Thinkers50 Classic Books

‘Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,’ — Harry S. Truman 

And at Thinkers50, we agree. That’s why we have launched our own booklist series: a curated guide to the very best books on management. A neat shelf of must-have books for busy managers.

We start with the classics: a list of the indispensable business books that every manager should have in their library. And since the smartest person in the room is usually the room — to help us, we reached out to the Thinkers50 community to ask which books they would include in their all-time greats.

The criteria: books that have had a lasting influence on the way we think about and practice business and management, and which still have something to teach us today.  (The only rule here is that you aren’t allowed to nominate your own books!)


Inaugural Thinkers50 Booklist:
10 Management Classics for 2022

1. The Practice of Management (1954), Peter Drucker

‘Peter Drucker is my hero. It could have been any one of his 39 books — such as The Effective Executive. I picked this one because it is the first consequential book about business management as a subject. Peter Drucker is my model: a practitioner theoretician. He hung with CEOs, advised them, and wrote about his experiences. That is what I do. And every time someone compares me in any small way to my hero, it makes my week.’

— Roger Martin, management author, and former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto

2. Marketing Management (1967), Philip Kotler

‘When I was ten years old, my father was pursuing an executive MBA. His marketing textbook was Kotler’s Marketing Management, 2nd edition. We did not have any telephone or television in my apartment, the only entertainment was reading. So at the age of 14, I read the Kotler book and became fascinated by marketing.’

— Nirmalya Kumar, the Lee Kong Chian Professor of Marketing at Singapore Management University

3. Men and Women of the Corporation (1977), Rosabeth Moss Kanter

‘Rosabeth Moss Kanter said it all, on the effects of stereotypes and what we now call ‘implicit bias’ on workplace behaviour — before anyone else.’

— Herminia Ibarra, management author and Charles Handy Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School

4. In Search of Excellence (1982), Tom Peters and Robert Waterman

‘It remains one of my go-to books anytime I am looking to inspire excellence for myself or my clients.’

— Tiffani Bova, management author and global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce

5. The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997), Clay Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma is by far the most influential business book I’ve read. Clay Christensen’s theory disrupted my mindset, my career, and my life.’

— Whitney Johnson, management author, and CEO of Disruption Advisors

6. Blue Ocean Strategy (2004), W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

Blue Ocean Strategy offers a catchy (and now very popular) language to speak about innovation strategy. The BOS toolkit is simple, intuitive, and visual which makes it easy to capture people’s imagination during training.’

—Ben Bensaou, management author and INSEAD professor

7. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (2004), C.K. Prahalad

‘CK Prahalad’s seminal book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) offered a playbook for Western firms on how to create new strategies and innovative business models to profitably serve the billions of low-income consumers in emerging markets. A timeless book that is even more relevant today, it is a must-read for Western managers seeking breakthrough growth opportunities both at home and in emerging markets in the post Covid-19 era.’

— Navi Radjou, management author and scholar

8. Collective Genius (2014), Linda Hill, with Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, & Kent Lineback

‘In Collective Genius Linda Hill shows she was well ahead of the curve in thinking about what may be the most urgent question for humanity: how do we problem-solve and coordinate more effectively together? Although ostensibly a book about innovation inside corporations, its implications extend much wider: what if we could break down silos to harness the collective genius of people in science, medicine, and governments?’

— Kaihan Krippendorff, management author and founder of Outthinker Strategy Network

9. Playing to Win (2013), Roger Martin & AG Lafley

‘As a Chief Strategy Officer, I apply the thinking in Playing to Win everyday with our leadership team and our clients. The thinking in the book is timeless — the principles it puts forth are as relevant to business problems of today’s “disruptive” age as when they were created years ago. I consider this book a great starting point for any person who is responsible for making business decisions. For strategists, it’s the starting point for a lifetime of exploration for how to apply this framework in practice.’

— Steven Goldbach, management author, and Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte

10. The Fearless Organization (2018), Amy Edmondson

The Fearless Organization has fundamentally changed how leaders think about their impact on others and the importance of creating a climate where people can speak up. This is the new big idea of our times.’

— Susie Kennedy, senior partner, KBA Solutions

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