A list of some of the most interesting books about business and productivity in the year gone by
Amy Edmondson’s ‘Right Kind of Wrong’.
Right Kind of Wrong: Why Learning to Fail Can Teach Us To Thrive, by Amy Edmondson
Creating an atmosphere of psychological safety at work may mean pointing out and learning from mistakes takes a backseat. The best person to tell you how to maintain that sense of security at the workplace while communicating failures, errors and feedback, then, is organisational psychologist Amy Edmondson, whose books sets out a framework for failing openly to eliminate bad mistakes while learning from the good ones.
A book on reforming the economy, with detailed recommendations.
Breaking the Mould: Reimagining India’s Economic Future, by Raghuram Rajan and Rohit Lamba
A solidly argued book about the somewhat unique course India will have to pursue for growth, Rajan and Lamba offer detailed recommendations to manage obstacles, focus on services, and reform the economy. Illustrated with case studies and data, the authors make a case for leveraging India’s existing advantages while strengthening democratic institutions for development.
Peter Attia’s ‘Outlive’.
Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford
With all the focus on “health hacking” this year, it’s only right to pick the book that started the craze—Peter Attia’s Outlive. The doctor of medicine, who also holds degrees in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, believes that rigorous monitoring of sleep, nutrition, exercise and mental health is all (yes, that is a lot!) it takes to age with our health intact. You don’t need to depend on doctors, you can do it yourself—more or less, he says.
AI will change the way countries behave.
The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-first Century’s Greatest Dilemma, by Mustafa Suleyman with Michael Bhaskar
A book about AI may seem a bit analog, but this one addresses the technological rivalry playing out in geopolitics. AI is doing more than just writing articles and speeding up searches—it will change the way the nation-state behaves, says Suleyman, a leading AI entrepreneur who cofounded both DeepMind and Inflection AI. We can’t contain AI—every technology has benefits that outweigh risks—but it can be regulated to mitigate catastrophic side-effects.
Harish Bhat’s book is full of tongue-in-cheek humour.
Office Secrets: 50 Human Truths You Should Absolutely Know, by Harish Bhat
Managing peers, bosses and juniors can be quite a task, and a gentle sense of humour always helps—and Office Secrets, which started life as a column in this newspaper, has spades of it. Bhat, who is Brand Custodian at Tata Sons, where he has spent more than three decades, provides tips and tricks for every aspect of management, from how to pick cookies at the conference table to how to learn from the young people on the team while mentoring them as well (all the while, not sounding like an uncle).
Isaacson shadowed Musk for two years before writing the book.
Elon Musk, by Walter Isaacson
You just can’t ignore Elon Musk, the world’s richest person who, apart from making electric cars, rockets and humanoid robots, has disrupted the way we socialise online by rebranding and then reorganising Twitter as X. Isaacson, who is also the biographer of Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein, shadowed Musk for two years, and provides a sense of the influence private individuals piloting tech companies wield, the policy paralysis in governments, and what drives entrepreneurship and ambition.
Adam Grant’s ‘Hidden Potential’.
Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things, by Adam Grant
That everyone has hidden potential sounds like a cliché that fuels the inspiration industry, but best-selling author Adam Grant makes his point with stories of people who accomplished the extraordinary despite showing little innate ability or aptitude early on. He analyses the strategies that led to these accomplishments, bringing to bear his own experience as a professor of psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Slow and steady is what creates successes, he seems to say.
Prahlad Kakar’s book is full of hilarious anecdotes from his days in advertising.
Adman, Madman by Prahlad Kakar
Veteran ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakar has never been known for restraint, and so this is a book with far too much detail about his childhood, adolescence and career, but it is a valuable book about the ad industry in India, and its glory days when creativity was prized. Kakar’s reminiscences, hilariously recounted, serve as both contemporary business history and lessons in brand building, advertising, and selling by entertaining the consumer.
David Brooks’ ‘How To Know A Person’.
How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, by David Brooks
Authenticity is one of the words of 2023—and so it’s not an exaggeration to say that people want to be heard and want to connect without artifice. Massive gulfs separate people—ideas, politics, hierarchies, identity, geography, culture—and bridging them seems near impossible. Brooks avers that it isn’t. At their core, he says, all human beings want to be noticed and feel like they matter, and it’s not hard to make that happen. This is a book about genuine listening, giving people attention and creating bonds that last, and a book about learning to be human.
A book with quite a few home truths.
The Eight Per Cent Solution: A Strategy for India’s Growth, by Nikhil Gupta
A no-nonsense look at how the economy works and what policymakers need to consider to hit and sustain a growth rate of 8% per annum. It’s not a popular point of view, but Gupta explains that we might just need to make peace with 4-6% growth for the rest of the decade in order to lay the foundations for structural change and sustainable growth. There are quite a few home truths here—household savings are shrinking, unsecured loans are rising, and rising consumption isn’t going to save the economy.