Best Business Books: Carly Fiorina's Picks
Carly Fiorina, former CEO, Hewlett-Packard
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan (2002)
Bossidy, the former CEO and now chairman of Honeywell, and his coauthor tackle "the missing link between aspirations and results."
Why it's a must-read: "It's not rocket science, but on the other hand a lot of business isn't rocket science. This book is a very down-to-earth, timely reminder that in the end business is about results and the only way you produce results is by executing. While I think strategic vision is incredibly important, unless you're focused on execution, vision is just a PowerPoint presentation."
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman (2005)
The New York Times foreign-affairs columnist explains how the global economy has made the world smaller.
Why it's a must-read: "Tom and I talked a lot while he was writing that book, and he used a number of things we did [at HP] as an example. For me, context is everything. When you're trying to make strategic choices on behalf of a firm, you need to understand very clearly the context you're operating in. I believe the 21st-century context is unique in human history, and I think Tom's book captured that. I can't say how it affected any particular decisions, since the way he and I both conceive of the 21st century affects all of our decisions."
Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise by Alfred Chandler (1962)
A business historian, Chandler was one of the first scholars to systematically examine the corporate structures of four large companies: GM, DuPont, Standard Oil, and Sears, Roebuck.
Why it's a must-read: "Some people have said strategy doesn't matter. I think that's fundamentally wrong. A lot of companies organize themselves based on what's easiest for people to do, and that may not be consistent with the strategy they're trying to follow. Sound strategy prioritizes investment and channels people's aspirations. It gives business both spirit and direction. The essence of this book is really around the importance of clear strategic vision as a way of prioritizing actions. Any goal will suffice if you have no sense of destination."
Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age by Tom Peters (2003)
The author of In Search of Excellence encourages leaders to reinvigorate their companies by empowering talent and overcoming outdated values.
Why it's a must-read: "I don't always agree with him, but he always makes me think. One of Peters's most important ideas, I think, is this notion of imagination, never resting on your laurels, always trying new ideas, always challenging the conventional wisdom. I think that's incredibly important: If you have a company that is very conservative and staid, where new ideas aren't valued and people have a systematic way of getting things doneI think that's generally a warning sign of problems to come."
Tough Choices: A Memoir by Carly Fiorina (2006)
Fiorina's memoir about her rise through the ranks at AT&T and Lucent, to the top of Hewlett-Packard, and the story behind her dismissal in 2005
Why it's a must-read: "Why did I include my own book? If nothing else, I spent a lot of time on it. [Laughs.] I think there are many books written about companies either at the time of their success or at the time of their failure. There are fewer books written about what the transformation of a company really takes, how it moves from a time of failure to a time of success, what does that process actually entail. That's not a snapshot in time. That's a movie that plays out over many years. And that's what Tough Choices is about."