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Winter’s tales to thrill and chill you


Winter’s tales to thrill and chill you

Published 19 December 2022 in Magazine • 5 min read

From how to make the most of your time on earth to an insider’s encounter with Steve Jobs, IMD professors recommend a wide selection of books to while away the dark evenings

The Ministry for the Future 

Kim Stanley Robinson 

As we are living in highly uncertain times, often unsure whether we, as a human species, have what it takes to address climate change with all its dire consequences, Robinson’s novel presents a hopeful account of the future based on different pathways we must take for social and environmental change. It is not always an easy read, but it is one that leaves the reader with a much clearer understanding of the systemic changes needed to tackle the most pressing challenge of our time.  

Julia Binder, Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation 


4,000 Weeks 

Oliver Burkemann

In his most recent book, Oliver Burkemann provides a refreshing and counterintuitive message about how to think about our limited time on earth of somewhere around 4,000 weeks (for most of us). Highly recommended to anyone who has grown tired of traditional time management techniques.  

Albrecht Enders, Professor of Strategy and Innovation 


The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy 

David Gelles 

One school of thought on leadership holds that legacy leaders leave behind their most significant contribution, and so evaluating a leader’s impact needs to be done after their term is over. In keeping with this dictum, David Gelles takes a cold, hard look at General Electric Chairman and CEO Jack Welch’s legacy and finds the good that he did is overshadowed by the bad practices that he championed. This is a sobering evaluation of a man often celebrated as the greatest corporate leader of recent times. 

Anand Narasimhan, Shell Professor of Global Leadership and Dean of Research 


This is How They Tell Me the World Ends 

Nicole Perlroth 

I finished this book in a heartbeat and was totally awestruck. It provides a great initiation on the evolution of the cybercrime market and how things evolve online, hidden from our unsuspecting eyes. The author also makes a very clear case for how intelligence agencies around the world have ignited the organized cybercrime market as we know it today. After reading this book, things suddenly start looking even more grim. So what can we do about it? The answer is security by design – we all need to be more proactive in thinking what can go wrong during the process of our digital development initiatives. 

Öykü Isik, Professor of Digital Strategy and Cybersecurity 



Helen Thompson 

The war in Ukraine unveiled the inconvenient truth of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, as well as Russia’s dependence on energy sales revenues. This book vividly illustrates how energy is heavily geopolitical. Thompson, a political economist at the University of Cambridge, describes three forces — of geopolitics, the global economy, and of western democracies — and how disruption in each became one big story in the years of political disorder even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a difficult book to read, but worth it if you are interested in reflecting on your leadership mission for driving innovation for a better world in which we must cope with the interplay of these three forces. 

Kazuo Ichijo, Professor of Innovation and Leadership 


Disruption in Action: 7 Inside Stories of how Global Companies Take on Digital Transformation 

Alexandra Jankovich, Tom Voskes, and Adrian Hornsby 

The book shows what digital transformations really look like through the eyes of insiders, via the power of storytelling. It shines a light into the murky world of digital disruption from high-level decision making to the nitty-gritty of execution, written from the viewpoint of people who were there. In many cases, the names of companies and individuals have been disguised, but that allows the authors to tell the stories “warts and all”, including failures as well as successes. The book is well written and easy to read. There are plenty of illustrations, examples, and call outs to break the monotony of the written word. 

Michael Wade, Professor of Innovation and Strategy 


Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control 

Ryan Holiday 

One cannot master anything without first mastering oneself. According to recent studies, the average office worker can focus on one task for only three minutes at a time, and teenagers’ attention spans are even shorter, clocking in at 65 seconds. When we don’t have boundaries or restraints, we not only lower our potential for success and put what we’ve already accomplished at risk, but we guarantee unhappiness and regret. Through interesting examples of historical figures, Holiday demonstrates the value of self-control and warns readers against succumbing to distractions. Crucially, he teaches us how we can reclaim our focus — as individuals and as a society— if we are determined to fight for it. 

Howard Yu, Lego Professor of Management and Innovation 


To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History  

Lawrence Levy 

Written from the perspective of Lawrence Levy, readers learn how Steve Jobs invested in Pixar very early on and pushed the company to a successful IPO. The narrative is a mixture of biography, drama, and a textbook on entrepreneurship. According to the author, it was not Jobs’s inspiration or creative genius that made Pixar successful, but his aura of being inspirational and creative. Jobs was willing to take significant risks and would not compromise on anything, not even on sharing credit with the people who built Pixar.  

Stefan Michel, Professor of Strategy and Marketing 


Power Failure: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon 

William D Cohan 

Jeff Bezos famously said: “Companies come and go. And the companies that are, you know the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.” General Electric (GE) certainly was one of the “shiniest and most important” companies of the last century. It featured on all the lists and magazine covers. It was “high performance central”, as well as being a renowned developer of executive and C-suite talent. Business school graduates the world over coveted places on its managerial fast track. So what happened? GE isn’t what it was. Cohan, banker turned acclaimed journalist and award-winning author, offers an explanation. The book is an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics underlying corporate decline and how the seeds of that decline are sown during the growth period. All companies need to resist the natural gravity of decline especially when they are enjoying success – even the shiniest and most important ones. 

Seán Meehan, Martin Hilti Professor of Marketing and Change Management and Dean of Faculty 


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