Leaders are readers and since we aim to help you grow into a leader in the Insurance Industry we created this page to be an always up to date list of our best book recommendations for future insurance leaders!
InsNerds Original Books:
Carly and Tony spent five years researching how to retain Millennials in the insurance industry and you can learn everything we learned by reading this book!
Early Career Books:
Shawn Archor grew up in a regular middle class family in Texas. In his senior year in high school he applied to Harvard on a dare and got in. He went to the Ivy League and was shocked to find that many of his classmates were deeply unhappy regardless of the fact that they came from some of the richest and most powerful families in the US and were in line for amazing lives once they finished their shiny Harvard degrees. He decided to major in Psychology and earn both his BS and Masters degree at Harvard. When he started his graduate studies he focused his research on Positive Psychology and that's what the book is about.
The first half of the book explains why happiness is important and the second half is about scientifically proven ways to become happier. This is one of Tony's favorite books and we decided to include it in the Career section of the bookshelf because we truly believe it can change your career, and you life!
In your career you're going to have several crucial conversations that will be inflection points that will make our break it. Whether it's asking for a raise, fixing a mistake or asking for a promotion you need to be prepared to get these conversations right the first time. This is your guide.
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, wrote this manifesto for working women and both Carly and Tony loved it. We recommend you read it regardless of your gender to help you grow yourself and your fellow female coworkers. The book started a movement and the Lean In Foundation.
Carly is a textbook introvert (as are probably half of our readers) and she loved this one. This book helps introverts better understand how to survive and thrive in our extrovert-biased world. Her favorite part was the many tips and tricks to help an introvert feel energized and to become more effective in the business and professional world. Some of her favorite tips are to volunteer to help organize events to feel more at home and to take a few minutes of quiet time in your room or another quiet place to reload in between very social activities. There is so much more to learn from this book and if you're an introvert you should make this one a priority.
This classic from 1936 has sold over 30 million copies and for good reason. If you haven't read it yet, and we're guessing most of our younger readers haven't, now is the time to jump on it. It's short and an easy read, just keep in mind it's old and some things might be a bit archaic, but it's well worth a read.
This delightful little fable is only 95 pages and it will help you understand change and how to react to it. Change is the only constant and in your business and insurance career you are going to see a LOT of change, we guarantee it. This is a good place to start so you'll be prepared when it happens.
Learning to negotiate is important both in the performance of your job and to negotiate better salary, title, etc. There are many books on negotiation and this is one of our favorites because it keeps it simple. This should be your first read about how to negotiate, before jumping into more complex stuff.
Seth Godin is an awesome marketer. He has written several books but we chose this one to include in the list because it'll help you understand the importance of becoming an influencer and how you can do that through social media. We have used much of the advice in this book in order to market InsNerds.com and to create our little niche in the industry. It helped us understand who our people are and how to influence them.
This book will get you in trouble, and we take no responsibility for that, so use carefully!
Everyone has heard of Paretto's 80/20 principle: 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. The tricky part is figuring out which 20% of your efforts are the real needle movers (and having the guts to stop doing the other 80%). This awesome book will teach you in detail why it's important to focus on your 20% and how to do it. At times it involves no longer doing busywork which can potentially get you in trouble, but if you apply its advice in the long-term you are going to end up being a productivity machine! Insurance companies (especially large ones) have been around for a LONG time and can have a lot of bureaucracy, this book can help you cut through the red tape and get things done.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, you already knew that. After much research Gallup has found that truly effective people focus on capitalizing on their strengths, not on fixing their weaknesses. This book is more of a workbook to help you figure out what your natural strengths are and how to make the most out of them. Both Carly and I consider this a key part of getting to know yourself and starting on the path of truly making the most of your career. If you haven't been lucky enough to go through a program that included Strengthsfinder go ahead and buy the book yourself, take the test and learn to make the most of what you've got.
Few people are naturally good at self-marketing their achievements and putting themselves in the best place to get noticed by their leadership. Many introverts like Carly, are too shy about making noise about their achievements while some extroverts like Tony can be overly loud and come across as boastful or "braggy". Both extremes are bad for your careers! This book will help you find the balance with proven techniques to get your accomplished noticed without going overboard. If you think that all you need to do is do an awesome job and you will get noticed, let us go ahead and burst your bubble right now, you won't! You need to market yourself and your achievements an this is the book to help you started in that direction without overdoing it.
If you're still an individual contributor learning how to influence people and the organization even though you don't have positional authority is imperative to help you get noticed and to help you grow your career. Even if you are already a manager learning to influence the higher levels of the organization is always important. We couldn't decide on a single book about Influence so we give you 3 options. For true nerds we recommend Cialdini's book, since he's the researcher that did a lot of the studies about Influence, so it's awesome to get it from the horse's mouth.
The other two are easier reads and they both draw from Cialdini's theories. For best results, read all three.
Negotiating your salary, whether as a new hire or during an annual review or promotion is hard and chances are you'll only do it a few times in your career so you'll never get very good at it. The HR person on the other side of the conversation, does this every day, so they're awesome at it. In order to give yourself the best chance at getting the best possible salary you need to be fully prepared, and that preparation starts with reading this book. The few hours you'll spend reading it and the few minutes you'll spend successfully negotiating a better salary will literally add up to thousands of dollars over the course of your career.
Networking is absolutely key in our industry and there is no better book to learn the why and how of professional networking. This book will help make you the person who works a room like a pro and connects with all the right people and grows those connections over time. We can't emphasize enough how important this book is, read it right away.
Interviewing is an alternate reality that is designed to keep you out, it's up to you to learn how to play the game and to bring your very best to your tiny 30-60 minute chance at getting your dream job. Whether you bounce around the industry Tony style or become part of the furniture at a single carrier (or agency) you will interview several times throughout your career. Better invest in becoming good at it early! Start by reading this book, and if you have a couple of weeks before the interview and this is a REALLY important job interview invest $150 on Manager Tools' amazing Interview Series, it pays for itself right away when you get your dream job. Tony used it to get a 42% pay raise without even leaving the company! (We do not get a commission for the Interview Series).
Feedback is a gift. A gift that sadly was undervalued in most corporations for much of the 20th century. But thankfully things are changing, and as the Millennials come into the industry and demand constant feedback companies are getting better and better at providing the feedback we've been craving. This book is your guide to learn how to best take feedback, how to best give it and how to be thankful and graceful about it. If it were up to use this book would get handed out to every new employee and every new manager!
This is one of two books we love by LinkedIn Cofouncer Reid Hoffman. Essentially he teaches you how to think of your career as a start-up and to make the most out of it using some of the ideas that have been so successful in Silicon Valley. It's a very interesting read and very different from any other books on this list.
Mid and Late Career Books:
If you follow our advice there will come a point where you will go through a transition from an independent contributor to a manager or from manager to executive and you'll need a whole new set of skills to thrive. This classic by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith will help you avoid the mistakes that can get you stuck as a mid level manager. While this is not the first book we recommend you read, keep it in the back of your mind for later on.
There comes a point in your career where your performance is based on how you can get others to perform not just yourself. Once you get to that point, you need to read this book. It's the gold standard in executing whatever plan you need to execute.
In your insurance career you will sooner or later (probably sooner especially if you're reading InsNerds) start hearing a lot from recruiters. This 608 page behemoth of a book is the gold standard on how to deal with all types of corporate recruiters. Even though we have this one listed as a mid/late career read, it probably makes sense to read it sooner rather than later.
Sadly, there are just not a lot of books about insurance so in this section in do include some books we haven't read ourselves but that are on our to-read list.
Maria Ferrante-Schepis is a Managing Principal of Insurance and Financial Services at Maddock Digital. She worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and then wrote this short but very insightful book about the industry. Published in late 2012 this book was well ahead of its time in predicting large disruption coming into the industry as hungry start-ups try to disrupt our business. Overall the book presents a great point of view on Insurance, what we really do and how we need to change it for the future. Our only complaint is that her focus is more about Life insurance than P&C, maybe Carly and Tony will someday write the P&C version!
This is the story of an agent in the Dakotas who spent 30 years selling mostly personal lines insurance and wrote this book to tell his story. In our experience there's not a lot of books written by agents so we appreciate Chuck's story and we found it very helpful to better understand the agency world and how agents think.
In this highly praised book Bernstein tells us the story of risk analysis including how the mathematical principles that we use to manage risk came to be. The book is a bit thick but written with good humor and is an important read to understand some of the historical context that gave birth to insurance.
While they're both a bit dated together they tell the story of Nationwide Insurance and are very informative especially if you work at Nationwide like both Carly and Tony did for several years.
This is the story of largest personal lines insurance company in the US, State Farm. We haven't read it yet, but it's on our to-read list.
The story of USAA, an amazing insurance organization dedicated to servicing the Military. This one is long and we haven't read it yet but it's on our to-do list. We believe USAA does a lot of things better than most other insurance carriers and we look forward to learn what we can from them.
Duke's Professor Dan Ariely is the world's foremost authority on dishonesty and irrationality, and an absolutely brilliant psychologist. Recently he became the Chief Behavioral Officer at Lemonade. Ariely's ideas are very interesting and will help you understand people and they way they act. While it is not directly an insurance book Ariely's ideas have the potential for wide application in our industry. He's actually written 3 books and although we haven't read the other two if you prefer you can buy the 3 book bundle here. Also, consider taking his class at Coursera.
Here's a great review of the book that I found here:
"Dan Ariely’s book is quite informative on this question and is a good read. The book’s thesis is that everyone cheats, typically by about 15%. And this amount rises when people are in the wrong frame of mind, which they often are with an insurer, seeing the insurer as out to take advantage of them. So that $1000 Ikea sofa damaged in a fire becomes an $1150 claim, and people still feel OK with themselves, since it’s just a bit of a fudge. In a business that typically runs at 98% combined, a little more honesty goes a long way (as does an efficient sales and claims process, which Lemonade also would probably intend to have). By shifting the frame of mind to a charitable give-back, the consumer’s mindset is no longer consumer vs. evil insurer but the consumer taking from a pool intended for charity. I don’t want to speculate on if it will work, but Ariely’s book is worth reading to understand this." Adrian Jones (no clue who that is, she left the review with no link).
Both of these are more psychology books than insurance books but both are very important in understanding how people think (and especially how they get mislead) and as an industry we need to become AWESOME at choice design, leading people to make the right decisions when buying insurance (such as getting proper limits, etc).
General Business Books:
Our industry is built on the law of large numbers and on experts, but for some things the crowd is smarter than experts. This book is a great intro to when and how to make the most out of the wisdom of the crowd. To the best of our knowledge nobody has yet really taken advantage of this in the insurance industry.
Understanding how to really motivate people in an organization can make a world of difference in getting them to really believe in your company and its mission. Start by watching his awesome TED Talk and then read his book. In our opinion no insurance company today has figured out "the why", maybe with the exception of USAA and we want as many insurance pros as possible thinking about it.
Social media is putting the power in the hands of the consumer and the employee rather than than big organizations and the old way of one way corporate communications simply doesn't work anymore. This is one of our favorite books to really get your head around how social media can be best used in corporate and organizational settings.
Gamification works and it's only going to get bigger and bigger. This amazing book is a great intro into the future of motivating employees, customers and even yourself. Nobody has applied it successfully to insurance either on the consumer or the employee side. Whoever figures this out will have a huge advantage.
Learning how to motivate people and how to motivate yourself is a very valuable skill as you grow in the industry, this book is your best guide.
In the old world the model in a lot of industries was finding a few hits and then marketing the crap out of them to sell millions of copies. This required focusing on the mainstream and ignoring smaller populations of customers that were harder to solve. This has changed in the digital age where you can efficiently offer a virtually unlimited variety of items and sell enough in even the most obscure categories and do it all profitably, as long as you have the right tools and do things the right way. This book is great help at understanding how stores like iTunes and Amazon are so profitable.
Jason Dorsey, the Gen Y Guy, is the founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics and our very favorite expert on Millennials and Gen Z. In fact, most of Tony's session on Recruiting and Retaining Millennials in the Insurance Industry is based on his ideas. This is his book about managing Millennials and it's sheer genius. The first half of the book makes a solid business case on why it makes sense to adapt your business to better engage Millennials and the second half of the book offers several low-cost or free ways to engage them. This one is mandatory reading.
The Innovator's Dilemma in a nutshell:
Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975 but decided to stop development on it because it saw it as nothing more than an expensive toy and they failed to see how the quality would ever be as good as film cameras, their bread and butter. Unfortunately for them other companies (Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Sony) kept investing in digital camera technology which took over the photography world in the early 2000s and today Kodak is a mere shadow of its former self. This is exactly what the Innovator's Dilemma is about. If you've built an amazing business, somebody is going to disrupt it, it's much better for you if you disrupt it yourself (the Apple strategy) but many don't have the vision or guts to do it. It's especially hard if you're a giant company with lots of red tape. This book gives you solutions for that problem.
The sharing economy has changed our world, and sadly insurance has been slow to adapt, while a little bit dated this is a great introduction to where it came from and where it might go in the future.
Crowd sourcing is an amazing phenomenon and it's not going away. Start by reading The Wisdom of the Crowd to understand the theory of why crowds can be smart and then read this one to learn how to better take advantage of this. We haven't yet seen any examples of crowd sourcing being used in Insurance yet. Read this to get ahead of the game.
The traditional career path in Insurance used to be getting a job at a particular carrier, letting the company control your career and then staying there for 35 years and getting your gold watch. That has changed, especially with the Millennials, and now you have to proactively manage your own career and it's likely to span many companies, maybe even many industries. LikedIn Founder Reid Hoffman offers a better, 21 Century way to manage talent and we love it. Let's stop pretending that every new employee is planning to stay here for life and let's create defined and honest "tours of duty" which benefit both the employee and the organization and help both grow in the long-term. Read "Talent Management in the 21st Century", our article inspired by this book and then read the book.
From Wikipedia: "Based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries, Kim & Mauborgne argue that companies can succeed not by battling competitors, but rather by creating 'blue oceans' of uncontested market space. They assert that these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant. The book presents analytical frameworks and tools to foster an organization's ability to systematically create and capture blue oceans."
We couldn't have said it better. This is a great book about creating new markets for your company. We wish every insurance executive read it.
Gerstner was the CEO of RJR Nabisco and became CEO of IBM in 1993, a post he held for 9 years. He's widely regarded as the leader that turned IBM around in the 90s. When he arrived IBM was a 82 year old 350,000+ employee behemoth of a company slowly dying in the computer hardware industry. Gerstner turned it into a leader in the IT services and consulting industry. We think there are a lot of parallels between the IBM of 1990 and many of the giant insurance carriers today and there's a lot to be learned about how to bring successful transformation to enormous bureaucratic companies.
A fun read about how doing things differently than your competitor can create real competitive advantages.
Books to Understand the Future:
The change we have seen in technology in the last 2 decades has been absolutely amazing and change is only accelerating. Below are some of our favorite books that we feel will help young professionals prepare for the world we'll all be living in the next 2-3 decades.
Jeremy Rifkin is an American economist, sociologist and futurist and the author of over 20 books about the impact of science and technology on the future. His last two books are great read and can help you get an idea of what the world might look like going forward.
Jason Lanier is an American computer philosopher, computer scientist and classical music researcher who helped pioneer the field of virtual reality and now works for Microsoft Research.
In Who Owns the Future? he argues that the middle class is being hurt by online services that convince us to give away valuable information about ourselves in exchange for free services. He argues that we should create an alternative structure creating an economy of micropayments that compensates people for original material they post to the web. For example you post your vacation photos on Facebook and all your friends go look at them, Facebook shows them ads and makes money on your content. Shouldn't you get paid for that? Overall this book is a very interesting answer to how to distribute wealth in a post-work economy.
This summary adapted Wikipedia.
Dr. Peter Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which leads the world in designing and launching large incentive prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Best known for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight and the $10 million Progressive Automotive X PRIZE for 100 mile-per-gallon equivalent cars, the Foundation is now launching prizes in Exploration, Life Sciences, Energy, and Education.
He's co-Founder & Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley based institution which counsels the world’s top enterprises on how to utilize exponential technologies and incentivize innovation to dramatically accelerate their business objectives.
Dr. Diamandis attended the MIT where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D. Diamandis’ personal motto is: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!”
His two books are highly recommended.
Adapted from his Amazon profile.
Martin Ford is a prominent futurist, New York Times bestselling author, and leading expert on artificial intelligence and robotics and their potential impact on the job market, economy and society. His most recent book, "Rise of the Robots:Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future" won the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award.
Ford speaks frequently to industry, academic and government audiences on the subject of technology and its implications for the future and is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm. He has over 25 years experience in the fields of computer design and software development and holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate degree in business from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Directly copied from his Amazon author page.
We believe this one is a very important read and something that should be discussed much more in the mainstream!
As of late 2015 an incredible 500+ startups are trying to disrupt the insurance industry and we desperately need to better understand how they think and operate. While we haven't read this one yet we've heard great things about it from friends that work in that world.
Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004 he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director. The same year he launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. He has provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology startups, many run by former colleagues who have been dubbed the “PayPal Mafia.” He is a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has funded companies like SpaceX and Airbnb. He started the Thiel Fellowship, which ignited a national debate by encouraging young people to put learning before schooling, and he leads the Thiel Foundation, which works to advance technological progress and long-term thinking about the future.
Second paragraph stolen from his Amazon author page.
Salim Ismail is a sought-after speaker, strategist and entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He travels extensively addressing various topics including breakthrough technologies and their impact on a variety of industries and society in general.
Salim has spent the last six years building Singularity University as its founding Executive Director and current Global Ambassador. SU is based at NASA Ames and is training a new generation of leaders to manage exponentially growing technologies. Prior to that, as a Vice President at Yahoo, he built and ran Brickhouse, Yahoo's internal incubator.
His last company, Angstro, was sold to Google in August 2010. He has founded or operated seven early-stage companies including PubSub Concepts, which laid some of the foundation for the real-time web. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fortune, Wired, Vogue and the BBC.
He advises Fortune 500 executives and many world governments on the future of technology and recently released his first book, Exponential Organizations, which launched live on CNBC's Squawk Box on October 14th 2014.
Stolen from his Amazon author page.
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