Books List: Revthink

Guest Post by Emmett Armstrong (@emm3ttarmstrong)

One of the first things I learned in my career was the importance of reading a good business book. As Tim Thompson once told me, “You don’t have to know everything to be a good teacher; you just have to be one step ahead of the student.” Needless to say, my training included stacks and stacks of business books.

I quickly learned that there are two different kinds of business books; those that are fun to read and those that aren’t.

You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s books with titles like, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” or, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” (excellent books; not fun to read). It’s the book that’s been suggested to you about 47 times, but for some reason it just doesn’t sound that interesting.

While you muster up the willpower to crack the cover of a classic, here are some of the books that I’ve deemed “Fun to Read.” (A few of them were so enjoyable that I read the whole book in one sitting!)

Fun To Read Books

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni
The first book that Tim ever recommended to me. In the book cleverly titled Getting NakedPatrick Lencioni writes about the importance of being vulnerable and humble with your clients. If you’re having trouble remembering what their jargon means, ask! Ego is NOT the name of the game for a consultant.

Top Quote: “What clients want more than anything is to know that we’re more interested in helping them than we are in maintaining our revenue source.” 

Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Why would anyone believe that “Mark Zuckerberg is giving away $4.5M to 1,000 Facebook users who like and share this post”? This book explores what makes ideas memorable or “sticky,” and how you can make a lasting impression with your own ideas.

Top Quote: “This book can’t offer a foolproof recipe. We’ll admit it up front: We won’t be able to show you how to get twelve-year-olds to gossip about mitosis around the campfire. And in all likelihood your process-improvement memo will not circulate decades from now as a proverb in another culture.”

Drive by Daniel Pink
“The execution is the fun part. We’re done with the hard part (pitching), now we can play.” People are not always satisfied with the carrot/stick method of motivation. I.E. You can’t always just increase salaries to provide motivation.

Top Quote: “The monkeys solved the puzzle simply because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it. The joy of the task was its own reward.”

Leadership & Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
Most people are jerks. In fact, YOU are probably a jerk. Even though you don’t think so, it’s most likely true. Follow along with a fictional employee as he learns to stop rationalizing his excuses and overcome his unconscious selfishness.

Top Quote: “Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the “solutions” we can think of will actually make matters worse.”

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
Do you know how irrational you are when you try to make rational decisions? A great introduction to the psychology behind decision-making, and how your gut feeling can actually be more accurate than your “rational” mind.

Top Quote: “A lie told well is just as good as the truth.”

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
As Marc Andresson once said, “Technology is eating the world.” Daniel Pink describes how the world is changing: more and more jobs are being “eaten” by technology or low-cost labor from overseas. What does this mean for you, dear creative snowflake?The MFA is the new MBA.

Top Quote: “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.”

Honorable Mention

More titles that I would classify as “Fun to Read.” These books go on the Honorable Mention list because they’re not as relevant to the design industry, or because they’re too similar to books that I’ve already mentioned.

The Five Dysfunction of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Eat People by Andy Kessler

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The Servant by James C. Hunter

Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

It’s Your Ship by D. Michael Abrashoff

The Classics

Many of these classic books are foundational to modern business management, full of find timeless wisdom. However, don’t be surprised if you find yourself re-reading a few pages here and there to fully extract the author’s meaning.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Business Model Generation By Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur


This article first appeared on RevThink works with creative entrepreneurs to ask real questions, steal opportunity, understand the cost of change, and rush in where others fear to tread.