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10 Must-Read Business Books for 2020

January 25, 2021

Contributor: Jill Beadle

Gartner experts share their list of must-read books for business executives — from the recent to the classics — to help you hone your leadership skills and tackle the business and societal challenges of 2020.

Smarter With Gartner helps its readers stay ahead of business and technology trends. Every year, our readers flock to articles on emerging tech, leadership and the future of work. In 2019, Gartner experts authored two books to help leaders tackle those same issues and dig deeper on what matters most to their business. 

Explore the latest: 10 Must-Read Business Books for 2021

We asked our Smarter With Gartner Expert Advisory Board members to recommend their must-read books for business executives in 2020. Their list covers a wide range of issues from the realities of financial reporting and how to be “radically candid” to discovering the one thing you need to do to make your life more productive.

Happy reading.

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New books from Gartner experts

The Real Business of Blockchain
By David Furlonger & Christophe Uzureau

This engaging and accessible read is not just for IT leaders. It’s for all business leaders, whatever their level of experience with blockchain. Gartner analysts Furlonger and Uzureau created this practical guide to help executives assess how blockchain will impact their business, explore blockchain’s value proposition, make smart near- and midterm investments — and learn to cut through the blockchain hype to focus on the core value proposition that the emerging tech can unlock. Learn more. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Connector Manager: Why Some Leaders Build Exceptional Talent — and Others Don’t
By Jaime Roca and Sari Wilde

Of the four types of managers, which one are you? Gartner experts Roca and Wilde explain the four types and why a Gartner multiyear study of thousands of employees, managers and senior leaders from around the world found Connector managers — who boost performance by 26% — to be the star performers. Learn what they do differently and why their approach has an outsized positive impact on employee performance. Learn more. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Additional books for your 2020 reading list

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-A** Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (2nd Edition)
By Kim Scott

The title says it all. Managers need to be radically candid. Author Kim Brown explains how and why leaders who adopt the Radical Candor™ management philosophy caring personally while challenging directly create a culture of compassionate feedback, build cohesive teams and achieve great results. Bonus: This new edition includes a chapter on performance reviews. Available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

If you want to learn how to focus on what matters most both at work and at home, then this is the book for you. Authors Keller and Papasan ask you to ask yourself, "What's the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” They then teach you how to master what matters most, which has already helped sales teams boost sales, companies have more productive coaching and training, and more. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
By Tim Brown

If you think this is just another design thinking book, think again. It was written decades ago by Tim Brown — considered by many to be the father of design thinking — and was recently updated because Brown says he’s more convinced than ever of the relationship between design thinking and the challenges of business and society. He explains why design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving and how it can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes and strategy. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Business Data Science: Combining Machine Learning and Economics to Optimize, Automate, and Accelerate Business Decisions
By Matt Taddy

This book is an important reminder that much of the initial value in data science is not found in massive datasets, but rather in applying econometrics and simpler machine learning models to real business problems. In it, author Matt Taddy explains how to use machine learning to implement leading business data science. Perfect for business leaders who want to take a deep dive into data. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World 
By David Epstein

This book challenges the belief that the world’s most successful people are specialists in their profession of choice (sports, business, technology, science, the arts) — and began their pursuit early in life. It’s the generalists who are primed to excel, even those with a late start, says author David Epstein. He breaks it all down and shares the stories behind generalist stars such as Duke Ellington, J.K. Rowling and Roger Federer. Available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations 
By Dan Ariely 

Can giving employees bonuses harm productivity? Why is trust so crucial for successful motivation? What are our misconceptions about how to value our work? This book explores these questions and more in an attempt to understand what truly motivates us in both our professional and personal lives. As the author puts it, “Explore the jungle of motivation’s true nature, as well as our blindness to its strangeness and complexity.” Available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers
By Baruch Lev and Feng Gu

Authors Baruch Lev and Feng Gu challenge the usefulness of financial reporting in making capital market decisions, explore why accounting is losing its importance and offer up an alternate solution. Released in 2016, their indictment of financial reporting remains relevant given today’s environment where massive unicorn firms can be made and broken almost overnight — even while financial performance data remains rosy. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
By Jeff Goodell

Author Jeff Goodell was compelled to write this book about global warming after seeing the effect Hurricane Sandy had on New York City in 2012. The sole focus is water: Why and how it will rise above sea level and what that means for all of us. This book is ideal for leaders interested in exploring the effects climate change will have on how and where they do business. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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