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CEO's Top Summer Reading Picks

CEO's Top Summer Reading Picks

LEE Jung-Ho

July 21, 2009


Welcome to our video program. I’m Jung-Ho Lee from the Management Strategy Department.

What do you do when faced with challenges and need answers? A survey of the reading patterns of Korean CEOs showed that many looked for a breakthrough in books. People’s reading patterns are also impacted by the recession. As with No. 1 brands which sell more in times of recession, proven selections of classics and steady-sellers are enjoying more popularity in today’s book market.

Since 2004, Samsung Economic Research Institute has conducted annual surveys on the reading habits of CEOs and their summer reading recommendations and this year, SERI received recommendations from 1,233 people. With numbers slowly increasing for the last five years, this year 38% said they read more than three books per month.

A majority of CEOs answered that they read to gain comfort and peace of mind, followed by those who read to gain knowledge and then those who read to explore new ideas to overcome the recession. 86.3% of the CEOs answered “Yes” when questioned “Have you ever recommended a specific book to your employees or gave them books as gifts over the past year?”

Based on the survey, SERI chose the 20 most frequently suggested books by CEOs and SERI researchers. Let’s take a close look at the four keywords SERI discovered out of the 20 books.

First, CEOs prefer books that reinterpret the current situation and look for new alternatives. Today, books that review the fundamental causes of the current crises, conflicts and stagnation and offer out-of-the-box solutions have gained much attention.

A good example is the “Code Green” by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, which warns people that if the current pace of development continues, the world may face tremendous environmental problems and lack energy sources. As the world gets hotter and more crowded, it calls for the development of green energy, an improvement in energy efficiency and preservation of the environment.

“Currency Wars,” by the Chinese financial guru Hongbing Song, reinterprets the history of the world economy from a conspiracy theory perspective. The main theme of the faction is that those who control the flow of money have the power to determine the ups and downs of the world.

Another interesting book is “Nudge,” which focuses not on rational human beings but on the people in the real world who act irrationally in certain situations. This book says that if using the nudge, a concept that makes use of the behavioral characteristics of these real-life people, the damages caused by irrational decision-making could be minimized.

Second, CEOs read to find a breakthrough. Popular books today are those which inform the reader of strategies in overcoming the crisis and surviving in the fast-changing world, while proposing a new type of leadership and the future of the management system.

“The Nidec Corporation Story” examines the secret behind the success of Nidec, a Japanese company which started in small warehouse and in 35 years grew into one of Japan’s largest electric motor manufacturers with yearly sales of 8 trillion won and over130, 000 employees.

“Donghengyiin,” meaning “traveling together,” provides an insight on the life and philosophy of Konosuke Matsushita who is now considered a god of management in Japan.

Both provide an insight into the nature of management. “The Nidec Corporation Story” is a story about Shigenobu Nagamori, president of Nidec Corporation, who overcame the 10 year recession with a “can-do” mind set, while “Donghengyiin” sheds light on the management tactics of Konosuke Matsushita who surmounted various obstacles, based on the management idea that focuses on talents, customers, and product innovation.

“Chaotics,” by the marketing guru Philip Kotler answers the question of how today’s companies should respond and cope with the current crisis. The book suggests that businesses should establish a chaos management system in order to perceive turbulence, predict the direction of the chaos and manage future risks.

Third, CEOs read to explore the secret of creativity. How are creative geniuses made? What is the origin of creativity? Many have probably pondered about such questions. The following books present their respective answers.

“Outliers” attempts to find out the secret behind the successes of the world’s top 1%. The book accredits the “10,000 hours” rule and the harmonization of luck, opportunity and cultural background as the secret behind their successes.

“Creators” analyzes the lives of 17 creative geniuses such as Shakespeare and Bach who each marked a new era in the history of arts. This book emphasizes the basics, saying that creative talent can be gained with creative courage and passion, plus efforts to push one’s talent to the maximum level.

Last, CEOs are eager to find a genuine meaning to life and family. Tough times, in general, make us feel much more strongly about the importance of our lives and families. As such, many books on how important families are and how to refresh the senses which can easily dry up during times of recession have become very popular.

“Take Care of My Mom,” written by a famous female novelist, illustrates a family looking for their mother. In the process of searching, the family feels a variety of feelings such as regret, compassion, agony and hatred, all of which are later displaced and sublimated into love and yearning for the mother.

“The Miracle of Having Lived, and Having to Live,” an essay by professor Young-Hee

Jang who passed away in May 2009, is based on the author’s own experiences and emphasizes that we must be grateful and full of optimism when it comes to life.

Thus far, we took a glance at the 20 most frequently suggested books based on the aforementioned keywords. I hope these books will help you to make a creative leap forward during your summer vacations.

Thank you for watching. I’m Jung-Ho Lee.

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