By Richard Feloni and originally published here.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh wants his employees to continuously explore new ideas. That’s why there’s a library of some of his favorite books at Zappos’ Las Vegas headquarters.
Over the years he’s recommended well over 20 business books — including his own, the 2010 bestseller “Delivering Happiness” — and you can always find what he’s currently reading atop his cluttered desk.
“It’s always interesting just to learn different perspectives, but to be careful of not trying to just say, ‘Oh this book is the Bible, and we should copy that,'” Hsieh told Business Insider. “Instead, I want us to take the parts that make sense for Zappos and try to incorporate them.”
Hsieh shared with us the four books he’s recommending to everyone at the moment.
Leadership consultant and popular TED Talk speaker Simon Sinek’s 2009 book “Start with Why” has a simple but potentially profound insight: The best leaders process and share information by starting with why, then how, and then finally what, whereas most people approach matters in the reverse order.
It’s why, for example, Apple was able to dominate the mp3 player industry in the last decade despite the prevalence of many other quality devices on the market. It started its pitch to consumers with the why of having a mission to change the status quo and encourage creativity and then ended with the what of selling an iPod.
Author Steven Johnson argues in his 2010 book that innovation comes from the collision of ideas. This can happen when an individual working in isolation builds off years of existing knowledge to fuel his insights, or it can happen much more quickly when several creative types bounce ideas off each other in a community like Silicon Valley.
This theory is one of the reasons why Hsieh decided to invest $350 million of his own money in 2010 into the Downtown Project, which is building a community of entrepreneurs in Zappos’ neighborhood
David Allen is a management consultant whose 2001 classic “Getting Things Done” has sold over a million copies, making it the go-to book on personal productivity for the past 15 years.
Allen updated it last year, but its main principles have held up well because they provide readers of all experience levels with tools to make decisions, plan their days according to top priorities, and stay focused on what matters.
It turns out that Allen runs his consulting company using the same unusual self-management system that Zappos recently adopted.
Wharton’s youngest and highest rated professor, Adam Grant, released his second book this month, and it’s an exploration of how nonconformists change the world on both an individual and corporate level. In both cases, it’s an openness to continually try new things and not expend too much energy on what doesn’t work.
Grant argues that history’s greatest geniuses did not crank out hit after hit, but rather dedicated themselves to a steady output of material, constantly experimenting and seeing what sticks.
On an organizational level, Grant finds that the strongest organizations are ones whose employees are united by values but that simultaneously encourage them to raise voices of dissent with leadership and among each other.