Got Four Days and $75 for a Cheap Business Education?

Winter is a great time to develop new skills, rejuvenate?? and read. The slow economy does have its plusses: it gives us elbowroom to take a few hours out of the week to catch up on some excellent books. Here are four of them that will take you less than four workdays to read and less than $75 to buy, and I promise you, you will be glad you did. Every recruiter should get a copy of the recently published book, Weird Ideas That Work, written by Robert Sutton. Sutton is a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford and was co-author of another good read, The Knowing-Doing Gap. His contention is that innovation and creativity are essential survival skills in today’s competitive markets. Companies that cannot create new products or services on a regular basis will fall by the wayside. His book lists 11 and a half practices for hiring people who will bring innovation and excitement to an organization. The ideas are very appropriate for a sclerotic older company, but also for younger organizations that worry about becoming stuffy. Some of his ideas will rub against the grain of recruiters?? but that was his whole idea. He advocates hiring “slow learners,” hiring those who make you uncomfortable, and those you probably don’t think you need. He also is in favor of forgetting the past and believes that too much focus on yesterday and what the company has done prevents risk taking and encourages employees to rely on old ideas. The book is an easy read. It’s available from the Free Press and is on Amazon for about $18. Another book, worth a quick scan at least, is the very new Work 2.0 by Bill Jensen, which defines a new contract for workers and managers. A sentence written early in the book sums up the main point: “There is a great and grave difference between employee satisfaction and satisfying employees’ work needs. The new contract…[is] about that difference.” In some ways, this is about how employees in the 21st century will be perceived and how they will perceive themselves. By not following what this book says, we will encourage an increasing number of people to choose free agency or to look for alternate ways to make a living, because our current workplaces are not very happy or satisfying. Jensen presents four rules of the new work:

  1. Embrace the asset revolution
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  3. Build my work my way
  4. Deliver peer-to-peer value
  5. Develop extreme leaders

These rules and the discussion about them make up over half the book. The book is small?? less than 170 pages?? and a good airplane read. Nothing really new here, but well said. Available from Amazon for a little over $17. A third book that you definitely need on your bookshelf is Ram Charan’s What the CEO Wants You To Know. Ram is a Harvard professor and business consultant who wrote this book for clients and friends who were always asking him to explain one or another business concept. This tiny book (you can read it in two to three hours) will explain what P/E ratios are, or what margin and velocity mean and why they are important to an organization’s success. He doesn’t get into any deep analysis, but lightly reviews all the key things you need to know to understand how your organization really works. Ram covers how businesses operate and why CEOs and CFOs focus on a few significant numbers. He defines terms and concepts in a language anyone can grasp. His goal is to help you understand and speak “the universal language of business.” I can’t recommend this one enough. If you own an agency or run a recruiting department, buy a copy for every person on your staff. Pass them out to candidates to help them in interviews, give them to everyone in HR. This is a must-read/must-have kind of book. Amazon offers it for about $12. The final book is a little bit heavier going. In Good Company was written last year by two excellent thinkers: Don Cohen, a writer and consultant, and Laurence Prusak, executive director of the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management. The book is about social capital?? the sum of the networks, cultural values, sense of community, trust, and cooperation that exists in organizations. The more positive and effective these elements are, the better the organization is able to withstand adversity, weather bad times, keep people productive, and remain profitable. They use UPS, the World Bank and other institutions to make their case. They show how everything managers do has an impact on the social capital of a firm. This capital can be enhanced or eroded and has become as important as financial capital or intellectual capital in making organizations successful. The book runs about 186 pages and is very readable. Amazon has it for under $20. By investing a little less than $75 total on these books, you can get an education that would cost thousands at Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton. The lessons they teach are universal, and are the basis for a lot of the thinking that is going into new recruiting techniques and tools.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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