The best books on avoiding dumb decisions in your job and seeing opportunities where others don't

Who am I?

I am always fascinated by how smart people and big companies are blind to risks and opportunities under their noses. Then one day I had a chance to start training them to avoid bad surprises. Based on my unusual background (combination of police intelligence and advanced economics degree) I created the Academy of Competitive Intelligence. It has become the leading global school for avoiding dumb decisions. It now has 10,000 corporate alumni! I didn’t plan it; I didn’t sit down and had a great business plan. I just spotted an opportunity and I grabbed it. Maybe you should do the same? My book tells you how.

I wrote...

The Opposite of Noise: The Power of Competitive Intelligence

By Benjamin Gilad,

Book cover of The Opposite of Noise: The Power of Competitive Intelligence

What is my book about?

This book is the ultimate defense against organizational noise–the obsessive chase after more and more data that is the opposite of strategic insight. Data noise turns whole organizations into paralyzed data junkies and masks true market opportunities. Noise’s exponential rise with AI platforms demands a new approach to harnessing human talent in companies to stay ahead of the competition. Those who understand this will swim. Those who don’t will drown in the noise. 

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The books I picked & why

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why did I love this book?

Daniel Kahneman and his colleague, Amos Tversky pioneered the breakthrough research on cognitive biases affecting our judgments. Kahneman received the Noble Price in Economics for this research, though he is a psychologist. This research upended the traditional study of decision-making and explained how both laymen and experts alike make economic mistakes. I met Daniel when I organized the first conference on behavioral economics at Princeton University back in the 80s. This book is an eye-opening collection of clever experiments on decision-making biases.

I have used it to train my competitive intelligence and strategy professionals not only in recognizing their own biases but in recognizing their audience biases and using those to drive a message. Knowing thyself and knowing thy bosses (to paraphrase Sun Tzu famous saying) can help prevent surprises that bring companies down and destroy careers.

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

36 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…

Book cover of Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors

Why did I love this book?

Porter, the strategy guru from Harvard Business School, created the field of competitive analysis, out of which we grew my field of competitive intelligence. This book is the “bible” for every manager out there looking to understand where risks and opportunities come from, and how to take advantage of both (risks can be as profitable as opportunities if you learn of them earlier than others). Over the years, academics and consultants attempted to poke holes in Porter’s basic analysis frameworks to no avail. It remains the only surviving framework used by strategic planners worldwide and outlasted fads and buzz words such as re-organization, blue ocean theory, core competency model, “hyper-competition” misconception, and “business models.” Porter is to strategy what Peter Drucker was to general management. I use these frameworks to train competition analysts all over the world. 

By Michael E. Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Competitive Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now nearing its sixtieth printing in English and translated into nineteen languages, Michael E. Porter's Competitive Strategy has transformed the theory, practice, and teaching of business strategy throughout the world.

Electrifying in its simplicity-like all great breakthroughs-Porter's analysis of industries captures the complexity of industry competition in five underlying forces. Porter introduces one of the most powerful competitive tools yet developed: his three generic strategies-lowest cost, differentiation, and focus-which bring structure to the task of strategic positioning. He shows how competitive advantage can be defined in terms of relative cost and relative prices, thus linking it directly to profitability, and…

Book cover of Man, Economy, and State, V1: A Treatise on Economic Principles

Why did I love this book?

I am an economist by training. I taught economic courses at Rutgers University for two decades but the only economic framework I consider useful for real-world managers is the classical school known as Austrian Economics, of which Murray Rothbard was one of the more eloquent and accessible voices. Mainstream economists busy themselves with complex mathematical models that are in the end utterly useless in explaining the world, or worse, are utterly wrong in predicting the consequences of policies but are provided by “court economists” to support ideologies. Murry Rothbard, in contrast, lays down the principles of economic theory that will guide your investment/competitive strategies based on the most solid and realistic economic reasoning around. The book is not easy to read, but it will change your understanding of the world. It inspired me to get a Ph.D. 

By Murray N. Rothbard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man, Economy, and State, V1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a new release of the original 1962 edition.

Book cover of The Halo Effect... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers

Why did I love this book?

As part of my focus on preventing disastrous competitive surprises and avoiding blinders when it comes to new opportunities, I discovered this little gem authored by an IMD professor, Phil Rosenzweig when I conducted a wargaming session at IMD (my favorite business school). The book is short and very modest and wasn’t accompanied by the marketing hype of such bestsellers as Jim Collins’ books From Great to Greatness…(to bankruptcy?) or McKinsey’s reports of “success formulae” and yet it systematically shreds these works and exposes the delusion, fostered by them, regarding the reasons companies perform well. This book reads like a parody of superficial thinking fostered by popular business writers and big consulting firms. A manager who wants to stay ahead of the competition better read this book as a defense against fluff and benchmarking shamans. 

By Phil Rosenzweig,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Halo Effect... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some companies prosper while others fail? Despite great amounts of research, many of the studies that claim to pin down the secret of success are based in pseudoscience. The Halo Effect is the outcome of that pseudoscience, a myth that Philip Rosenzweig masterfully debunks in THE HALO EFFECT. The Halo Effect describes the tendency of experts to point to the high financial performance of a successful company and then spread its golden glow to all of the company's attributes - clear strategy, strong values, and brilliant leadership. But in fact, as Rosenzweig clearly illustrates, the experts are not…

Atlas Shrugged

By Ayn Rand,

Book cover of Atlas Shrugged

Why did I love this book?

I am an entrepreneur. I am exceedingly proud of being profitable for 23 years. I believe I deserve these profits and profits are moral because they are derived from providing true value. At the core of my value system, however, is not profit per se but integrity in my personal and business dealing; These are not two different moral systems. Rand’s defense of freedom is the most important moral statement of our times. It is the reason I don’t work in China, for example. Rand’s philosophy is often demonized by those who justify force to achieve “desirable” goals. Those who follow her teaching are therefore better people. It is that simple: if you want a deal with an ethical person, ask about their philosophy. I was ecstatic when my son read the book in College. Atlas Shrugged might be fiction, but our world is proof of how right she was. 

By Ayn Rand,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Atlas Shrugged as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand's greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatizes her unique philosophy through an intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex. Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own the philosopher who becomes a the woman who…

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