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How do they do it? Books about "big tech", part 1

 

We're obsessed with celebrities. And the modern "big tech" businesses are definitely celebrities. Apple's product reveals used to draw huge crowds. Google became a verb. So as Netflix...and chill. South Park dedicated half a season to Amazon. And only the lazy one didn't kick Facebook for one thing or another. Love them or hate them, we all use their products. 

More than just using the products, those of us who professionally work on creating new tech products can't help but wonder how do those companies do it? How do they create one innovative product after another? What makes them so successful? 

Those questions don't have simple answers. Which didn't stop many people from trying to provide them. Here is the list of books that could give you a glimpse into the insides of the famous and wealthy.
 

Amazon

They've been consistently generous with sharing the know-how of their working ways and culture. A yearly CEO letter is always a curious read and provided a lot of insights about the company. 


"Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon" is a fresh take on describing the culture within the "everything store". It gives you just a bit of history about how Amazon came to be, what working there was like back in the day and how did they tried and refined numerous ways of working to find the ones that suit them. The book is full of practical advice, some tools you can just take and try in your organisation. 
Learn, among others - Why Amazon banned the use of PowerPoint in meetings and switched to written narratives. 

Apple 

The company is known for its secrecy. There are no nearly enough books, blogs or accounts about the way Apple works. Rumour goes - they still work in "silos" there, the information doesn't travel freely between teams and departments. However, a few years ago one book finally shared some light on the ways Apple works or rather worked. 


"Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs" is a memoir of an engineer who was there when the most innovative Apple products of the last decade were created - the iPod and iPhone. The author provides tons of interesting facts and observations, allowing us to imagine what it was like to work at Apple when they were changing the world. 
Learn, among others - How numerous teams competed to create the keyboard for the first iPhone, who won and why. 

Google 

Probably the most known book about the insides of Google is by their long-term CEO, Eric Schmidt - "How Google works". However, I enjoyed more reading another book - 


"I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59" by Douglas Edwards. This book gives you more in terms of early days of Google and allowing to see how the original vision and "quirks" of the founders resulted in the famous Google culture. The author is not an engineer and provides a unique perspective on the culture that centres around developers. 
Learn, among others - What "don't be evil" really meant when it was put in the list of core Google principles and why it's no longer there. 

Microsoft 

The company that could be considered "the ugly duckling" in comparison with the above is Microsoft. Yes, perhaps they don't hang out with the cool kids but they been here for what feels like forever. On their journey, they had major successes and spectacular failures. They had to re-invent themselves numerous times and recently those attempts been led by Satya Nadella. 


His book "Hit Refresh" is a good account explaining what it takes to move a juggernaut such as Microsoft. At times the book is preaching but mostly it's a worthy read. 
Learn, among others - How you can start changing company culture from within while not being at the top of the hierarchy. 

Bonus 

What connects those companies except the endless string of zeros in their bank accounts? Apparently, one person, a coach, did. Bill Campbell is a legendary figure in Silicon Valley, he advised and mentored so many people who went to create multibillion businesses. 


"Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell" written by Eric Schmidt, one of Bill's mentees, describes many vital principles he learnt from the coach that still practised in the most successful companies in the world. Bill Campbell was a practician and a private person so he didn't write or spoke publically a lot. At least we have this book to learn from him. 
Learn, among others - Why being kind is always a good business strategy. 

Those are only some of the books worth reading if you want to get a glimpse into how some of the most innovative and successful companies work. Here's my Goodreads shelf listing all the books above and many other. In future articles, I'd offer more worthy reads so you could learn how do they do it. 

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