7 books that CIOs should read this summer

From digital transformation to the future of work, these are the hot topics CIOs should brush up on
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As many of us dip our toes back in the water of travel and in-person events this year, those hours at the airport could be a great time to brush up on some reading. Or maybe you have an actual vacation planned and need a beach read. If you’re a CIO or IT leader looking to spruce up your leadership skills, we’ve rounded up seven books that should be on your radar this summer.

The following books are impactful, insightful, and full of quality leadership advice for what's next in our industry. Check out our recommendations.

1. The Work of the Future

Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines

By Elisabeth B. Reynolds, David A. Mindell, and David Autor

Book description (via MIT Press): The United States has too many low-quality, low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, overall productivity increases steadily and new technology has transformed large parts of the economy, enhancing the skills and paychecks of higher-paid knowledge workers. What’s wrong with this picture? Why have so many workers benefited so little from decades of growth? The Work of the Future shows that technology is neither the problem nor the solution. We can build better jobs if we create institutions that leverage technological innovation and also support workers through long cycles of technological transformation. The book argues that we must foster institutional innovations that complement technological change. Industries fueled by new technology that augments workers can supply good jobs, and federal investment in R&D can help make these industries worker-friendly. We must act to ensure that the labor market of the future offers benefits, opportunities, and a measure of economic security to all.

Why you should read it: To learn how to empower workers to be productive in an ever-evolving workplace. This book provides actionable recommendations to make technology work for, and not against, most workers. For example, look at skills programs that emphasize work-based and hybrid learning (in-person and online). This is especially important to the way people are working in today’s world and for ensuring that the labor market of the future offers benefits, opportunity, and a measure of economic security to all.

2. Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

Book description (via HBR Press): Runaway climate change and rampant inequality are ravaging the world and costing a fortune. Who will help lead us to a better future? Business. These massive dual challenges–and other profound shifts, such as pandemics, resource pressures, and shrinking biodiversity–threaten our very existence. Other megatrends, such as the push for a clean economy and the unprecedented focus on diversity and inclusion, offer exciting new opportunities to heal the world and prosper by doing so. Government cannot do this alone. Business must step up. In this seminal book, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and sustainable business guru Andrew Winston explode fifty years of corporate dogma. They reveal, for the first time, key lessons from Unilever and other pioneering companies around the world about how you can profit by fixing the world’s problems instead of creating them. To thrive today and tomorrow, they argue, companies must become “net positive”–giving more to the world than they take. A net positive company improves the lives of everyone it touches, from customers and suppliers to employees and communities, greatly increasing long-term shareholder returns in the process; Takes ownership of all the social and environmental impacts its business model creates.

Why you should read it: You want to discover what it would take to drive the transformative change the world so desperately needs. Where are the opportunities for innovation? How can we build a more connected and purpose-driven culture? Find out if you have what it takes to be a courageous leader and step up to the challenge.

3. Radically Human: How New Technology Is Transforming Business and Shaping Our Future

by Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson

Book description (via HBR Press): Technology advances are making tech more … human. This changes everything you thought you knew about innovation and strategy. In their groundbreaking book, “Human + Machine,” Accenture technology leaders Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson showed how leading organizations use the power of human-machine collaboration to transform their processes and their bottom lines. Now, as new AI-powered technologies like the metaverse, natural language processing, and digital twins begin to rapidly impact both life and work, those companies and other pioneers across industries are tipping the balance even more strikingly toward the human side with technology-led strategy that is reshaping the very nature of innovation. In “Radically Human,” Daugherty and Wilson show this profound shift, fast-forwarded by the pandemic, toward more human–and more humane–technology. Artificial intelligence is becoming less artificial and more intelligent. These against-the-grain approaches to the basic building blocks of business–Intelligence, Data, Expertise, Architecture, and Strategy (IDEAS)–are transforming competition. Industrial giants and startups alike are drawing on this radically human IDEAS framework to create new business models, optimize post-pandemic approaches to work and talent, rebuild trust with their stakeholders, and show the way toward a sustainable future.

Why you should read it: You’re looking for compelling insights and examples of innovation from a variety of industries. Find out what innovators are pursuing as far as data-efficient approaches that enable machines to learn as humans do. How can we create human-centered AI? Why is cloud-first IT architecture important in helping up adapt to a word of connected devices? Find out all about disruptive innovation and how it’s transforming business.

[ More book reviews for IT leaders: 10 must-read technology books for 2022 ]

4. Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation and Accelerate your Technology Leadership

By Isaac Sacolick

Book Description (via Amazon): A can’t-miss resource for product, technology, and data leaders – from those aspiring to leadership roles through vice presidents, CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs, Digital Trailblazer delivers real-world stories and need-to-know lessons that will accelerate your technology leadership journey. With an eye-opening collection of stories and more than 50 lessons, author and former CIO Isaac Sacolick gives readers a view into what goes on behind the scenes in leading digital transformations. From tense IT Ops conference calls to make-or-break executive meetings, Sacolick presents the challenging scenarios faced by product, technology, and data leaders and helps readers learn to lead transformations and become Digital Trailblazers.

Why you should read it: To recognize that in IT leadership, it’s no longer enough to be a technical master of your domain. By now, we’re all familiar with the notion that “what got you here, won’t get you there.” To affect real change, you must now possess the skills to build relationships and influence people. In Digital Trailblazer, Sacolick goes beyond the standard advice you’d expect to hear from a veteran technology leader. Instead, he helps readers learn how to navigate leading transformation projects by sharing candid stories from his career (the names have been changed, he warns). Not only is it fun to be a fly on the wall in numerous leadership scenarios, but it also helps bring the lessons to life. Read Digital Trailblazer to deepen your understanding of how to lead transformation, then gift it to your team or mentees to help them shave years off learning how to lead change.

5. Stuck: How to Win at Work by Understanding Loss

By Dr. Victoria M. Grady and Patrick McCreesh, PhD

Book Description (via Amazon): Stuck connects over 20 years of research on our brain’s reaction to the evolving workplace with real stories of people journeying through the challenge of being Stuck. The organizations, leaders, and managers who understand these concepts will evolve with the future. Those organizations will understand LOSS as a tool to achieve business WINs. This book addresses a critical concept that closes a gap in other popular business publications. Many books tell leaders and managers the process of how to change their organizations. However, many of these books lack a key mechanism for understanding human interactions. The mechanism is a biological function developed through evolution called attachment – the human need to connect to different tangible and intangible objects for support. Attachment is the reason that people connect with leaders and corporate culture, but also creates a deep sense of loss during even the smallest changes. Stuck offers a complete understanding of attachment and how it impacts individuals, relationships, and organizations.

Why you should read it: To understand that true digital transformation will only succeed with a complete understanding of the human side of the equation. This is better for all organizations because, as the great resignation is teaching many leaders, people are our greatest asset. We just need to make sure they help define our digital future. In order to have a fully digital world, we need people to adopt and embrace technology. Given the fact that we’re not ready for this kind of change, most digital transformations will be slow — and many organizations saw that as we shifted operations, communications, and functions to digital platforms. But this is not a comment on the value of the solution or even the sales of the platforms. The platforms will sell, and leaders will buy them and try to implement them.

6. The Future of Workplace Fear – How Human Reflex Stands in the Way of Digital Transformation

By Steve Prentice

Book description (via Amazon): Steve Prentice is an expert in the relationship between people, technology, and change. This book will demonstrate to managers and employees alike the various types of fear that can occur in the workplace in the context of digital transformation, how these fears can impact productivity, team dynamics, and corporate health, and most importantly, how to overcome them. Using case studies of digital transformation successes and failures, Steve describes:

  • How fear grows in the body and mind

  • How fear radiates and spreads through groups and teams

  • How fear interacts with technology, change, and digital transformation

  • How ignoring or suppressing fear leads to tangible risks to an organization’s future

  • How to address and manage fear individually and as a group

  • How the demands of modern employees have changed

  • How managers can prepare themselves for the new normal

Why you should read it: To get a sense that solving security issues and digital transformation challenges means more than just getting new tools. Humans have to be understood for what they are and this requires a new type of conversation between the CIO and other C-level officers around building a culture that attracts, retains, and empowers employees to become the strongest layer of defense rather than the weakest. It also sheds light on the culture of work in the 2020s and how the two-year forced-Zoom experiment has changed life permanently. All of this has serious implications for the future of an organization, and this book seeks to put the spotlight on the innate motivations of the humans in your workplace. The book discusses a wide range of fear types and places them in the context of a company’s plans for advancement, in order to give CIOs and related officers additional perspective on the challenge of working with non-tech-savvy humans.

7. Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Passion and Purpose

By John Baird and Edward Sullivan

Book description (via Amazon): As we reach the peak of the Great Resignation, two veteran executive coaches help today’s leaders learn how to retain and inspire their teams through the one thing their research has found works: LEADING with HEART. In these pages, leadership coaches John Baird and Edward Sullivan share hundreds of hours of research and firsthand accounts of guiding leaders at some of the world’s most respected big brands and small startups (Apple, Nike, Google, and Slack to name a few). Through their coaching and research they uncovered the 5 behaviors transformative leaders engage in to connect authentically with their teams:

  1. They are aware of their people’s needs.

  2. They help their people to confront the fears that hold them back.

  3. They understand their own desires & what drives their people.

  4. They leverage their unique gifts & help people find their own.

  5. They connect with their core sense of purpose & help people find theirs.

The key to achieving these behaviors is asking the right questions and having conversations that connect you and your employees on the deepest human level–conversations the authors' coach you on how to navigate.

Why you should read it: To create a leadership game-plane that is authentic and brings out the best in those around you. At a time when workplaces are struggling to build high-morale and connected cultures, LEADING with HEART will help leaders to unlock the best version of themselves and those around them with transformative results. To help your organization create more personal connections with and among new employees in the workplace (and beyond), while creating cultures that people want to be a part of, not run away from.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation.] 

Katie Sanders
Katie Sanders is the Content and Community Manager for The Enterprisers Project, seeking contributors who have expertise that can be shared with an audience of CIOs and IT leaders. She has always been interested in building relationships and connecting people.