Prudential Investment Managers

Prudential Investment Managers

May 2017

Four books to work your way through this winter

Nothing beats snuggling up with an interesting read when it’s cold and rainy outside! These four books, all reviewed by Prudential, make for informative reading, discussing a wide range of insights on the ingredients for success in building companies, brands, and your own career.  Each can also be applied to investing.

THE BOOK: Messy: The Power Of Disorder To Transform Our Lives‎ By Tim Harford
BEST FOR: Neat freaks

There are benefits to messiness, according to the author, an economist and FT columnist, who explores the areas of life it can affect when you loosen things up. For example, Harford’s chapter on collaboration makes a business case for “messy” teams characterised by gender, cultural and technical diversity. The natural consequence of such teams is cognitive diversity, which stimulates creativity and facilitates problem solving. Readers who spend the majority of their waking hours in an air-conditioned, partitioned, uniformly decorated office space, will be particularly interested by the chapter on workplaces. Harford leads the reader through an array of experimental offices, from the clinical tidiness of Japanese electronics giant Kyocera, to the zaniness of New York advertising agency Chiat/Day in the 1980s. Fascinating!

THE BOOK: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
Brand followers

Phil Knight walked a fascinating path on his way to building one of the world’s most iconic sportswear brands. In Shoe Dog, Nike’s co-founder and former CEO chronicles his life’s journey, from peddling running shoes at local track meets to leading a multi-national juggernaut with billions of dollars in annual revenues. He candidly recounts the company’s seminal moments, while detailing the challenges he faced while at the helm of his burgeoning enterprise. We discover that many of Knight’s characteristics are consistent with those of other highly successful entrepreneurs; the likes of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs come to mind, although Knight does come across as more affable. For example, Knight worked hard to build a strong culture, and made sure to surround himself with people who were skilled at their job, loyal to the brand, and shared his long-term vision for the company. As a boss, he employed a hands-off management style.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results,” he says. It also covers controversies and personal struggles, such as bad press about the working conditions for its labourers and his battle to strike a healthy balance between work and family time. If you are interested in finding out what it takes to build and run a market-leading enterprise, then give Shoe Dog a read.

THE BOOK: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

The New York Times best-selling author of this book believes that the secret of outstanding achievement isn’t talent, but rather a focused persistence called ‘grit’. Grit, she argues, is made up of two things: Passion and Perseverance. Passion means having a long-term interest in the job that you are doing and perseverance means being persistent and never giving up. Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her much-publicised research on grit, Duckworth explains why talent does not always result in success. She argues that there are other factors that are more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments. She uses many different examples based on her 10 years of research, looking at elite athletes, spelling bee winners and other people at the top of their respective games. Duckworth also shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

THE BOOK: Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier
Gadget junkies/those curious about how our personal data is used

The authors of Big Data provide an accessible introduction to big data: where it comes from, what it can be used for, and how it will change society and commerce. Mayer-Schönberger is a professor of Internet governance and regulation, and Cukier is the data editor for the Economist. Will big data replace our conventional statistical analysis in asset management? What are its implications for investing? This topical book will provide insight to draw your own conclusions.  A section also details some of the risks associated with big data. Most of us are continuously supplying vast quantities of information about our reading, hobbies, shopping behaviour, travel patterns, social habits and medical profile to retailers, service providers, websites (particularly search engines) and mobile phone companies. Not all of it is being used or analysed to its fullest extent – yet. Familiarity with the concept of big data, and an awareness of when and how one’s own data is collected to populate big data sets, will become increasingly important as this new field gains prominence.

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