The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read – Bill Gates

Bill Gates shares his favorite business book. The book was recommended to him by Warren Buffett back in 1991 after they first met.

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The business terrain is no football pitch, it isn’t plain at all- very rugged. When it comes to business, experience isn’t the best teacher as its tuition fees are very expensive and most times, you don’t even get the second chance to practice the lessons gained. This is why we businessmen wash our eyes with the tears of others, and use others’ cries as radar navigation to know how to fly pass similar situations.

Thus business books and guides over the years have proven to be of immense values as you always practical comparisons to be drawn from previous situations. Even Bill Gates recognizes the boxes of knowledge preserved in ink in these books. His favorite business book being John Brook’s Business Adventures prescribed for him by Warren Buffet back in 1991. This ’60s wonder is a fridge of wisdom as it preserves tactical approaches to modern day business circumstance drawing examples from similar business scenarios. Even now it is still Bill Gates’ favourite!

Questions could be entertained as to this Gate’s preference of this literary antiquity knowing fully well that when Brook worked on Xerox back in 1966, calling the company’s design efficient could be seen as a “brown envelope compliment” since the copier needed a fire extinguisher as it was a heat-prone with a maid attendant; coupled with a hefty 650 pounds weight with an audacious $2500 price tag. That could be thought a distance off the new calendar- really a long time.

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According to Bill Gates, this book by John Brook is still wedded to his heart in a deserved matrimony for good 23 years after then sustaining its place alongside Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor, a powerful 1949 knowledge mine on investment that Warren Buffet thinks the best he has ever read!

Brook had his early days in New Jersey at the time of the Depression, schooling at the Princeton University staying in the same as former Secretary of State, George Shultz. He returned to his journalism dreams after participating in military patriotism to the US during the WWII. Brook published a good number of books as well as magazine works before boarding a coffin and going below in 1993!

Inferring from Journalist Lewis in his foreword to Brook’s Go-Go Years, when Brook gets things wrong, “at least he gets them wrong in an interesting way”. Bill Gates sees Brook as a departure from modern convention, as today’s writers just unlike Brook would repeat the popular success stanza and simplistic explanations. Gates particularly notices “How many times have you read that some company is taking off because they give their employees free lunch?” According to Bill Gates “You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters, and show how things went for them.”

Particularly in one “The Impacted Philosophers”, Brook employs a scenario of price-fixing at General Electric to examine miscommunication, often deliberate; fluctuating up down an organization. John Brook writes “a breakdown in intramural communication so drastic as to make the building of the Tower of Babel seem a triumph of organizational rapport.”

In the situation of “The Fate of the Edsel,” Brook dodges the common perception as to why Ford’s flagship automobiles were a miserable disappointment. This resulted from Ford’s executive’s pretence to be working from the polls. “Although the Edsel was supposed to be advertised, and otherwise promoted, strictly on the basis of preferences expressed in polls, some old-fashioned snake-oil selling methods, intuitive rather than scientific, crept in.” It certainly didn’t help that the first Edsels “were delivered with oil leaks, sticking hoods, trunks that wouldn’t open, and push buttons that…couldn’t be budged with a hammer.”

According to Bill Gates, one of Brook’s contending best, “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox”. The headline alone has worthily bought its shelf in Journalism Hall of Fame. Xerox ignored its indigenous costly R&D findings which didn’t particularly relate to copier (their chief focus). An ingenious work that was the silent parent of Ethernet networks and graphical user interface, which Windows and OS X loudly built on; with Microsoft and Apple milking fortunes from Xerox’s forsaken graphical interface findings.

Bill Gates took a thick notice of this deciding not to dive into this publicized loophole. Quoting him “I pushed hard to make sure that we kept thinking big about the opportunities created by our research in areas like computer vision and speech recognition. Many other journalists have written about Xerox, but Brooks’s article tells an important part of the company’s early story. He shows how it was built on original, outside-the-box thinking, which makes it all the more surprising that as Xerox matured, it would miss out on unconventional ideas developed by its own researchers.”

The billionaire Gates appreciates John Brooks as a masterful story teller. According to Gates “He could craft a page-turner like ‘The Last Great Corner’, about the man who founded the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain and his attempt to foil investors’ intent on shorting his company’s stock. I couldn’t wait to see how things turned out for him. (Here’s a spoiler: Not well.) Other times you can almost hear Brooks chuckling as he tells some absurd story”.

There is a noticeable passage in the “The Fate of the Edsel”, a Ford PR man gathers a fashion party for newspaper reporters’ wives. The host of the occasion wore the costumes for his underwear- impersonating a female figure. This would have stolen embarrassing newspapers’ headlines for such a big American corporation in 1957! Brooks notices that the reporter wives “were able to give their husbands an extra paragraph or two for their stories.”

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Gates sees Brook’s work as a tall signpost reminding us of the values upon which strong business legacies are built especially that golden human factor. Does your employees’ IQ EQ agree with the corporate vision? Does their professional personality share a boat with their roles? These questions are still recommended by Berkshire Hathaway.

Bill Gates strictly sees Brooks’s Business Adventures as a complete guide not necessarily restricted to the business pitch but for all leaders who need to flex their power of choice in demanding situations. Quoting Bill Gates “John Brooks’s work is really about human nature, which is why it has stood the test of time.

Via Gates Notes




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