The Development Source

Ten Books to Read on Proposal Development

For decades, I have been an avid reader of good novels, poetry, plays, fiction, and non-fiction books.  I have always believed that you can learn as much about your work from reading Leo Tolstoy’s short story “Master and Man” or Willa Cather’s haunting beautiful My Ántonia as you can from reading books about business and proposal development.  Any good piece of literature has a great deal to teach us, about ourselves and about our work.

With these principles in mind, I will list ten books you should read to become a better proposal professional.  In very different ways, all these books have something important to teach us.

  1. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007).  Learn how to create themes for your proposals that are memorable, believable, and persuasive.
  2. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011).  A Nobel Prize winning psychologist explains how people think and make decisions, including the reviewers of your proposals.
  3. Larry Newman, Shipley Proposal Guide 4.0 (2011).  The clearest, most helpful, and most practical guide to putting together proposals.  This book should be on your desk and consulted frequently.
  4. Anthony Constable, Hope is Not a Winning Strategy…But Price to Win Is:  An Insider’s Guide to Price to Win (2011).  Learn how to develop competitive budgets for your proposals.
  5. Mark Amtower, Selling to the Government:  What It Takes to Compete and Win in the World’s Largest Market (2010).  This book provides plenty of practical advice about breaking into government contracting and building business with government agencies.
  6. Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto:  How to Get Things Right (2011).  This brief book shows how and why the KISS strategy usually works.
  7. Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge:  Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008).  Learn how to design environments that help people make good decisions.  Its relevance to proposal development should be obvious.
  8. Dietrich Dörner, The Logic of Failure:  Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations (1996).  Oftentimes, errors and failures are predictable.  Learn how to recognize and avoid them.
  9. Cass R. Sunstein, Infotopia:  How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (2006).  Learn how to use groups such as proposal teams to make better decisions and produce knowledge.
  10. Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918).  This is the wisest and most beautiful American novel.  Read it frequently.


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