You may have aced your courses in finance, business law, and management, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to head out into the business world just yet. A well-rounded business education should also include the study of psychology, because an understanding of the human mind and human behavior can make the difference between success and failure in any kind of business venture, from finding investors to managing employees.
Knowing how to be persuasive, make hard decisions, motivate others, and work within a group are all essential skills in the business world, and they’re practices that have been the subject of much psychological research and writing, the most accessible of which can be incredibly enlightening for future businesspeople. If you don’t have time to take a course in the subject, consider reading one, a few, or all of these business psychology books. You’re bound to find some powerful insights into the human mind that will make it easier to get where you want to go in your career.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.:
Knowing how to persuade others is at the heart of being successful in business. You’ll need the skill to get funding, lead, and sell products and services, so read up on some of the most revealing studies on influence and persuasion in this classic pop-psych tome.
- Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour by Eugene McKenna: If you need a textbook on the ins and outs of business psychology, this is a great choice, regardless of whether you’re enrolled in a business psych course. It’s a great place to get foundational knowledge and could give you some business-focused tips on understanding human behavior and motivations.
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek: Ever wonder why some leaders can get people to do what they want while others struggle? It may boil down to simple psychology, as you’ll learn in this book from Simon Sinek. Sinek offers insights into what communication methods great managers and business leaders use that really deliver results.
- The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success by Jeff Brown, Liz Neporent, and Mark Fenske: Your brain is more than just another organ in your body, as it controls everything that you do from breathing to complex mathematical calculations. Yet your brain can also hold you back, as these authors demonstrate that a large part of success is really all in your head.
- The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar:
In business, you’re going to have to make a lot of choices, some of them pretty tough, but do you ever stop to think about why you make the choices you do? This book examines the psychology behind choice and may help you to be more conscious of even the small decisions you make, as they can have far-reaching consequences.
- Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Get advice from this dynamic brotherly duo on how to make difficult changes in your life or your company with greater ease, defeating the innate predilection for comfort to help you make changes for the better.
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink: You might think you understand what motivates you and your employees, but this book will likely show you that you don’t know the whole truth. The psychology behind motivation is often much more complex than we allow for, and this book offers some great lessons that will help you be a more effective leader and manager.
- The Human Side of Enterprise by Douglas McGregor: This management classic was first published in 1960, and despite all that has happened since, it still holds a lot of wisdom for modern managers. This expanded edition holds not only McGregor’s original text, but also stories of how today’s business leaders are applying his strategies, based in motivation psychology, with great success.
- The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowieki: We tend to think of the mob mentality as being a bad thing, but this book will show you that that’s not always the case. Your employees, when working together, can often be a much wiser, more powerful, and productive force than when working independently.
- The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor:
If you’re not familiar with positive psychology, this book can be a great primer, showing you how to apply many of its central principles to your life at work, making you happier and ultimately more successful, even when the going gets tough.
- Power, Influence, and Persuasion: Sell Your Ideas and Make Things Happen by Harvard Business School Press: This is another great read on understanding the psychology of persuasion. Let Harvard Business School experts teach you how to command attention, change minds, influence decision-making, and more.
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: While patterns and habits get a bad rap, they can be a boon for businesses that are savvy enough to realize they exist. Duhigg explains how some of the most successful businesses and products simply capitalized on or transformed existing patterns, making this an enlightening read for any prospective entrepreneur.
- The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy:In business, you’re always selling something, even if you’re not a salesman. You sell your ideas, your expertise, and even yourself to potential employers, so you had better be good at doing it. Learn some of the essential psychological tricks behind successful sales from Brian Tracy in this book.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck:It’s not hard to see how what you think can influence your reality or at least your perception of it. In this book, psychologist Dr. Dweck explains how establishing a positive mindset is as essential to success as talent and ability.
- The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead by Carol Kinsey Goman:
You might not be saying anything, but your body language may be speaking volumes. Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, and management theory, Carol Kinsey Goman can help instruct you to be more aware of your body language and to be better at reading that of others.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:In order to get a business off of the ground, you have to have your idea stick, yet it can be hard to figure out just what makes an idea so “sticky” in the first place. This book will shed some light on the matter, using the theory of memory, the human scale principle, and a little something called curiosity gaps to explain why some ideas live on while others die.
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely: Think your decisions are perfectly rational? Think again. Dan Ariely explains some of the unconscious factors at play when we’re trying to make decisions, which could have a big impact on your success (or failure) at work.
- The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely:In this sequel of sorts to his previous book, Ariely explains why being irrational isn’t always a bad thing, explaining some of the surprisingly positive effects (though some negative, too) that our predictably irrational decisions can have on our lives.
- Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John C. Maxwell: It’s easy to talk but much more difficult to really be heard; at least that’s the lesson that Maxwell is trying show here. He offers up some great practices that can help you take advantage of human nature to become a better communicator and leader.
- A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by S. Nassir Ghaemi:
Sometimes, qualities that come along with mood disorders or other mental illnesses, also lend themselves to great leadership, especially under pressure. In this book, you’ll learn about the connections between mental illness and greatness in some of the world’s most famous leaders, perhaps changing how you think about qualities you had previously regarded as weaknesses.
- Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky: In today’s world, it’s impossible to operate without harnessing the power of the web. In this book, you’ll learn more about the new ways that people are organizing, cooperating, and joining up by using the Internet, changing some of the basics of social interactions. A great primer for anyone looking to learn more about marketing.
- Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin: Sometimes, becoming indispensable at a business has a lot to do with being able to think differently than others. In this book, you’ll learn how to set yourself apart and what qualities you can cultivate to change how others see your role in a business.
- Entrepreneurial DNA: The Breakthrough Discovery that Aligns Your Business to Your Unique Strengths by Joe Abraham: Entrepreneurs are a much more diverse group and there’s a much wider range of talents and abilities that lead to success than we are often led to believe. Learn how your brain is hardwired for entrepreneurship and how you can capitalize on your own talents for business.
- How to Click with People: The Secret to Better Relationships in Business and in Life by Rick Kirschner:
One of the benefits of knowing a bit about psychology is getting better at interacting with others in personal and professional relationships, and this book offers some helpful guidelines for doing just that.