Four of the Top Business Books of 2015

by Dianna Brodine

Plastics Business

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Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower – by Hank Paulson


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Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World – by Gen. Stanley McChrystal


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Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts - Becoming the Person You Want to Be – by Marshall Goldsmith


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Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead – by Lazlo Bock

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Mark Zuckerberg created a buzz not seen since Oprah's Book Club when he announced his intention of reading a book every two weeks in 2015 – and sharing his selections. As a result, nearly 430,000 people have "liked" the Facebook page that announces the featured book, which also features discussions with the authors and an online discussion group, and hundreds of thousands more see the announcements on Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and other communication platforms.

While Plastics Business can't compete with Zuckerberg, four books released in the first six months of 2015 are featured here, along with cover descriptions. These books have been highlighted based on numerous reviews and recommendations from mainstream press, relevance to the Plastics Business audience and – in one case – a personal recommendation.

Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower
Author: Hank Paulson
Released: April 14, 2015

Hank Paulson has dealt with China unlike any other foreigner. As head of Goldman Sachs, Paulson had a pivotal role in opening up China to private enterprise. Then, as Treasury secretary, he created the Strategic Economic Dialogue with what is now the world's second-largest economy. He negotiated with China on needed economic reforms, while safeguarding the teetering US financial system. Over his career, Paulson has worked with scores of top Chinese leaders, including Xi Jinping, China's most powerful man in decades.

In Dealing with China, Paulson draws on his unprecedented access to modern China's political and business elite, including its three most recent heads of state, to answer several key questions.

  • How did China become an economic superpower so quickly?
  • How does business really get done there?
  • What are the best ways for Western business and political leaders to work with, compete with and benefit from China?
  • How can the US negotiate with and influence China given its authoritarian rule, its massive environmental concerns and its huge population's unrelenting demands for economic growth and security?

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Author: Gen. Stanley McChrystal
Released: May 12, 2015

It's no secret that in any field, small teams have many advantages – they can respond quickly, communicate freely and make decisions without layers of bureaucracy. But organizations taking on really big challenges can't fit in a garage. They need management practices that can scale to thousands of people.

Gen. McChrystal led a hierarchical, highly disciplined machine of thousands of men and women. But to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, his Task Force would have to acquire the enemy's speed and flexibility. Was there a way to combine the power of the world's mightiest military with the agility of the world's most fearsome terrorist network? If so, could the same principles apply in civilian organizations?

McChrystal and his colleagues discarded a century of conventional wisdom and remade the Task Force, in the midst of a grueling war, into something new: a network that combined extremely transparent communication with decentralized decision-making authority. The walls between silos were torn down. Leaders looked at the best practices of the smallest units and found ways to extend them to thousands of people on three continents, using technology to establish a oneness that would have been impossible even a decade earlier. The Task Force became a "team of teams" – faster, flatter, more flexible – and beat back Al Qaeda.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be
Author: Marshall Goldsmith
Released: May 19, 2015

In Triggers, his most powerful and insightful book yet, Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives and enact meaningful and lasting change.

Change, no matter how urgent and clear the need, is hard. Knowing what to do does not ensure that we actually will do it. We are superior planners, says Goldsmith, but become inferior doers as our environment exerts its influence through the course of our day. We forget our intentions. We become tired, even depleted, and allow our discipline to drain down like water in a leaky bucket. In Triggers, Goldsmith offers a simple "magic bullet" solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls "active" questions. These are questions that measure our effort, not our results. There's a difference between achieving and trying; we can't always achieve a desired result, but anyone can try. In the course of Triggers, Goldsmith details the six "engaging questions" that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve and help us recognize when we fall short.

Filled with revealing and illuminating stories from his work with some of the most successful chief executives and power brokers in the business world, Goldsmith offers a personal playbook on how to achieve change in our lives, make it stick, and become the person we want to be.

Editor's note: Triggers is my personal recommendation. Behavioral change isn't easy, no matter what behavior you're trying to modify, and I found this book to be interesting, insightful and – most important – actionable. By learning to identify the triggers in our environments that make change feel impossible and then asking six questions to get back on track, Goldsmith offers a blueprint for change that can last.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
Author: Lazlo Bock
Released: April 7, 2015

From the visionary head of Google's innovative People Operations comes a groundbreaking inquiry into the philosophy of work and a blueprint for attracting the most spectacular talent to your business and ensuring that they succeed.

Drawing on the latest research in behavioral economics and a profound grasp of human psychology, WORK RULES! also provides teaching examples from a range of industries, including lauded companies that happen to be hideous places to work and little-known companies that achieve spectacular results by valuing and listening to their employees. Bock takes us inside one of history's most explosively successful businesses to reveal why Google consistently is rated one of the best places to work in the world, distilling 15 years of intensive worker R&D into principles that are easy to put into action, whether you're a team of one or a team of thousands.