Our 3 Picks for SMB Leaders from Bill Gates’ 2017 Summer Reading List

  • July 25, 2017
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More than 20 times during the last few years, we’ve encouraged our readers – leaders of small to mid-size businesses (SMBs)– to think and act like “big-time” corporate executives. Why? Because we believe that, despite some vexing challenges (such as cybersecurity) today’s digital technologies enable SMB leaders to compete on the same global scope and scale as their counterparts at large companies.

And in terms of business technology, how many executives are as “big-time” as Bill Gates? So, last year we shared our picks from the Microsoft co-founder’s summer reading list, and now we’re delighted to do so again. For 2017, Gates focused on books that “pushed me out of my own experiences,” which we felt, as advocates of “big-time” thinking for smaller organizations, is an apt theme for one of our posts.

Here are three picks from Gates 2017 choices we believe can help SMB leaders expand their business – and personal – perspectives:

  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
    Readers may know Noah as a stand-up comedian or as the host of the satirical late-night news program “The Daily Show.” But as author of his memoir about growing up “half-white, half-black” in South Africa – a country where mixing races was illegal at the time of his birth – Noah illuminates the viewpoint of an extreme outsider. As a son of a European father and African mother, at times he had to avoid being seen with either of them or risk violating “any number of laws, statutes and regulations.” The only time he could spend with his father was indoors, and, in public, his mother sometimes would ignore him for fear the police would discover their relationship. Noah’s solution to this dilemma? Sharpening his communication skills, exploring the mindset of others and learning to articulate his thinking in multiple languages.
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
    Today, Vance works for a Silicon Valley investment firm. But his roots are in Appalachia, in the hill country where Ohio and Kentucky meet, a place where the wrenching economy change has been grinding forward for decades. In the first few pages of Elegy, Vance writes that he identifies with “Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree… Their ancestors were day laborers in the southern slave economy, sharecroppers after that, coal miners after that, and machinists and mill workers during more recent times.” Some of Vance’s views about the relationship between race, poverty and politics are controversial, but what Gates calls the “real magic” of Vance’s story is the combination of hopefulness, perseverance and adaptability.
  • A Full Life by Jimmy Carter
    As a child, Carter, who is in his 90s, dealt with growing up in a house in rural Georgia without running water, electricity or insulation. Quite an alien landscape to those of us accustomed to operating in today’s digital mix of mobile devices, websites and social platforms. And during his days in the White House, the former President grappled with an energy crisis, economic recession and a prolonged hostage crisis. How did he manage across all the years and all the calamities? By retaining the optimism of his youth and compiling the wisdom of his experiences.

In a business world rife with disorienting digital transformation and an increasingly diverse workforce, the tales of Noah, Vance and Carter serve as instructive models for not only coping, but thriving.

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