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28 Top Business Books to Get Ahead In 2018

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Reading has been noted as one of the primary habits of ultra-successful people, with magnates like Warren Buffett reading hundreds of pages each day and Bill Gates consuming numerous books each year.

Scientific evidence also points to reading as a way to significantly improve in terms of health and wellness factors such as mental acuity, stress levels, sleep quality, empathy, and positivity. Over the past year I’ve made it a habit of continual reading. Whether it be books on this list who I’ve come to love and admire or new books that I’ve gotten a sneak peak, each one will help you grow.

Pick up some great business books to ensure that 2018 starts correctly and stays successful. Here are 28 business books to add to your tablet or nightstand:

1. “Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data,” by Jørn Lyseggen.

Conceptualized by author Jørn Lyseggen, who also serves as CEO of media intelligence company Meltwater, Outside Insight shifts company leaders’ focuses away from historical internal data and toward external information.

When leaders do this, they will become able to benchmark against the competition; make more strategic, forward-thinking decisions; and stay one step ahead of competitors in 2018.

Related: How Do Your Reading Habits Compare to Elon Musk’s, Mark Zuckberg’s and Warren Buffett’s?

2. “Hug Your Haters,” by Jay Baer.

Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer is the first-ever customer service book for modern times, bringing to life the realities of customer expectations in the social media era.

Baer wants to help readers move on from legacy forms of customer service like telephone and email and move into 2018 armed with methods for delivering on customer expectations — all in the public’s view online. The book also covers how to embrace complaints, turn bad news into great news, and transform haters into ambassadors for a brand.

3. “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter,” by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh.

Superconnector” is the next stage in the evolution of networking, thanks to changes shaped by social media and the idea of social capital. The “superconnector” set of habits is where networkers should focus their energies, as superconnecting is about truly understanding the power that comes from building certain relationships, including how putting certain people together amplifies success and leads to innovative solutions.

This book aims to move you beyond bad networking habits and toward a “profit mindset” that involves taking a different approach to connecting with others — in business and in life.

Related: 10 Books Tim Ferriss Thinks Every Entrepreneur Should Read

4. “Selling Vision,” by Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatham.

As part of the leadership team at BTS, a strategy firm that provides insights and intellect on the key behaviors that improve sales performance, the two authors use their experiences to build an alternative case for creating change. Their revolutionary selling methodology provides a new way to visualize and execute on major sales transformations.

These transformations happen by looking at the customers’ perspectives, including their buying patterns, and the perspectives of salespeople, identifying those moments that lead to success. Changing your sales processes in 2018 could result in a new growth dynamic that will help you exceed your new year’s targets.

5. “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

As the Amazon best book of April 2017 and a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, this book is by the Facebook COO and best-selling author of “Lean In.”

This time, Sandberg has returned with Wharton School psychologist and friend Grant to discuss how she persevered after the sudden loss of her husband. This compelling book offers stories and tips on managing and overcoming tragedy and hardship, and it’s excellent inspiration for surmounting any type of life hurdle, with numerous lessons that are applicable no matter what adversity you face.

6. “The Startup Hero’s Pledge,” by Tim Draper.

Billionaire investor, venture capitalist, and bitcoin aficionado Tim Draper has written a book and decided to release each chapter for free on Medium, making it accessible to all. His first chapter can be found here, as can the others he has published to date.

In the chapters Draper has released, he shares his thoughts on freedom, investment decisions, and his philosophical approach to work and life as an early backer of Skype and Baidu. These chapters are filled with great stories that deliver life lessons you can carry with you and apply the rest of your life. Can’t wait to see what’s coming in the next few chapters.

Related: The 25 Essential Books for Every Entrepreneur’s Library

7. “Leading Through the Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance,” by Elise Mitchell.

Author Elise Mitchell returns with a new book that provides you with direction on how to become what she terms a “destination leader with a journey mindset.” To show you how to develop that mindset, she shares numerous lessons, stories, and interviews with successful leaders.

This is an excellent guide to speed how quickly you can achieve personal and professional goals and navigate through detours and barriers that show up on this journey. It’s inspirational and full of practical advice. Not only will you feel good reading it, but you’ll also gain strategies for approaching the coming year.

8. “Surviving the Tech Storm: Strategy in Times of Technological Uncertainty,” by Nicklas Bergman.

You may already feel just how fast technology is speeding ahead and may be concerned about how it will affect your future. Rather than worry, pick up this book from serial entrepreneur, technology speaker, and futurist Nicklas Bergman.

He offers a framework to help you understand why technology is causing uncertainty, how to look past the ambiguity and see the opportunities, and how to track the megatrends that will continue to change business.

Being prepared for what’s to come with technology will help hone your business strategy in 2018. The book provides a step-by-step approach to analyzing emerging technologies, assessing business implications, and adapting to a new and uncertain environment, potentially putting you ahead of others in your industry.

9. “Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing,” by Robert Glazer

If you think affiliate marketing is an old-school marketing strategy that no longer has merit, think again. Robert Glazer’s book on the subject draws on insights from all types of leaders and influencers in this field to illustrate why it is something you should consider adding in 2018 if it’s not already part of your marketing strategy. He also shares why performance partnerships should also be expanded and leveraged now and in the future. This is a must-read for anyone in the B2C industry who is struggling to grow revenue or who somehow thinks affiliate marketing is no longer relevant.

10. “They Ask, You Answer,” by Marcus Sheridan.

The new book by “web marketing guru” Marcus Sheridan, founder and president of The Sales Lion, “They Ask, You Answer,” was named the No. 1 marketing book to read in 2017 by Mashable. Launched in January 2017, the book has plenty of relevancy for 2018 and beyond.  

The book relates the story of how Sheridan’s company, River Pools and Spas, used content marketing to rise from the brink of bankruptcy during the 2008 economic crisis. Sheridan’s success has turned him into a highly sought-after speaker and a trusted voice in digital marketing and sales. The book will help you get a complete picture on how to integrate marketing and sales for an effective content strategy.

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55

11. “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change,” by Ellen Pao.

This is a book that will inspire you  — and infuriate you when you read what this author endured in the work environment. But the inspiring part is the action Pao took and the lessons she learned and has shared with readers.

Pao’s writing may even fire you up to contribute to the change that can happen when people start standing up and stop accepting decades-old malpractices. As a tech investor and former CEO of Reddit, Pao offers an insightful, compelling account that gives you a lot to think about for the coming year.

12. “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone,” by Brian Merchant.

This fascinating book on the Apple iPhone’s invention quickly became a national bestseller and was shortlisted for Financial Times’ Business Book of the Year Award. It relays the inside scoop on how the world’s most profitable product was invented, offering analytical insights into how you might approach your own product development strategy.

The author writes in the style of a fast-paced novel, with vivid details that help readers really understand how the iPhone was devised and launched. Although this smartphone is a common product today, it was one of the most disruptive products of its time and, years on, generates the same level of excitement with each new launch.

Related: How Reading Books Reduces Stress and Makes You Smarter at the Same Time

13. “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” by Kim Scott.

For anyone with a team to lead, “Radical Candor” is an important book that helps put this role into serious perspective, especially for those who run virtual teams and don’t often see the talent. Scott provides examples related to experience leading teams at Google and Apple in order to illustrate how to care deeply for employees.

The book includes a new framework for how to be a better boss and colleague by offering better feedback, making sharper decisions, and more through both caring about people and challenging them directly. The practical suggestions and tips will yield positive change for you and your team.

14. “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth,” by Jen Sincero.

This list is full of engaging, positive, and edgy books, and Sincero’s book might just top all of them in these areas. Her fun-to-navigate finance manifesto will challenge you to think differently about how to make money and to develop a mindset of wealth.

So many people want to do better with their personal finances or reach better financial decisions for their businesses, and most fail. But this book will make you address the mental obstacles standing between you and your desired income. It’s an easy read that you can leverage to start enacting real financial change.

Making resolutions to be more successful in 2018? This book will you the framework to achieve them.

Related: The Psychological Benefits of Writing: Why Richard Branson and Warren Buffett Write Regularly

15. “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success,” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

Sometimes, the best business books are those written by authors outside the business world who contribute other types of expertise to the conversation. This best book of 2017 is a case in point.

The authors use their experience in health, the outdoors, and athletic coaching and performance regimens to present an interesting perspective on dealing with burnout, offering tips on how to focus on productivity, happiness, and success for the rest of your life through physical and mental exercises. Read it to kick off 2018 with a new focus on peak performance.

16. “Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong,” by Eric Barker.

Based on his successful blog by the same title, Barker has created a must-read business book that will alter how you look at success, what it means, and how you know you have achieved it.

Barker calls on everything from Buddhist philosophy to Genghis Khan’s strategy to illustrate that there’s a different way to get real success and create the life you want. He even throws in some lessons from Spider-Man to drive his point home.

Related: Bill Gates’ 5 Favorite Books of 2014

17. “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

This New York Times bestseller includes a foreword by Steven Pinker, author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” In the book, Stephens-Davidowitz writes that your life and business are most likely consumed by data and you are not sure what to do with it all.

His findings provide new ways for us to look at ourselves as individuals and a society, and his thought-provoking insights may even inspire you to make definitive changes in the new year.

18. “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies,” by Geoffrey West.

Here is another business book that reaches outside the industry and calls upon a physicist to offer his insights into the area of complexity science. Even though technology and globalization have contributed a lot to our society, both have also created significantly more complexity.

To provide some relief, West has illustrated where to see the simplicity in life. This new way of seeing everything and everyone provides a fresh outlook for the new year — which can help you keep working through what was previously perplexing.

Related: 5 Uplifting Books You Should Read This Holiday Season

19. “The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams,” by Sam Walker.

Either you lead teams, or you are on a team. Whatever the case, this book enhances how you develop, manage, or work on a team. Walker devised and applied a formula about teams that has been tested and has worked on teams all over the world, from Olympic teams and the NBA to the English Premier League.

In looking at team captains, Walker realized how successful teams worked and used that to devise a winning formula. The book shows how it works for all types of teams in different industries. You can leverage the insights here to become a captain — or you can identify those who fit that description so they can lead your company to greater success in 2018.

20. “The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World,” by Brad Stone.

If changing the world is a resolution on your list, then you might want to pick up this book over the holidays and start benchmarking what other companies have done to that end.

The book covers how these disruptive companies, from Uber to Airbnb, have changed the rules of business. The book’s inspiring and practical insights can help direct your own resolutions to contribute to the change happening in the world around you.  

This was the book that inspired me to start Calendar. I was building just an ordinary tool till I read this book. After I delayed launch to build a true company that will change the world.

Related: 3 Unexpected Ways Reading Personal Development Books Changed My Life

21. “Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age,” by Jeff Goins.

This book is made for the freelancer or those considering moving into business for themselves. Originally, people thought you couldn’t make money from creative careers. However, creativity is now embraced and rewarded financially. Interestingly enough, the book uses artists of the past as examples. These successful icons never actually starved but instead were ruthless businesspeople.

Goins provides a number of strategies that those in the freelance economy can embrace, including to steal from your influencers, collaborate with others, and apprentice under a master.

22. “What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data,” by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring.

You may already be deep in thought about the impact of AI and machine learning and what it means for your role in the future of business. The authors are business and technology experts who understand what the next generation of the digital economy looks like.

The book moves past all the media “doom and gloom” about machines, AI, and robots and outlines tactical recommendations for strategic business models and pathways to get the most from the new technology.

Related: The 10 Best Motivational Books of 2016

23. “Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything,” by Ulrich Boser.

Because you are reading this article as you are thinking about making certain improvements as the new year arrives, you’ll want to read this book to help you tackle the learning curves you hope to surmount in 2018.

So much of life has centered on one approach to learning that involves memorizing facts, dates, and details — but this approach isn’t working. Instead, better learning comes from simple techniques described in this book.

24. “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm,” by Christian Madsbjerg.

In the age of data and technology, you may think humanity is slipping away. Maybe you resolve to stay firmly rooted in your own sense of humanity. This book should give you the resolve and proof that human intelligence is a must going forward, even when we’re surrounded by inhuman processes and platforms.

Numerous companies serve as case studies to provide a realistic basis for ensuring we each do our share — including how business leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals can maintain our humanity among the group thinkers.

Related: Here’s Why You Should Quit Reading and Start Doing

25. “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success,” by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, Sean Lynch and Frederick W. Smith.

As military veterans, business consultants, and entrepreneurs, the four authors provide a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to finding success in business. One of the authors, Smith, is even the chairman and CEO of FedEx Corp.

Together, the authors offer seven key behaviors that define a leader and that provide a spark to generate greater success. These behaviors help you become the catalyst for change in your personal and professional life. The book even includes online resources for added value.

26. “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone,” by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach.

Sloman and Fernbach illustrate how the human mind generates ignorance and delivers collective wisdom. The more we can learn about our minds from these authors, who also happen to be cognitive scientists, the better off we will be.

The authors’ insights can improve how we make decisions because they provide a basis to understand where perspectives come from and how we learn from one another. Sloman and Fernbach conclude that true genius comes from creating intelligence from what we collect from those around us. This new approach leads to potential new solutions to old problems in the near future.

27. “Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction,” by Derek Thompson.

This is not about your own popularity but rather the viral nature of your brand and business that you want so desperately to increase. Thompson believes it’s important to understand the psychology that makes us tick as human beings and looks at everything — Etsy, Star Wars, The Weeknd, ESPN, impressionist art, and more — to make it as relevant as possible.

He proves that popularity is more a science than you think. Therefore, there is hope for you and your brand if you follow his timely advice.

28. “Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention,” by John Ruhlin.

Although released in 2016, this is still a must-read business book for now and for 2018. As part of a social focus and as a unique marketing ploy, gifting can provide many positive results. However, the author warns, there is a wrong way to go about giving gifts, and he uses numerous stories and points data to prove it.

If you plan on employing a gifting strategy in the coming year, you’ll want to check out this book’s practical advice.

So much to read, so much time.

Yes, this is a lot to read, but there’s time to cover all of these business books and more. That’s because you will make time. This is an investment in yourself and your business. As such, you generate a sizable return from the advice and knowledge from these pages and great minds.

A daily source of inspiration and information, Entrepreneur.com fuels the spectrum of game-changers that define what it means to be an entrepreneur today. That includes business leaders who launched something from nothing, content creators in the social influencer space, athletes pushing the boundaries of performance, and internal thought leaders innovating inside major corporations. Entrepreneur.com offers strategic insights and how-to guidance for the people that make things happen.

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Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video

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Though Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died six years ago, his outsized influence is certainly still felt. A recently surfaced video interview with the late CEO — which based on his haircut seems to place him in the mid-1980s — shows him sharing his views about best practices for hiring and what makes a great manager.

Up front, he says that the greatest employees are the ones who have the ability to manage themselves. But they can only do that if the leadership at the top is clear about what they want. “What leadership [is] having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision,” Jobs says.

Related: Steve Jobs Systematically Cultivated His Creativity. You Can Too.

Jobs goes on to explain that one of the most important jobs of someone in his position is recruiting new employees. He notes that he isn’t necessarily looking for someone who is an industry veteran, but rather someone who understands where technology is and where it could go in the future. He also recalls a moment when as the company was growing, that he and others executives thought they needed “professional managers,” but that ultimately turned out to not be the case.   

“We went out and hired a bunch of professional management [and] it didn’t work at all. Most of them were bozos,” Jobs says with his characteristic brutal candor. “They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody that you can’t learn anything from?”

Related: What the Creation of Apple’s iPhone Teaches Us About Innovation

Ultimately, he notes that the best team leaders are the ones that aren’t angling for power for power’s sake. “They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager,” Jobs says. “But decide they have to be a manager because no one else is going to be able to do as good a job as them.”

Do you agree with Jobs’s assessment? Let us know in the comments and check out the full video below.

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How to Keep Introverted Employees From Quietly Leaving Your Company — in Droves

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been around for decades. Employers use it to uncover job candidates’ personality strengths and place them in the right role. MBTI results also help identify natural leaders and great communicators.

Related: Introversion Is Not A Weakness, So Why Are You Treating It Like One?

Yet, there’s little talk about how people’s results impact their satisfaction once they’re in a job. When leaders ignore employees’ happiness, it’s hard to keep productive talent around.

Interestingly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based publisher of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, CCP, Inc., conducted new research that dove into how personality impacts workplace well-being. It looked at five aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.

After surveying 3,113 participants, the company, in a September report, revealed that introverts have lower well-being in all of these areas. This isn’t all that surprising: An introvert is less likely to speak up about what’s negatively impacting him or her.

It is shocking, however, that employers aren’t being more proactive. If leaders don’t find a way to improve the workplace happiness of introverts, those people will leave and take all their unique skills with them.

Want to avoid that happening to you? Here are some ideas to help connect with the introverts in your office and better understand their wellness-related needs in the workplace:

Be a chameleon.

Many leaders make the mistake of managing everyone the same way and assuming the results will equate across the board. But there’s a huge flaw in that logic: Every person, in fact, perceives and processes guidance differently. Some need more help in certain situations; some need less. So, it’s up to leaders to customize their approach.

Leaders ignoring the needs of their introverts can hurt their overall workplace well-being. The reason: Introverted employees will feel less engaged and have a harder time reaching their goals. This may then lead to feelings of isolation and disappointment, negatively impacting these workers’ mental health.

Related: 6 Truths on Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

When managers recognize introverts’ differences, on the other hand, they can help those employees succeed, and feel more accomplished. For example, as New York-based co-founder of the digital agency Ready Set Rocket, Aaron Harvey, pointed out, introverts have trouble speaking in front of people. “If someone struggles in brainstorming sessions, simply stop by their desk in advance and ask them to be prepared with a few ideas around a specific topic,” Harvey advised in an email. “This can help them feel confident, joining a conversation that organically leads to real-time ideation.”

Consider other situations when introverts might feel that they are out of their element. For instance, consider ways in which shy employees might meet new people.

Talking with new clients, after all, probably makes them nervous. So, reduce their stress by having an extrovert they’re comfortable with tag along. Having a familiar face present will help get them through the situation.

Scrimmage employees’ skill sets.

Extroverts’ strengths are obvious. They’re good communicators, enjoy building relationships and freely share their ideas — all skills that contribute to their well-being. These traits make it easier for them to create a support system at work and to speak up about what skills they have to offer.

Introverts’ skills are more hidden, so leaders don’t always see what they bring to the table. Since introverts are less likely to communicate what responsibilities they’d like to take on, they’re left feeling unfulfilled.

Skills-assessment tools, like the MBTI, are a great solution. They reveal natural strengths and help managers assign introverts more meaningful work.

After realizing your introverts’ skills, give them more opportunities to use them. Assign tasks and projects that allow them to maximize their strengths. Fully and effectively contributing to the team will improve their feelings of meaning and accomplishment.

Arlington, Va.-based Greg Wester, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the mobile content discovery platform Mobile Posse, likes to mix it up with his employees. To help everyone on the team develop his or her skills, Wester told me, the company poses team challenges that mix introverts and extroverts.

“We’ve found that people are super competitive about winning,” he said by email. “The different types of exercises give people a variety of ways to participate, get involved and hopefully boost their well-being.”

Currently, Mobile Posses’ employees are working as teams to create themed videos. Each team has eight cross-functional, cross-personality employees. They’re all challenged to use their individual skills to create a video representing their perspective on a company core value or vision.

This approach to skill-building, Wester said, helps introverts connect with the entire team and gives them more confidence about their value in the organization.

Keep kindred spirits together.

While it’s good to have both types of personalities working together, introverts may become stressed if they’re paired only with extroverts.

For instance, imagine walking into a room where everyone is talking loudly and the words don’t make sense. The situation is overwhelming. This is how introverts feel when they’re surrounded by extroverts. It’s as though no one is speaking their language, and they feel isolated as a result.

What’s more, iIntroverts and extroverts communicate differently. To maintain well-being, introverts need to find like-minded people they can connect with and recharge their energy with.

Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at the Kingwood, Tex.-based HR services company Insperity, pointed out that following personality assessments, introverts can find people who are like them and make healthy connections. “The process itself can help improve communication, build teams, and expand office friendships,” Gibbs said in an email. “More introverted employees will be able to identify others with similar communications styles.”

Related: How Thinking Like an Introvert Can Help You Get Ahead in Business

So think about conducting personality testing at your workplace. Then, hold a meeting where everyone can discuss his or her results. This will show introverts that they are not alone. They’ll be able to communicate better and deepen their relationships — and with them their personal well-being — at work.

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Hard Work? It's Not All It's Cracked up to Be. It May Even Be Irrelevant. Here's Why.

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From a young age, we’re raised to believe that we can accomplish pretty much anything so long as we work hard enough to achieve it. And, for the most part, that makes sense, at least intuitively. If you study for three hours while your roommate studies for one, you’ll probably do better on the test. If you spend 50 hours at work every week while your peer spends 30, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a raise or a promotion.

This idea follows us at every stage of our lives, and it echoes a cornerstone belief of Western culture: As long as you work hard, you’re going to be successful. But there’s a problem with this philosophy: Hard work isn’t always enough.

The Netflix approach

This idea is hard to accept at first, if you’re a hard worker who invests major time and effort to get what you want in life. Perhaps then, it’s best to introduce the alternative notion, using a corporate example.

Netflix (yes, the company responsible for those late-night television binges) has found success in part because it abolished the idea of hard work being the sole determining factor in an employee’s progression within the company.

Netflix formally introduced this idea in a 2009 slide deck explaining the company’s culture, but the idea dates back to 2001. Since her departure from Netflix, the company’s former chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has been on podcasts and spoken in interviews about the rather different work ethic Neflix evolved.

After experiencing financial trouble in 2001, the company made a bold move to lay off a third of its employees — not based on how long they’d worked there or how hard they’d worked, but solely on what they contribute, and how they impact the company’s bottom line. This infuriated some long-time, hard-working employees, but those who remained ended up getting more done because they didn’t have to correct others’ mistakes, or work around unnecessary teammates.

Even after that initial layoff, Netflix paid almost no attention to employees’ hard work. It allowed unlimited vacation time and flexible hours, focusing on results and innovation instead of the number of hours worked or the effort spent. This system resulted in the letting go of many employees who’d worked hard and performed well. But it also resulted in the better performance of the company (and, in many ways, in less stress for the remaining employees).

The problems with hard work

The Netflix example may seem harsh, especially if you’ve based your career around working hard. What if you too were fired after a decade of putting in long hours and genuinely trying your best?

Still, there are three main problems with hard work that an alternative culture or approach could correct:

“Hard work” doesn’t equal “results.” First off, hard work doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. For example, it doesn’t matter if you put 100 hours in to the design of your landing page; if your site doesn’t convert,you may as well have spent one hour.

Hard work isn’t efficient work. Next, consider that hard work isn’t necessarily efficient work. If it takes the person next to you three hours to complete a task that you could have completed in an hour, that extra hard work may have actually cost the company unnecessary time and money.

Hard work doesn’t encourage innovation. Finally, focusing on hard work doesn’t encourage innovation or novelty. Instead, it encourages repetition and persistence. Those factors can be good, but you also need some drive to try new tactics, incorporate new ideas and learn new things in your life.

What to focus on Instead

None of this is meant to imply that hard work isn’t valuable — only that your hard work should be reserved for when it counts the most. So, as an individual (whether you’re a professional or an entrepreneur), what should you be focusing on instead?

Efficiency. Focus on your efficiency. Instead of spending more hours, emphasize doing more with the hours you already have. For example, you could automate certain processes, delegate work beneath your paygrade or find new strategies to accomplish more within a set time frame. You can also work on eliminating redundancies in your workflow, or on abandoning tasks, meetings, and projects that eat up your time unnecessarily.

Results. Focus on results, prioritizing the work that seems to yield the highest return on your time investment. What’s really going to help you succeed? Reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t fall in line with that vision, and don’t be afraid to make cuts.

Improvement. Focus on improving yourself and your surroundings. Instead of working hard on level one, spend some effort trying to get to level two. Invest in yourself, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, and invest in your environment by training your employees and making sure you have the best tools available for the job.

Hard work is incredibly valuable, but we shouldn’t keep thinking of it as the most important factor for success. Instead, we should see it as one of many factors that can help us, but won’t, in itself, necessarily save our businesses.

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