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The holidays are the occasion to recommend books, whether as a gift for others or for a holiday reading. Members of CNBC’s Technology Executive Council are leading efforts to transform their company’s products and services, enable an evolving hybrid workforce, and protect us from hackers, but we’ve also learned that they love a good book, especially books with tips on leadership and team building.

As part of a column in the CNBC Technology Executive Council’s weekly newsletter, we asked members to recommend a book they’ve read recently that has influenced their careers or helped them communicate their visions to their teams and employees. bosses at work.

At the annual TEC summit, held in New York City on November 17, a few members took the time to tell us more about their book recommendations, with the help of special guests: the authors. From a series of videos originally released at the summit, here are the book recommendations from tech leaders and a recap of their conversations with the authors.

Firearms, germs and steel: the fates of human societies

Author: Jared Diamond

Recommended by: Naveen Agarwal, Head of Market Development at Prudential

Naveen Agarwal grew up in New Delhi, founded a start-up in London at the age of 22, and eventually moved the start-up to Silicon Valley for easier access to capital. So it’s no surprise to hear that he identifies with the central premise of Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book: Geography Matters.

“Guns, Germs and Steel” is a deep dive, the result of decades of research, which began with a revelation that Diamond says surprised him in his early days as a geography professor. This surprise was that the shape of the continents themselves had an impact on where innovations can take place and how quickly they can spread. “The Eurasian continent is long from east to west,” Diamond told Agarwal. “This is important because… technology could move rapidly east and west without a change in climate and day length.” On the contrary, he added, “the wheel was invented in Mexico and never made it to Peru… because of the north / south axis”.

In their discussion of the book, Agarwal asked Diamond if he thought the geographic advantages would wane now that technology has, in some ways, brought the world closer together. Diamond responded with two competing examples. “On the one hand, there are companies that have been geographically penalized and which, over the past 50 years, have achieved First World status.” In contrast, landlocked countries such as Afghanistan are lagging far behind. “Geography always has a huge effect,” Diamond said.

Blitzscaling: the fastest way to building high-value businesses

By: Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman

Recommended by: Vinay Pai, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Bill.com

Vinay Pai told co-author, LinkedIn founder and famous venture capitalist Reid Hoffman that he read “Blitzscaling” while stuck at home recovering from a medical procedure at the end of 2019, and that his lessons followed him. Pai told Hoffman that Bill.com took the book’s advice, choosing to continue investing in the business throughout the pandemic.

Published in 2018, the book puts Uber and Airbnb at the forefront as examples of “Blitzscaling”, which Hoffman defines as “prioritizing speed over efficiency in times of uncertainty.”

“It’s not something you do forever,” Hoffman told Pai. “At some point, prioritizing efficiency… becomes important. Airbnb and Uber are probably not as typical examples of ‘blitzscaling’ today as they were five and ten years ago.”

The best example of a pandemic, Hoffman told Pai, could be Zoom Video Communications, which led them to a discussion on the state of digital transformation in the post-pandemic world. “All the acceleration of digital transformation, I think, is fundamentally permanent,” Hoffman said.

Make your bed: little things that can change your life … and maybe the world

By: William H. McRaven

Recommended by: Sanjay Srivastava, Genpact Digital Director

Adapted from a University of Texas opening speech, “Make Your Bed” is a self-help guide that emphasizes the importance of doing the little things right.

“If you can’t do the little things right,” said Retired Admiral Bill McRaven, “it won’t scale up. You won’t be able to do the big things right.”

Sanjay Srivastava, who oversees Genpact’s AI, analytics, automation and digital technology departments, said the book had influenced him at work and at home. The night before he interviewed Admiral McRaven, he asked his whole family to read the book and discuss it over dinner. “I think each of [the book’s 10 principles] is very applicable in the digital world, ”he said.

Srivastava also admired McRaven’s ability to tell a good story.

“Leadership tells the story of your business in a way the grassroots can understand,” McRaven said. “They understand the beginning, they understand the middle, they probably understand the challenges that will come with it. But they also see the end. They see what it will look like when the story unfolds as a leader hopes.”

Think outside the building

By: Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Recommended by: Rajat Teneja, Visa President for Technology

Released weeks before Covid reached the United States, the headline “Think Outside the Building” foreshadows the unpredictable and forced experience of the work-from-home pandemic and the ensuing debate over the future of the office. -same. But the title is meant to symbolize more than just physical structures.

“Buildings are a powerful metaphor for all established structures… all of the things that limit us thinking a certain way or talking only to people exactly like us,” said Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author and professor at Harvard Business School. The book is truly a leadership book and is based on dozens of case studies from Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Institute, which Kanter co-founded in 2005.

Rajat Teneja of Visa told Kanter he was inspired by the many stories, and particularly impressed with his eponymous “Kanter’s Law”.

“Kanter’s law is that anything can look like a failure in the middle, especially if it’s new and different,” Kanter explained. “It’s easy to predict what will happen if you do the exact same thing you’ve always done.”

Of the law, Teneja told Kanter, “I’m going to use that now, when I talk about leadership with my team, because it really shows that in the middle it will be messy sometimes. And that’s as true as if you can. anticipating some of the things that could go wrong is a great team building mechanism. “

What you do is who you are: how to build your corporate culture

By: Ben Horowitz

Recommended by: Erica Brescia, COO of GitHub

In this quintessential business book, Ben Horowitz, co-founder of legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, offers lessons on building corporate culture through a diverse group of examples. history, from a slave revolt in Haiti to Genghis Khan. He also begins each chapter with a hip-hop quote (Horowitz is a renowned hip-hop connoisseur).

“One thing you say in the book is that for your culture to be vibrant and sustainable it has to come from the blood, from the soul, which is a quote I love,” Brescia told Horowitz in their interview. .

“It’s from Nas,” Horowitz said, hastening to credit the rapper.

“It’s an interesting reflection in the concept of diversity and inclusion,” Brescia said. “How should leaders think about finding the right balance between building a culture that reflects them and one that truly supports this diverse team? “

Horowitz said that a written culture or a set of principles can help with inclusion, while also enabling a culture based on the vision of the founders. In other words, “blood” culture doesn’t mean everyone has to be the same. “The analogy I used when I spoke to our team at Andreessen Horowitz is that I said, like, if we were an American football team, and I had been like a really quick wide receiver who was small, and I drafted all the little people that could run fast, we would have the worst team in the world. But people do that all the time in tech. “

Brescia said she owns the book “in all three versions” – paper, eBook and audiobook – and recommends it to every start-up founder she meets. “It’s so precious to me, I wish I had it when I was a start-up founder.”

More technical book favorites

Here are some other recommendations from members this year. The authors were either inaccessible or declined our interview requests, but the recommendations are still worth mentioning.

11 rings: the soul of success

By: Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

Recommended by: Bobby Ghoshal, President of Resmed, Saas Business Unit

The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Fame coach passes on the wisdom of a winning career. “I learned a lot about how to be a team and how to be a coach,” said Ghoshal. “It’s a wonderful book.”

Why We Sleep: Unleashing the Power of Sleep and Dreams

By: Matthew Walker

Recommended by: Nicola Morini Bianzino, Global CTO of EY.

Walker, a professor at UC Berkeley and director of its sleep and neuroimaging lab, advocates for longer and better sleep and offers ideas on how we can all sleep better. “It’s really telling,” Bianzino said, “and there are some fantastic health improvements if you follow some of the book’s suggestions.”

The Princess Bride: the classic tale of true love and the great adventure of S. Morgenstern

By: William Goldman

Recommended by: Andrew Toy, President and CTO of Clover Health

“It’s an amazing book with a really positive message,” Toy said. “Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book is worth reading on its own.”

As you wish.


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