The best business books of 2018 for digital decision-makers
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The best business books of 2018 for digital decision-makers

Kenny MacIver — December 2018

With themes of digital transformation, AI, IT industry gender inequality, dystopian tech and more, we select the books published in 2018 that should be essential reading for CXOs shaping their organization’s technology-determined future.

In the past year, the pace and scale of digital change has been felt everywhere  — geopolitically, in business, in society and in people's daily lives. The rapid advances in spheres such as AI, robotics and automation, IoT, big data and analytics have pointed to amazing opportunities. But alongside new expectations are questions about how well this revolution will play out for different groups and who the winners and losers will be. That has provided rich material for business authors and academics, management gurus and futurists, IT industry insiders and C-suite executives as they seek to chronicle a revolution in progress. Below we offer our pick of the best of their analyses in our business books of 2018.
Required reading for CIOsDigital Darwinism
Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption
Tom Goodwin

Digital Darwinism
This is a book that IT leaders should devour and pass to their CXO colleagues, especially those who don’t feel especially excited about what digital technology is making real every day. Brilliantly written, it provokes deep thinking about the nature and scale of change that businesses and societies need to embrace if they are to thrive in the digital age. Speaker, columnist and head of digital at media agency Zenith, Tom Goodwin provokes executives into thinking about the decisions they would take if starting their business today. If they don’t believe that their business models, resourcing, infrastructure, organizational structures, channels, products, even customers would be different, then they should start to question their understanding of what’s going on. “Technology is empowering us to do near magical things. [But] the depth of change is underestimated and often misunderstood,” he observes. That is where IT leaders should step into the breach — to guide and drive the necessary change.

Breaking up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
Emily Chang
There are too many reasons women decide against pursuing and sustaining a career in tech. But one facet that is not exactly a draw is the culture that develops when roughly 80% of the workforce is male. And where that digital power is at its most concentrated — in Silicon Valley — that culture runs to extremes. Chang, host of online TV show Bloomberg Technology, exposes a world of male entitlement, perpetuated stereotypes, female exclusion, misogyny, sexual assault and salaciousness. Brotopia may have generated headlines for its tales of sex parties, where the tech elite roll in ecstasy-fueled “cuddle puddles,” but the book presents a robust analysis of what went wrong to make the tech industry so male and why it is now so vital that the “nerd-bro dream” is disrupted. “The scarcity of women in an industry so forcefully reshaping our future cannot be allowed to stand,” she writes. And, given the bias already showing up in AI apps, it is hardly desirable that code is produced and tech directions set in gender isolation.

Digital Transformation at Scale
Why the Strategy is Delivery
Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken & Tom Loosemore
Digital at Scale

The creation of the UK’s Government Digital Service in the early part of this decade dramatically overturned historical patterns of IT delivery that were as ludicrously inefficient as they were painfully expensive and archaic. The authors were instrumental in driving that digital transformation and reshaping public services for the internet era — while saving £4 billion ($5bn) from the UK’s IT bill. An inspiring read for any leader pursuing a digital agenda while up against institutional intransigence.

The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies
Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh


Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, a board member of Airbnb and Microsoft, and a serial VC, joins forces with writer and entrepreneur Yeh to share first-hand observations and illuminating examples of companies that have built digitally powered global franchises at blindingly fast speed. Drawing on a course the authors taught at Stanford University and Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale, Blitzscaling dissects the process behind the meteoric growth of companies such as Tencent, Spotify, Netflix, Slack, Dropbox and Airbnb, and codifies the tactics and decision they took. The common thread — an extreme, unwieldy, risky, inefficient do-or-die approach to growth. As Bill Gates highlights in the book’s foreword, this is not just a masterclass for startup management: “The ideas behind blitzscaling are important for big, established companies too” — whether trying to emulate the approaches of the stars of the networked age or battling against the hypergrowth tornados they unleash.

AI Superpowers
China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order
Kai-Fu Lee


To say Kai-Fu Lee’s deep insight into AI is highly valued is something of an understatement. The former president of Google China and founder of AI-focused VC firm Sinovation Ventures, Lee can boast 50 million followers on social media and is the author of seven business and technology bestsellers. That makes his insider’s perspective from China and Silicon Valley on how AI will reshape global economics and different societies a vital read for business executives, social policy makers and, indeed, anyone who wants to get a glimpse into how the most profound of all   technology revolutions — machine intelligence — might play out for humans. Lee certainly conveys the scale and importance of the AI superpower rivalry. “China and the US are currently incubating the AI giants that will dominate global markets and extract wealth…around the globe,” he states. “[They] already have an enormous lead over other counties, [which] lack the venture-capital ecosystems and the large user bases to generate the data that will be key to the age of implementation.” The book puts that arms race into a wider context, surveying the evolution of AI technology and exploring many of the difficult questions around the social impact of automation and human-AI coexistence.

How to Fix the Future
Staying Human in the Digital Age
Andrew Keen


The long-time bête noire of Silicon Valley and its utopian promises doesn’t revel in the fact that he accurately predicted many of the negative impacts of runaway digitalization models, as seen in the exploitation of personal data, outside interference in elections, AI’s potential to eliminate hundreds of millions of jobs, and more. Instead, Keen, proposes genuinely positive and human-centric ways forward.

Also high on the I-CIO reading list

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
Max Tegmark
A profound analysis of what the arrival of AI means for humanity — by an MIT physics professor and scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute.

Seeing Digital:
A Visual Guide to the Industries, Organizations and Careers of the 2020s
David Moschella

The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together
Thomas Malone

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity
Byron Reese

Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future — and What to Do About It
Tien Tzuo

First published December 2018
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