There have been a number of lists developed and shared by people articulating trends, predictions, and ideas for 2014. Like most writers, I was asked by a couple of publications to provide my predictions, as well. Instead, what I would like to share are recommendations of some books that will help improve your odds of success next year. I have talked about the fact that our marketing world is entering the Cambrian Era – a time where the pace of change continues to accelerate and the complexities we deal with increase exponentially. To help you and your businesses stay ahead of the pack, I would ask you to put these books on your reading list – this should be at least one book a month over the next year.

Don’t be disappointed when you find that my list does not include new releases pitching the next big idea or approach. The books recommended below offer timeless proven wisdom to help you successfully manage the challenges you’ll face next year. Hopefully, they will open your mind to new ways of thinking and problem solving. Happy reading and cheers to a fantastic 2014!

January Read:
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I first read this book almost 30 years ago. The rules of warfare from 2,500 years ago are absolutely applicable to today’s business environment. His pithy principles, like “the way to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak” makes for great reading and actionable constructs to help solve for strategic business challenges.

February Read:
Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki. Even after 14 years, Guy’s manifesto for world-changing innovation, using his battle-tested lessons to help revolutionaries become visionaries, is as relevant as the day it was published. I think more so… it has always been a good read for me when I tire of the sameness.

March Read:
How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. An absolute must-read from the guy who defined rules for going from good to great and building lasting businesses. Success today can be fleeting (especially if you think you’ll continue to be successful) unless you understand how to inoculate your business from the five deadly sins.

April Read:
Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad. Their book “provides would-be revolutionaries with the tools and concepts they need to challenge the protectors of the past,” Hamel and Prahalad argued for a much broader conception of business strategy — a redefinition that has since solidified into a winning truth. And, their principles work.

May Read:
Ride the Change by M.G. Parameswaran. This book is a compilation of articles published by a very good friend in various business publications over a period of ten years. The book traces the post-liberalization era changes in Indian markets in general and advertising in particular. Given the magnitude of change that market has seen in the past couple of decades, the lessons are meaningful for all of us. And, you’ll like Ambi’s style.

June Read:
The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age by John Heider. I was introduced to this book by Ron Bess, a boss and friend. It provides simple and clear advice on how to be the very best kind of leader: be faithful, trust the process, pay attention, and inspire others to become their own leaders. Core principles that are even more important in today’s highly diverse working environment.

July Read:
Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch. We all know the story of this self-made man and a self-described rebel who thrived in one of the most volatile and economically robust eras in U.S. history, while managing to maintain a unique leadership style. Jack has been my hero. This is an absolute summer must-read.

August Read:
Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen by David Novak. I consider David to be one of the best CEOs in business. And Yum!’s extraordinary success (at least 13 percent growth for each of the last nine years) proves my point. Having worked on Pizza Hut and KFC at two different ad agencies, I’ve seen his passion first-hand – how he sets big goals, gets people to work together so that they blow past their targets consistently to make excellence a core part of the culture.

September Read:
Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono. OK, this is a classic. I first read it in 1983. I think this term was coined in 1967. I also believe it is the first real book about improving creativity and freeing up your imagination. Through a series of special techniques, in groups or working alone, Ed De Bono shows how to stimulate the mind in new and exciting ways. In today’s commoditized and homogenized environment, ideas will be the currency for differentiation. This book will definitely help you… I know it has helped me.

October Read:
How Companies Win: Profiting from Demand-Driven Business Models by Rick Kash and David Calhoun. A book written by a fellow Chicagoans. Rick and David have developed a demand-driven model that has already proved successful in developing ideas that have changed growth trajectories for companies like Best Buy, Anheuser-Busch, Hershey’s, and Allstate. I worked with their firm (Cambridge Group) on a couple of engagements and saw this approach first-hand. It works.

November Read:
Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service by Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles, and Harvey MacKay. This is the book that defines in a simple parable style how to deliver unbeatable customer service. Something every company needs to do. I’m sure you’ve read this sometime in the past. If yes, pick it up and read it again. It gets better with every read. If you haven’t, you should.

December Read:
Brand Rituals: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life by yours truly. I know it feels like shameless self promotion, but the book has been a success. It was #1 marketing and sales best seller at Amazon. It was most-read American marketing book this summer on Adage. It is top 100 marketing book on Twitter. And, it deals with one of the most compelling marketing issue today – how do you drive significant business impact by creating a bond with your most loyal customers?

I hope these recommendations help you find new ideas to create success in 2014.

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