The first time I read a business fable – I was hooked. Instead of a dry, monotonous tome stating facts and figures, I was engrossed in a story of how the principles were applied and I could feel the highs and lows of the characters in the book. The first business fable I read was Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team which was published in 2002. I became obsessed with business fables as I believe they are the best books to read while traveling.

Easy to Follow

One of the drawbacks of traveling is constantly getting up, moving to another conveyance, waiting for other passengers to board, and being interrupted with announcements. When I tried to read traditional business books I found myself reading the same passage several times because of all the commotion. I found that business fables were a great way to still do something productive when flying but they didn’t require as much attention as a more rigorous text. Business fables are fairly quick reads and often I am able to finish one on a flight. They are also perfect reads while waiting for your dentist or doctors appointment. Here are a few recommendations.

The Power of Feelings

As an author and a reader I can feel the frustrations and triumphs of the characters, this is lost in more academic texts. Many business books provide information with a lot of jargon and not within the context of how to apply the principles. Business fables provide principles and frameworks within a story, the best fables have realistic conflict and characters that you are most likely familiar with in your own life. Realistic characters provide friction points and controversy to keep the plot interesting but should not detract from the overall message of the book. In the Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, the lead character starts off in a very bad place and has to take the bus because he isn’t able to drive anymore – this story is relatable and it is easy to understand the negative emotions that the lead character is initially feeling.

Supplemental Resources

Often business fables will have workbooks, templates, and other materials that compliment the book. In some cases authors also offer workshops or consultations on how to apply the principles of the book. At the Fish Philosophy website you can see a running counter of the cost of employee disengagement and schedule an appointment to discuss how Fish may be able to help you with your company culture.

The Mullet of Book Genres

Some people have told me that they are not fans of the business fable genre – they want either a business book or a novel – not both. I understand that and can empathize with the purest out there. Many people are uncomfortable with mashups and those are not the intended audience for this genre. If you are uncomfortable with mullets, El Caminos, and sporks, you will most likely not enjoy business fables. For those that don’t mind blurring the lines and probably enjoy the new hybrid workplace, this is a genre for your reading pleasure.


There are a lot of benefits to business fables, however there are also some drawbacks. Some readers may find the mashup between a book on business principles and a novella unappealing. You may also need to develop additional content to support your materials as an author. If after reading this you are intrigued by the genre of business fables, I encourage you to read a few. There are some great emerging writers in this genre and of course you can always read one of my books below. If you are interested in writing in this genre I have posted a video from the great Patrick Lencioni below. Long live the business fable.