Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture firm that invested in Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and Foursquare. Of course, they’ve backed a lot of failures too. But suffice to say that few people think about competition as much as Horowitz so I was interested in seeing his reading list.
He recommends the following reads for managers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
1. The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
Interestingly this is the only business book that Steve Jobs liked. In his biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson wrote that it “deeply influenced” Jobs. Fittingly the book shows why and how most companies miss out on new waves of innovation — they do exactly what they are taught to do in business school.
2. The Black Jacobins – C.L.R. James
This is a powerful history of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, which became the model for Third World liberation movements. A barely literate slave, Toussaint L’Ouverture, led the people of San Domingo against successive invasions by French, Spanish, and English forces. Oh yea, and in the process he helped form the first independent nation in the Caribbean.
3. Only the Paranoid Survive – Andy Grove
I read this book as part of my MBA program. It’s full of common sense, which, while I didn’t know it at the time, isn’t so common.
4. Focus – Al Ries
This is an interesting pick. Marketing “expert” Al Ries believes that focus is the answer to continued growth and prosperity. You know, the common sense approach that Apple and almost no one else seems to follow these days: focus on core products and avoid the siren song of everything else. Of course this isn’t the only way to success and lots of companies that focus fail while lots of companies that diversify succeed. Notwithstanding that, focus is the key to mindfulness.
5. My Years at GM – Alfred Sloan
This is a book that everyone talks about but few people have read. Bill Gates, who did read it, called it the best business book ever written. Peter Drucker said the same thing. A great story about how to lead, organize, and communicate things at a large organization.