgehogs, discipline and avoiding flywheels as keys to this level of excellence ― and in order to comprehend that lingo, you’ll just have to read the book!
Best for Aspiring Politicos: Rules For Radicals
What do President Obama and leaders of the alt-right have in common? They’ve read Saul Alinsky’s 1971 best-selling book Rules For Radicals. This book gives practical guidance on how to bring, not just talk about, societal change. While you might think of a radical as someone who is all talk and no action, Alinsky sees it as just the opposite. After studying prisoners, gangsters and societal change for decades as a professor, Alinsky is an authoritative voice on the sometimes uncomfortable idea that outsiders can change a system from the bottom up. If you want to learn how to change the world or just your neighborhood, you should pick up a copy of this book.
Best for Worry-ers: The Innovator's Dilemma
Are you up all night worrying about things that do not even exist yet? The inevitable heat death of the universe? The possible collapse of your business or your brand due to an unforeseen market force? With this book, hopefully, you will be able to breathe a little bit easier. In this seminal work, Clayton M. Christensen rehashes all the juiciest stories of where things went terribly wrong, how giant companies were felled by unforeseen innovation. But he also cultivates a checklist of things managers and CEOs must be on the lookout for ― and how to know when to roll with the rising tide. No matter what your industry, this book will help you learn how disruptive innovation can be a bane or bust for your business.
Best for Wannabe Real Estate Tycoons: The Power Broker
The subject of this book is a wildly powerful, controversial and daring New Yorker who left an unerasable mark on New York City’s five boroughs. Though he was never elected to public office in the state, he held dozens of influential positions and titles at a time. No, I am not talking about our Donald Trump: I am talking about Robert Moses. In Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” you’ll discover the once-hidden forces that built, broke and restructured the nation’s largest city during the 20th century. If you have never read Infinite Jest, the fact that this book is over 1,300 pages might overwhelm you ― but we promise it will have you on the edge of your chair.