“My most influential book” – CxOs talk National Read a Book Day

CxOs talk about their literary (and non-literary) inspirations in honour of National Read a Book day

6th September marks National Read a Book Day – a day to encourage everyone to pick up a book and get inspired to read.

To mark the day, a variety of executives at enterprise technology companies have come together to each write about the book that influenced them most.

Luke Brown, VP EMEA at WinMagic
“My favourite business book is ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance’ by Lou Gerstner, which relates to the IBM turnaround.

Gerstner’s approach to clinical decision-making, creating culture and relentless execution are the elements most prominent for me. I have always tried to lead by these principles in my own work life. I share his view of boring long-winded presentations that skirt around the subject, and instead prefer to switch off electronics, then talk and get to the point.

His ability to ensure people kept things simple and focussed rather than attempting to create a ‘strategy & vision’ was what enabled IBM to arrest its slide into oblivion and get itself back to being what it had always been – a market leader and dominant player.”

Tim Matthews, CMO at Exabeam
“For all of California’s image as open and freewheeling, it has always been initially resistant to outsiders. In ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, John Steinbeck reminds us that all immigrants deserve their dignity – a lesson we should all heed in the midst of the migrant crises we see today in the U.S. and Europe.”

Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft
“One of my favourite books is ancient – from 1995! – but to be honest, it completely changed my life. The name is ‘Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace’ by Hyrum W. Smith. And it works. The premise is that you control your life by controlling your time and you can ensure that you make the absolute most use of your time by planning it. I love this book and regularly re-read it.

I am very keen on time management, spending 10 minutes at the top the day or flight determining what I want to do. I tend to break down massive jobs into smaller projects and diary that time. I always think that Oprah Winfrey has the same 24 hours that I have, that everyone has. I believe time is the most rare commodity – we don’t know how long we have, we cant bank it, so you have to treat time with incredible respect and really be clear on how you are going to spend it.

I don’t believe in work life balance, I believe it’s all about choice. And the choice is about where you spend your time. You choose to sit opposite your kids in a restaurant and check your email. You choose to get up early so you can have breakfast with your kids before you head for work. You choose to get the earlier flight home so you can make the family gathering. It’s about choice.”

Betsey Banker, Wellness Market Manager at Ergotron
“My book is Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’. The book has always served as a powerful reminder to keep leaning in and to do what I can to support other women in the workplace. I’m grateful to work for an organization that values women in leadership roles and wants to have women around the table with ideas, opinions and conviction.”

Steve Armstrong, Regional Director UK, Ireland and South Africa at Bitglass
“The book that has most impacted the way that I approach business – and even day-to-day life – is ‘Fooled by Randomness’, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (fun fact – he also wrote Black Swan!). The book explores the underestimated role that probability and chance play in our lives. It discusses the notion that, by nature, people are flawed; our emotions, memories, and imaginations lead us to make illogical decisions based on past biases and future fears. What we fail to understand is that randomness, chance, and luck influence our lives and our work far more than we realise. The book is worth a read because it will make you question, and perhaps even change, how you think about business and the world. By accepting that life is largely a game of chance, you can approach new opportunities with greater discretion, improving the likelihood of success.”

Todd Krautkremer, CMO at Cradlepoint
“I have always been fascinated by the human, organisational, and market dynamics around new technology adoption. Geoffrey Moore, through his seminal work ‘Crossing the Chasm’ (as well as ‘Inside the Tornado’ and most recently ‘Zone to Win’), has given the tech industry a reference model and lexicon for bringing innovative new products to the market, and the organisational design needed to compete and win in an age of constant disruption. I hired Geoffrey shortly after he founded The Chasm Group consultancy and put his principles to work at Packeteer to great success. Our first two major “bowling pins” were protecting Citrix print traffic for distributed enterprises and controlling music sharing within universities, both of which were instrumental in fuelling our IPO.”

Peter Godden, VP of EMEA at Zerto
“One of the most influential books I’ve read in my career is, without a doubt, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Dr Spencer Johnson. This book looks at how important it is to be able to deal with change effectively in both your work and personal life. I personally think this is especially true when it comes to the tech industry; the only certainty in this industry is that we need to be prepared for change – change is the only constant. When you’re looking to disrupt the established way things are done, you need to embrace change to truly be an innovator – and by doing so, one can only hope to find one’s own abundance of cheese.”