AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Book Recommendations from the AWS Enterprise Strategy Team

Some of us like to use the holiday season and early part of the new year to step back from day-to-day activities and reflect. It’s a good time to plan a bit for the coming year and catch up on what others are doing and thinking. For me it’s also a chance to work my way through the big pile of books I’ve been meaning to read.

You may have a similar pile. To help you prioritize the books on that tottering stack, I have asked my teammates on the Enterprise Strategy team what books they think are most important for our AWS customer executives to read. I suspect many of these books are already on your pile—if not, Santa might be lugging them down your chimney right now.

Here are some ideas for you.

From me, Mark Schwartz

  • The Ethical Algorithm by Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth. Though the title may sound geeky, the content is not at all technical—but it requires and encourages some thought. This is a great analysis of some of the ethical challenges in technology today, including those around AI, and an explanation of the tradeoffs that leaders need to think through when making responsible decisions. This book is an essential read for those who actually want to do something to make sure their technology use remains ethical and appropriate.
  • Impact Mapping by Gojko Adzic. This book is brilliant in its simplicity. Although it’s very short and readable, I think it covers everything a leader needs to think about, especially when it comes to aligning IT and the business, making prioritization decisions, and reducing the risk of IT initiatives. I have used it to cut through the complexity of government IT, where it served me much better than the complicated frameworks one often encounters. You might also want to take a look at Gojko’s book Computers vs Humans for fun examples of the challenges in creating truly human-centric systems.
  • Engineers of Victory by Paul Kennedy. This history of the Second World War is another book I often recommend. Executives sometimes speak of a “frozen middle” management, but I think engaging middle management is one of the critical success factors for succeeding in digital transformation. In his book, Kennedy argues that “middle management” in the military was the critical factor in the Allies’ victory.

From Ishit Vachhrajani

  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. In a complex environment full of variables, a leader’s ability to hone in on the most critical limiting constraint (or even a limiting belief) and address it can make an outsized impact. It is also a fun read!
  • The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle. Leadership is a team sport. Unlike many business books that focus on what “a great leader” should do, this book takes examples of highly successful groups and provides lessons for building high-performing teams. I gave this book to a past leadership team, and we followed its ideas in our own transformation journey. We even came up with our own “Culture Code” of 10 principles for the entire technology organization, calling it the “Tech Code.”
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. This is a must-read, considering how often the term “disruption” gets thrown around. I find it especially relevant to AWS customers we speak with, as they are often the leaders of established and successful companies who are worried about being disrupted.

From Miriam McLemore

I am going with oldies that I think have stood the test of time.

  • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I am rereading this book because we live in a world shaken by the impact of what our collective consciousness thought were highly improbable events. This book talks about not only having a resilient mindset to handle negative events but also having the capability and mindset to lean into positive events.
  • Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. This book is still relevant and will continue to be relevant for generative AI adoption. There will be innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards, and we will need to tailor messages to reach the various audiences. The people dynamics at play across this bell curve are the limiting factor for technology adoption.
  • Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly. As I get older and lose friends and family, this book brings home how short life is and how important it is to find balance and perfect moments.

From Chris Hennesey

  • Leading Change by John Kotter. Driving change in a large organization can be challenging. This book provides a great framework and approach to successfully drive lasting change from stakeholder mapping to developing a guiding coalition. It offers very practical advice backed by research.
  • Look at More by Andy Stefanovich. Andy is a friend and inspirational leader. He outlines a proven approach to innovation, growth, and change. One of my favorite quotes from Andy is “Get inspired to be inspiring.”
  • Future Ready by Stephanie L. Woerner, Peter Weill, and Ina M. Sebastian. I picked this up during the AWS Singapore Summit, where Peter presented the research in the book, which I greatly appreciated. I’m a fan of data-heavy, research-based content, and this book delivers it.

From Matthias Patzak

  • The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Companies cannot exist without culture. There is always a culture, and it has a major influence on a company’s success. This book describes with practical examples what makes a good culture, how to create it, and how to develop it.

From Phil Le-Brun

  • The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Coyle does a nice job at defining what culture is, why it can have a disproportional impact on business results, and practical characteristics that can be considered and nurtured by leaders. In an era where cross-functional teams are increasingly necessary, he dives into the five characteristics of success he has observed with such teams.
  • Why Digital Transformations Fail by Tony Saldanha. For all the talk about digital transformations, it’s still surprising how few organisations truly understand what this phrase means. Saldanha centres his observations on what we’d identify as Amazonian mechanisms and principles such as working backwards, change as a continual activity and combining culture and technology to deliver new customer experiences. He introduces the notion of “agile culture,” something that can be improved upon continually, and highlights the essential role of executives—technically inclined and not—in deciding how, if, and when to use technology to achieve an outcome.
  • The Technology Trap by Carl Benedikt Frey. An outstanding read if you want to understand the importance of technology in leadership. Unlike the investment tagline of “past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future results,” there are fascinating parallels in the book dating back to the start of humankind about the impacts of technologies from a political, socioeconomic, business, and ethical perspective, all highly relevant to today’s challenges and needs.

Of course, we also recommend our own team’s books, which you can find here and here.

Thanks for being a part of our blog community. Happy reading and happy holidays!