yessummer is on The air. People in the northern hemisphere are beginning to discuss vacation plans and make some bold wardrobe choices. Recommendations for beach readings are coming out left, right, and center. The strangest of these lists are those aimed at the laid-back executive.
Every summer, JPMorgan Chase’s wealth managers publish a reading list. Its recommendations for 2022 include a book by a group of McKinsey consultants on CEO excellence and a complete guide to non-fungible tokens. You can almost smell the suntan lotion. This year’s reading list is also available to explore in the metaverse, because nothing says the blue waters of the Mediterranean like choosing an avatar.
In his selection of summer business books, the financial times has chosen titles that range from hybrid work to the pitfalls of strategy. Mister Exchange Network, a news site, encourages its readers to lounge on the beach with a copy of “Essential Mister Handbook”, and he seems not to be kidding. It’s only a matter of time before The Economist does something similar.
People should read what they want. The books on the list may well come in handy: no mosquito would survive contact with the “Essential Mister manual.” But anything that contains the words “blockchain” or “McKinsey” is nonsense. Many people spend most of their waking hours working or thinking about work. The idea of a summer read is that it should provide an escape from the office, not another way of thinking about it.
In an ideal world, people would pack up several Wodehouse PGs and completely tune out. But publishers could also do their part and release titles that are really meant to be business beach reads. These books would be addressed to the off-duty person behind the zoom screen. They wouldn’t exactly contain advice on productivity gains and excessive inactivity on frenzy. Instead of showing you “how you, too, can model yourself after the best,” as the book on successful CEOs is supposed to do, summer titles should give you permission to fall asleep in a pool of your own dribbling. Here, then, are some suggestions to get the industry thinking.
In 2005 two inside Professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne wrote a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy,” which divided markets into uncontested areas (the “blue ocean”) and those infested by predatory competitors (the “red ocean”). But what if you really don’t feel like getting in the water? “Yellow Sand Strategy” argues that sometimes the best thing to do is to remain completely inactive and hope that nothing bad happens. (“Yellow Ocean Strategy” is an entirely different book, for executives who do things so incompetently that no one gives them extra work.)
The United States Marine Corps has a practice of having senior officers serve meals to younger members of the unit as a way of cementing bonds. That habit lies behind the title of a management bestseller published by Simon Sinek called “Leaders Eat Last.” On vacation, however, you don’t have to boost morale or worry about your team. Read “Leaders Eat Three Club Sandwiches in a Row and Need a Break” and feel better about yourself.
In “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Clayton Christensen describes how leaders of established companies often fail to take advantage of new technologies and risk allowing startups to become formidable rivals as a result. But summer vacation is not the time to think about interruptions of any kind. Instead, turn your mind to more prosaic problems. “The Procrastinator’s Dilemma” looks at the difficult choice people face between letting work pile up until it really has to be done or letting work pile up until it really has to be done.
The closer you look, the more you realize that business publishers poorly serve underperformers and rank amateurs. There is a market for laziness: the success of Tim Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Workweek” was no accident. With just a few tweaks here and there, many entries in the back catalog of business bestsellers are ready for the beach. From “Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People” to “Start with Why Should I?” and “What color is your sun lounger?”, the possibilities are endless.
These aren’t the kind of titles anyone wants to see reading at work or posting on LinkedIn. There are no bragging rights associated with them. But the beach is a place to relax. If there’s ever a time to read lists to please the unmotivated and celebrate indolence, it’s summer.
Read more from Bartleby, our management and work columnist:
Why Managers Deserve More Understanding (July 25)
Work, the lost years (June 16)
Corporate Jets: Emblem of Greed or a Boon for Business? (June 9)