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The Three Books Every CEO Must Read

By: Karl McDonnell

Chief Executive Officer at Strayer Education, Inc


In a recent Inc. article on power habits of the wealthiest individuals, the top daily habit was that these individuals read every day. However, reading to get ahead isn’t just about filling your brain with words. It’s important to read work that informs and challenges your way of thinking. Throughout my career I’ve consumed many books and even keep a bookshelf in my office, but there are three that stand above the rest.

The following three books will give any leader or future leader a leg up on the competition and a competitive edge in a rapidly changing economy.

Creativity Inc.

The landscape of the business world is shifting every second. In these evolving times, the ability to solve problems and think creatively is a skill that can prove more valuable than years of experience. Creativity Inc., written by Pixar’s founder and president, is all about how to bring innovation and creativity to an organization. It’s helped me approach problems in new ways and dream up imaginative solutions to problems I thought were insolvable.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

We live in a data-driven age, yet it’s increasingly difficult to make sense out of all the information we’re bombarded with every day. Some in the business world get mired in analysis paralysis or drown themselves in countless spreadsheets. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information will teach you not just how to make sense of raw data, but how to visualize and organize it in a way that makes the information easily consumable. You’ll be able to gain insights that may have previously been lost in endless rows of excel.

Customer Experience Strategy

They say in business that the most important thing is to “know your customer.” Customer Experience Strategy by Lior Arussy will teach you how to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes and truly understand what the consumer wants. It’s a great “playbook for business leaders” and offers valuable advice on how to streamline the customer experience to make your organization more productive and profitable. It’s the most recent book I’ve read and it’s one I plan to keep on my shelf for a long time.