Being a social entrepreneur necessarily means that you find yourself on the cutting edge of business. You are doing something new to fill the void that you have spotted. Whether it is an innovative service or a gap filling product – you are trying to make a difference.
However, you, as the vanguard, will run up against questions to which you do not have the answer. Fortunately, there is a platform that offers all the answers you need. Books. And in the words of Penny Arcade – they already interface well with the shelves that you have at home.
Hundreds of business books are on the market. There are also hundreds of books lists on the internet that give you the 67 best business books across a range of options (okay, there was no list with 67 that we could find – but there definitely was a 73 best books for entrepreneurs).
We sat down with internet search engines pushed to the max to find consensus on what the best books for social entrepreneurs might be. Turns out that no one really agrees on “the best”. So that meant that we needed to do some reading of our own.
Here are our picks …
Getting Beyond Better by Roger Martin and Sally Osberg
This is a guide for any person looking to create a socially focused business. The book outlines the key stages for development of a social business: understanding the world, envisioning the future, building a model for change, and scaling the solution. Case studies and personal examples provide first time change-makers and experienced visionaries with inspiration and tips to move forward with their ideas.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
While not focused solely on social entrepreneurship – the book ranges over businesses like Apple and Disney- this title provides some valuable insights on creative thinking. The book starts out with a discussion about going against the grain and the risks one takes to do things differently. With chapters covering overcoming anxiety and ambivalence, creative thought, effective collaborations, and impactful actions this is a resource for anyone thinking outside the box. Of particular note is a young entrepreneur whose marketing strategy is to outline the reasons not to invest in his start-ups.
Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary
Case studies form the basis of this book, from Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Tinder, and SkillShare, are all examined as successful platforms that revolutionized their individual markets. Digital networks are the mainstream and we need to understand how to profit from their ubiquitousness as social entrepreneurs. This book is the ultimate guide to understanding the titans of these networking platforms and to harnessing the tools for our own businesses.
Sprint: How to Solve Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz
The guide is based around the five day process that designer Jake Knapp (also the author of the book) developed at Google to bring new ideas to testing within five days. With social entrepreneurs being pulled in many directions it is imperative to learn where to focus your time and learn how to get answers fast. One of the many answers that seems that the answer will take the longest is product testing. Not according to this book – you can get answers in days allowing you to better your market position and product. This is an essential guide for any social entrepreneur with a gap filling product.
Not every story has a happy ending …
However, every happy ending is accompanied by a cautionary tale – also because we all learn from failure we are proposing this next book.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
Dan Lyons, a successful journalist at Newsweek, suddenly finds himself without a job. And so he decided to work within the start-up industry. With a memorable cast of characters and nerf gun fights, Lyons spins a tale of a start up venture, flush with new venture capital, that spirals out of control. While this is not the story we want for ourselves, it serves as a “Don’t Do What Jimmy Don’t Does”, to quote the Simpsons.
And we all need to relax sometimes …
Did you know that reading fiction makes us more empathetic people? Well, it is true. According to a recent article published in Scientific American, reading fiction improves our ability to relate to others by getting us to imagine a different perspective. That means we can better anticipate the needs of our market by reading.
We just wanted to give you a really good, business related excuse to read these two books, one is even a graphic novel.
Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel
A poignant portrait of what it means to be a refugee, even though it is from a different crisis in a different time, there are many parallels that can be drawn in our modern world. The overarching theme of the book is friendship and creating a dialogue between disparate cultures. Monsieur Linh finds an unlikely friend in Monsieur Bark, as all that they have in common is their individual understanding of grief and loss. This book comes highly recommended by the UNHCR.
Strong Female Protagonist Book One by Brennan Lee Mulligan (Author) and Molly Ostertag (Artist)
A former teen super hero is shown evidence of a far reaching conspiracy. She abandons fighting giant monsters with her super powered team mates to go to college in order to make a bigger difference. Brought to market through a kickstarter campaign it is a complete collection of the webcomic of the same name. Mulligan and Ostertag have real world experience as entrepreneurs and to trying to make a difference in the world.