This 8 min. read saves you up to 41 hours
For your knowledge advantage, we put together the most actionable insights from 7 getAbstract summaries (7 books with a total of 2032 pages) on this topic. If you did this work yourself, you would be busy for at least 2431 minutes (about 41 hours). Learn more.

Most Useful Summaries 2020

What has been the most useful summary this year, and why?

Most Useful Summaries 2020

What has been the most useful summary this year, and why? We asked our customer success managers, sales representatives and company executives this very question. As a small “thank you” to our getAbstract Journal readers, we are making the top five recommendations available to download for free until January 15, 2021. Here are this year’s picks:

1. Simple Habits for Complex Times

Digital transformation ushered in an era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) – and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the speed at which companies must transform to stay competitive. Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston’s Simple Habits for Complex Times explains how to form new habits of mind and decision-making to navigate VUCA successfully.

Iris Peters, a getAbstract Customer Success Manager based in Lucerne, thinks that COVID-19 has made this book an indispensable leadership read this year:

“This summary was requested in February by Novartis as part of the company’s ‘Leadership Bookshelf.’ getAbstract’s editorial team went straight to it and had it summarized and put online within weeks. Little did we know at the time that the then-budding pandemic would make it such an essential read. In fact, the summary ended up among the top downloads at many companies this year.”

Image of: Simple Habits for Complex Times
Book Summary

Simple Habits for Complex Times

A challenging but convincing prescription for survival in a disruptive, volatile and uncertain world.

Keith Johnston and Jennifer Garvey Berger Stanford UP
Read Summary

2. Women, Minorities, & Other Extraordinary People

The year 2020 accelerated conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion. In Women, Minorities, & Other Extraordinary People, diversity expert Barbara Adams advises business leaders on what they can do to eliminate bias and make their firms more diverse and inclusive. Adams discusses concrete policies businesses might apply to increase diversity and bring more women and people who belong to minority groups into positions of power.

Sandra Hold, Customer Success Manager based in Lucerne, explains:

“I shared the summary of Barbara B. Adams’s book in a newsletter to one of my customers and it ended up as the company’s most downloaded summary (1,532 downloads) this year. Why was this summary so successful? It very much resonated with the company’s internal culture. The fact that we also had a video conversation with the author to share as part of our getTogether Online Reading Club was an extra bonus.”

Image of: Women, Minorities, & Other Extraordinary People
Book Summary

Women, Minorities, & Other Extraordinary People

After 50 years of diversity efforts, US workplaces remain largely inhospitable to women and minorities.

Barbara B. Adams PsyD Greenleaf Book Group
Read Summary

Watch our getTogether with Barbara B. Adams to find out more:

3. The Beauty of Discomfort

The year 2020 propelled many of us out of our comfort zones. But change can be positive, writes Amanda Lang in The Beauty of Discomfort. Lang demonstrates her theory-in-action with fascinating stories of athletes, military leaders, and long-term and novice executives. Each mini-bio is engaging and provides glimpses into the lives of fascinating people who accepted discomfort in order to thrive.

Frances van Spijkeren, getAbstract’s Head Of Client Services EMEA, made the title one of her 2020 favorites:

“I found this title very relevant for the soft skills required during 2020. It mainly uses business examples to reflect on how you can channel feelings of discomfort into ways to build your success – although much of the advice can also be applied to personal scenarios.”

Image of: The Beauty of Discomfort
Book Summary

The Beauty of Discomfort

To improve yourself or your company, get comfortable with discomfort.

Amanda Lang HarperCollins Canada
Read Summary

4. Selling with Noble Purpose

2020 put many people’s sales skills to the test. The uncertainty of the pandemic and economic downturn made it particularly challenging to convince prospects to invest money in a new product or solution. What’s more, selling had to be done entirely online – a big adjustment for sales representatives used to meeting prospective clients face-to-face.

Having the right sales message thus becomes all the more important. To be effective, a sales message must be tied to a deeper purpose, explains sales coach Lisa Earle McLeod. In Selling with Noble Purpose, she helps you identify your organization’s noble purpose and make that purpose your company’s defining structure, mission and rallying cry. 

Paul Glynn, an Enterprise Relationship Manager at getAbstract based in the UK, explains:

“This title helped me to remember my priorities and learn some new thinking about the virtual selling challenge that lay ahead. Author Lisa Earle McLeod from LinkedIn Learning encapsulates the crucial message that everything we do and communicate must convey a meaningful, long-term purpose to improve people’s lives, not just to sell a product. For me, this reflects the ‘true north’ purpose of getAbstract. When designing our Sketch Note, ‘Succeed At Selling Remotely,’ we based the first learning step on the book.”

Image of: Selling with Noble Purpose
Book Summary

Selling with Noble Purpose

The best salespeople focus not on sales but on helping their customers.

Lisa Earle McLeod Wiley
Read Summary

To get more insights on the topic: Read our Journal article How to Make Remote Selling Work, or download our related Sketch Note here (free link):

5. Radical Simplicity

In a world that is growing more complex by the minute, boiling down your disparate ambitions and objectives to a few guiding principles will free you up to reach for the stars. This is the message of DHL CEO Ken Allen’s book, Radical Simplicity. In his part memoir, part business guide, Allen offers practical advice based on simple lessons for succeeding in life and work. Allen explains how he was able to transform a financially struggling company into a profitable business by putting theory aside to focus on simplicity and execution.

Allen’s message resonated with Patrick Brigger, chairman and co-founder of getAbstract:

“I can highly recommend Ken Allen’s book. Two central messages stand out to me: 1) Focus on how to solve problems – it doesn’t matter who solves a problem, just get it done; and 2) The best people to solve problems are the ones who are well-trained and familiar with the company. So, this means inside people and rarely consultants.”

Image of: Radical Simplicity
Book Summary

Radical Simplicity

CEO Ken Allen explains how he rose at DHL and built the company’s dominance.

Ken Allen Ebury Press
Read Summary

Curious about the experiences of Ken Allen? Read our interview with the CEO of DHL here:

Top Two Customer Downloads

Overall, our two top downloads this year were The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. We invited two getAbstract customers to offer their take on these two titles’ continued popularity and relevance:

(Note: Unfortunately, we are not able to make the full summaries of these two titles available to non-subscribers.)

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“You are what you habitually do, so adopt productive habits. You have the ability to improve your habits and your life.” This is the message of Stephen R. Covey’s classic manual for self-improvement. Now in its 30th year after its first publication, the book remains a popular, trusted guide for navigating life with integrity.

Duncan Howard, Learning & Development Digital Strategy Manager at Brewin Dolphin Ltd, finds enduring wisdom in Stephen Covey’s business classic:

“2020 has been a fairly reflective year for many people. This summary prompted me to reflect not only on this year but on many that have come before. I first read this book about 20 years ago, and reading the summary brought back a lot of memories – colleagues, projects, good times and bad. It also made me think of habits that I had formed, which over time had fallen by the wayside as I changed roles (and organizations), and adopted new behaviors and approaches. Finally, the summary reminded me that whilst we can look outside and blame the things that are going on around us for our emotions and situation, ‘the most important work is the inner work’ – self-mastery – and this is especially important to remember at the end of the year we have just lived through.”

Image of: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Book Summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

To be highly effective, just initiate, focus, prioritize, connect, cooperate, improve yourself and let others win.

Stephen R. Covey, Sean Covey and Jim Collins Simon & Schuster
Read Summary

2. Mindset

The world is divided between people who are open to learning and those who are closed to it, and this trait affects everything from your worldview to your interpersonal relationships. This is psychology professor Carol S. Dweck’s conclusion based on decades of research on the way different people approach, react to and tackle life’s challenges. In her groundbreaking book Mindset, Dweck explains how the way you think about and approach challenges determines who you become and what you can achieve. In the book, you will learn how to adjust your mind-set to move ahead.

Natalie Faccenda, L&D and HR Assistant at Whyte and Mackay, says about Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset:

“This book explores ‘people who are open to learning’ with a growth mind-set and ‘those who are closed to it’ with a fixed mind-set. For me, the ability to have a growth mind-set has become even more important this year when so many of us have seen our lives change completely and had to adapt to continue to work remotely. The take-away, ‘People with a growth mind-set believe that the future presents an opportunity to grow, even during challenging times’ is one that I think many of us need right now to see a positive from this unprecedented situation.”

Image of: Mindset
Book Summary


People can be of two minds: fixed and flexible. In a changing world, flexible is better for relationships and growth.

Carol S. Dweck Random House
Read Summary
How the Journal Saves You Time
Reading Time
8 min.
Reading time for this article is about 8 minutes.
Saved Time
41 h
This article saves you up to 41 hours of research and reading time.
Researched Abstracts
7 We have curated the most actionable insights from 7 summaries for this feature.
7 We read and summarized 7 books with 2032 pages for this article.
Share this Story