10 books to inspire CIOs and IT pros in 2017

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Editor's note: The book contest ended Feb. 6. We will be announcing winners soon. 

Whether one of your 2017 goals was to read more books, or you’re already a voracious reader, we’ve got you covered with our New Year reading list for IT pros. We asked IT executives to share what books they’ve recently read that they believe other technology leaders would enjoy.

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will

By Geoff Colvin

Recommended by: Sam Lamonica, CIO, Rosendin Electric

Book description: It’s easy to imagine a nightmare scenario in which computers simply take over most of the tasks that people now get paid to do. While we’ll still need high-level decision makers and computer developers, those tasks won’t keep most working-age people employed or allow their living standard to rise. The unavoidable question—will millions of people lose out, unable to best the machine?—is increasingly dominating business, education, economics, and policy.

Why it’s a must-read: “This is a must-read for any CIO. It addresses the fact that even though our technological capabilities continue to grow and will start replacing some mundane tasks humans are doing, all is not lost. The ability for compassion, recognition, and empathy is something that computers will never be able to do. So there’s always going to be a place for us human beings in the world of technology. It’s also a call to action for millennials and younger generations: Don’t get so absorbed in technology that you lose those social capabilities, because those are the skills that differentiate you from the computers. Those are the skills that make military teams, professional baseball teams, and other high-performing organizations successful. Those are the things that we can’t afford to lose sight of.”

[ Take a deep dive on digital transformation. See our related article, 10 digital transformation must-reads, for expert advice from CIOs and IT leaders. ]


Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

By Adam Grant

Recommended by: Ames Flynn, SVP and CIO, Extended Stay America

Book description: In today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. In Give and Take, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom.

Why it’s a must-read: “This book inspires readers to examine themselves and their motives, and reminds us that well-being and satisfaction is derived from focusing on others versus ourselves. I recommend the book because ‘the giver’ idea seems to be the fundamental secret to happiness. In my opinion, the No. 1 reason an organization or an individual runs into trouble or fails at something is that they are more worried about what is in it for them versus what can they give for the greater good of others.”


Precision: Principles, Practices and Solutions for the Internet of Things

By Timothy Chou

Recommended by: Dan Adam, CIO, Extreme Networks

Book description: Precision technology powering an industrial Internet of Things has the potential to reshape the planet. To help clarify, Dr. Timothy Chou has created Precision to introduce us to the basics of the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Case studies discussed span a number of industries such as power, water, healthcare, transportation, oil & gas, construction, agriculture, gene sequencers, mining and race cars.

Why it’s a must-read: “The book was interesting because it conveyed a complex, somewhat ambiguous subject in simple, structured concepts and terms. The book was inspirational as it was born from curiosity and Tim’s learning process resulted in his desire to ensure he understood the topic by writing it down and explaining it, hence the creation of a book. It takes a ‘do all’ / ‘mean all’ IoT domain and creates a framework for utilization in any industry, that is supported by real world examples.”


The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge

By Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

Recommended by: Gene Kim, author, The DevOps Handbook

Book description: Companies can’t survive without innovating. But most put far more emphasis on generating Big Ideas than on executing them—turning ideas into actual breakthrough products, services, and process improvements. In The Other Side of Innovation, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble reveal how to execute an innovation initiative.

Why it’s a must-read: “I love this book by these authors, both professors in the Dartmouth School of Business, who study what they call disruptive innovation. The focus of their research was to understand why it is so difficult to do disruptive things in large organizations. What they discovered is that you have to create a dedicated transformation team – something that’s outside of the mother ship, where they’re allowed to break rules. They can do things in a different way because you need to do it a different way to get different outcomes. For anyone pondering a DevOps transformation, this book is a must read."


Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson

By S.C. Gwynne

Recommended by: Chris Huff, VP, mobile & consumer app development, The Weather Channel

Book description: Gwynne delves deep into Jackson’s private life and traces Jackson’s brilliant twenty-four-month career in the Civil War, the period that encompasses his rise from obscurity to fame and legend; his stunning effect on the course of the war itself; and his tragic death, which caused both North and South to grieve the loss of a remarkable American hero.

Why it’s a must-read: “I picked up the book because the history of Stonewall Jackson and the Civil War intrigued me, but the book has done more for me in terms of leadership than a lot of leadership books I’ve read. It’s a great story that chronicles a unique individual in Stonewall Jackson - how this socially awkward, enigmatic and painfully ineffective communicator rose to fame. I see a lot of parallels with developers. Many engineers avoid leadership because they are not as polished or don’t enjoy public speaking, but they have a ton of knowledge that can benefit technology companies. Jackson was bold in implementing new ideas and challenging conventional practices. I gained a lot of confidence from his leadership and think other leaders will as well."


The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics

By John B. Judis

Recommended by: Lee Congdon, CIO, Ellucian

Book description: John B. Judis, one of America's most respected political analysts, tells us why we need to understand the populist movement that began in the United States in the 1890s and whose politics have recurred on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. The Populist Explosion is essential reading for anyone hoping to grasp a global political system that is only just beginning what will be a long-running and highly consequential readjustment.

Why it’s a must-read: “A concise description of the political trends created in no small part by information technology. Essential reading for leaders in any organization.”


Essential Robert-Houdin

By Robert Houdin

Recommended by: Jason Alan Snyder, CTO, Momentum Worldwide

Book description: All the classic works of the great master of magic, Robert - Houdin, under one cover, lavishly illustrated with hundreds of beautiful prints, engravings, and photos. Robert - Houdin (1805 - 1871) revolutionized the art of magic with his incredible stage mysteries and lifelike automata, and he thankfully left a number of books recording his philosophy and techniques.

Why it’s a must-read: “Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Third Law’ states that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ As an inventor and technologist, that adage has become an ethic by which I measure the quality of the experiences I create. To that end, magic itself is, and always has been, imbued with technology. I would recommend this compendium of all Houdin’s writings to anyone who wants to understand the motivations, machinations, and innovation that resulted in countless moments of wonderment over the past two centuries."


Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption

By Geoffrey Moore

Recommended by: Steve Neff, head of technology and global services, Fidelity Investments

Book description: Focused on spurring next-generation growth, guiding mergers and acquisitions, and embracing disruption and innovation, ZONE TO WIN is a high-powered tool for driving your company above and beyond its limitations, its definitions of success, and ultimately, its competitors.

Why it’s a must-read: “This is the latest is Moore’s series of books about disruptive technology that started with ‘Crossing the Chasm.’ This latest volume is about a framework that companies can use to organize (offensively and defensively) around disruptive innovators while protecting their existing franchises. It’s a good read.”


The Chickamauga Campaign

By David Powell

Recommended by: Mark Settle, CIO, Okta

Book description: The Chickamauga Campaign—A Mad Irregular Battle is Powell’s magnum opus, a tour-de-force rich in analysis brimming with heretofore untold stories. It will surely be a classic must-have battle study for every serious student of the Civil War.

Why it’s a must-read: "Right now I’m reading about the battle that is sometimes called ‘one of the most complex military operations’ of the Civil War. Although it may not be your typical business book, anyone in management could learn a fair amount from it. The failures in communication, alignment, and tactical performance would be familiar to any seasoned project manager. However, in this case, these failures had far more dire consequences. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that modern tools and technology have solved many of the communication and performance issues that occurred in the past. But when you read about some of the Civil War battles you realize that there are certain tendencies in human nature that you need to proactively guard against whether you’re dealing with 19th or 21st century technology!"


Outliers: The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by: Monika Fahlbusch, chief employee experience officer, BMC Software, Inc.

Book description: Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

Why it’s a must-read: “Malcolm is my favorite author, and I also listen to his podcasts. The way he presents data and tells a story is unique and compelling, and I find his approach completely transferable to industry. For example, I often work with my team on not just managing their business, but on presenting their business in a story-like form that the CEO, CFO, and board of directors can easily understand and engage with. These stories are constructed with a beginning, middle and end, and are fully supported by data. Storytelling in business should not just be left to the advertisers.”

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very good

I want to know if all of these books listed here are available in Nigeria... I'll be very glad to get some. Thanks!


"Give and Take" sounds really interesting and I have definitely added it to my TBR list for the new year. To make a difference and make an impact in a positive way on the world is 100% what I am always trying to do with my business. It is my motivating drive. I think a book that should be considered for a future list is "Think Wrong" This book is essentially about shaking up your perspective on what it takes to be successful and grow your business. It's applicable to A LOT of people in managerial positions, business owners, and entrepreneurs. I like the book because it offers you and your company drills to try as well as sharing lots of firsthand case studies of successful businesses who have learned to "Think Wrong" ... It is an innovative and exciting book and I would love to hear your opinion! The website is great too http://www.thinkwrongbook.com/

Great list but your missing one. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a must read. In the complex times with constant change, never ending requests, and lean teams this book helps you understand how to adapt using critical principles including decentralized command, prioritize and execute and cover and move. Implementing these and the many more items covered in this book will help your team lead and win in any situation.