Welcome to Thomas Insights — every day, we publish the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date on what’s happening in industry. Sign up here to get the day’s top stories delivered straight to your inbox.
The best employees in industry are always learning. They strive to stay knowledgeable about the classic books that have informed their field and the groundbreaking new books that are taking the market by storm.
When you’re no longer immersed in an apprenticeship, trade school class, or college degree program, it can be difficult to know where to find the right books to read to grow your skills and knowledge.
Below, Thomas staff from diverse professional backgrounds share their recommended reading, which includes books on manufacturing, information technology (IT), software engineering, and more.
Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing by Vaclav Smil
Vice President of Platform Growth and Engagement Cathy Ma recommends Vaclav Smil’s Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing as “a great book that goes back to the history of manufacturing and innovation in the U.S., its contributions to the country, and more importantly, advice on where we should invest our efforts to protect our economy and democracy.”
Published by MIT Press, Made in the USA argues that manufacturing is vital to the health of the American economy. A robust and creative manufacturing sector enables jobs, is strategically important to the wellbeing of the country, and establishes America as a thought leader.
This informative read provides a historical overview of American manufacturing, detailing its rise toward the end of the 19th century, the impacts of World War I and World War II, how it brought about mass consumption in the postwar era, and how it has since declined. For years, there have been assertions that moving manufacturing abroad has been a step toward progress for the U.S. Although the book was published in 2015, the trade war and supply chain disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have made this book all the more prescient as the majority of companies are now looking to reshore.
In Made in the USA, Smil considers the need to lower corporate taxes, how public education needs to improve, and why there should be more research and development. He posits that the loss of American manufacturing will shrink the middle class and jeopardize the country’s prosperity.
Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance by Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih
“Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance is an incredibly well-researched book that spotlights the importance of manufacturing,” says Ma. “Even though it’s published in 2012, its case study on the international semiconductor and advanced manufacturing industry is super poignant and relevant today.”
In Producing Prosperity, authors Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih argue that the decision to outsource manufacturing has paralyzed innovation and competition. While businesses outsource to minimize their production costs, in the long run it is hurting an economy that is very much driven by innovation. Ultimately, the U.S. will lose its competitive edge.
This data-driven book indicates that the government should urge partnerships between academia and industry and allow for scientific research. As well, it offers an outline for business leaders to make more informed decisions about outsourcing.
The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim
“Mathematical formulas are dry and boring to read about,” says Mike Santasiero, the supplier content manager. “I’m all about story-driven approaches.” That’s why he recommends Gene Kim’s The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win.
More than half a million copies of this business book — disguised as a novel — have sold. A page turner, The Phoenix Project tells a story about the IT world that anyone who works in that sector will be able to relate to. The novel centers around an IT manager put in charge of a time-sensitive project that is, of course, over budget and already behind schedule. If he doesn’t get things on track, his whole department will be outsourced.
Along the way, the IT manager, Bill, must construct an effective workflow, optimize communication across departments, and keep the everyday operations moving. He begins to realize that working in IT is quite like working in a manufacturing facility.
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick Brooks Jr.
“The Mythical Man-month is a classic,” says Ma. “A quote I’ll never forget is: ‘Question: How does a large software project get to be one year late? Answer: One day at a time!’”
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick Brooks Jr. is part software engineering facts and part evocative opinions on the field. Brooks worked as a project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and later for its software system, OS/360, before publishing this book in 1975. He has since gone on to earn the National Medal of Technology and the Turing Award.
Readers have found that Brooks’ insights extend beyond the realm of software and could apply to anyone managing projects. For example, the essays cover how to structure work pods, the necessity of clear communication, and a safe company culture. The Mythical Man-Month was updated for an anniversary edition in 1995, and although technology has advanced since then, this book has remained timeless and cherished.
Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson
Thomas President and CEO Tony Uphoff says Human + Machine has “tons of advice specifically for the manufacturing industry.”
“I loved it,” says Andra Beddia Schwab, the vice president of program management. “I leverage so much from it as we move through these transformational initiatives.”
She notes, “That right balance between machine and human is at the core of everything we are doing moving forward from my perspective!”
“Great book,” agrees Robert Terry, the vice president of inside sales.
Human + Machine: Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson explains that artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used in software, robotics, and supply chains. The book contains research into how 1,500 organizations are utilizing AI.
To help readers stay competitive, the book contains five principles for how businesses can become driven by AI. As well, the authors explore six hybrid human + machine roles these businesses should create to stay relevant.
This article contains affiliate links.
Image Credit: Gecko Studio / Shutterstuck.com
Lessons from Leaders: Girls Who Code’s Reshma SaujaniNext Story »
More from Career & Workforce