In various lectures I’ve given over the years, I often slip in recommendations for a few of my favourite business books for architects. What sets these books apart is that none of them are actually about or by architects. That’s not to say there aren’t some great books that merge business and architecture, but I believe strongly in the need for us to learn about business from beyond our educational horizon.
As you’ll see, I’m particularly interested in the worlds of technology and startup entrepreneurship, disciplines that relentlessly question their methods of production. I also prefer books with strong narratives, that match the weight of their instruction with equally engaging storytelling.
So here we go, the first of eight of the most influential books on my thoughts about architecture, creativity, business and entrepreneurship:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, 2015
A biography of Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple.
Why I like it:
This was the first book I ever read about Silicon Valley, and the beginning of my love affair with disruptive organisations. It’s also a book about one of the most charismatic, divisive and visionary figures from an industry filled with such figures. For or against the products his company has released over the past forty years, there’s no objecting to the magnitude of Jobs’ impact on the world.
Jobs was exiled from Apple for a little over a decade, but then returned to the helm in 1997. One of his first acts was to review the broad and confusing lineup of products Apple manufactured at the time (and many other product companies still do), and slash them to just four: a desktop and laptop each for professionals and amateurs.
Why architects should read it:
Jobs possessed the exceptional vision and relentlessness required to alchemise complex problems into simple solutions. With equal measures of awe and aggravation, those around him summarised these qualities as his reality distortion field. He believed in his vision so fervently that he literally bent reality around him to make it real.
Problem solving is of course a fundamental component of architecture too. We don’t have the luxury of endless time, resources and prototyping that Jobs wielded to achieve perfection, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still pursue the simple. Just as importantly, this book taught me to consider my work in the context of my entire career, with each project presenting an opportunity to improve on the last and pave the way for the next.
Stay tuned for the next article, where I share another of my favourite business books for architects. An archive of the series can be accessed here.
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, 2015