So much to learn, so little time…
Books are food for our thoughts, and our thoughts inspire our conversations. I share with you a selection from my bookshelf below and I invite you to join me in stimulating conversation. If you have thoughts on these books or others that should be on the list, I welcome your comments.
Blogging about what I read helps me to know the material enough to be able to have a conversation about it. Even then, I don’t always remember what I write, but at least I now have somewhere where I can recall what I was thinking at the time I read the book.
Entries that are highlighted indicate where there is a blog post related to the book.
Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change
Written by the originators of Appreciative Inquiry, this is a great succinct handbook that will get you quickly up to speed on the concept in under 100 pages.
The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change
Exactly what the title says, a handbook complete with sample interview guides and worksheets. Very practical, this plus The Power of Appreciative Inquiry will be what you need if you are a manager, coach, or change practitioner looking to incorporate AI principles into your approach.
Locating the Energy for Change: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry
An excellent introduction to Appreciative Inquiry that gives the theory as well as practical thought process behind it and a step-by-step approach. The book breaks down what happens in organisations when we project our view of the world, be it positive or negative. I also appreciated how the book positioned AI as vitally important but not a cure-all: “Appreciative inquiry is a tool of organizational and community development; it is not a substitute for management.”
The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change
A comprehensive review. Along with the The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook, one of the few books you will need if you are looking at introducing AI to your approach. I borrowed from the book for my post on the 8 principles of Appreciative Inquiry
Psychology, social science, and life skills
Martin Seligman, pioneer in “flexible optimism” and learned behaviour, is one of the founding leaders in what is now known as positive psychology. He shares his research-based perspective and scientifically defines what makes us authentically happy.
“Every conversation we have is with ourselves, and sometimes it involves others.” Scott highlights how the fierce conversation we have is as much with ourselves as it is with others. You can read more in the series I did here: Fierce Conversations on Sideways Thoughts
What does it mean to really enjoy life? Mihaly asked this same question of thousands of research participants. His results contributed to his notion of “Flow” and my blog posts here: Flow on Sideways Thoughts
Go Put Your Strengths to Work
Buckingham’s book is a practical application of Seligman’s research. The book provides instruction on how to discover and use strengths to find jobs appropriate to your strengths and achieve success in the workplace. Having a basis of Flow and Seligman’s work helps put the material in perspective.
Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning
Viktor Frankl, Jewish philosopher and holocaust survivor, took nine days after the war to capture his reflections. After facing the horrors of the German camps, his primary thought was that man’s search for meaning is his primary motivation in life. The book holds powerful lessons that no matter the situation, we always have control over our response.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action
I struggled to get through this one. The writing I found to be rambling and repetitive and the approach overly reductionist. The book used a simple premise to explain away the complexities behind organisational success or failure and the psychology and sociology behind human motivation. I was disappointed because I believe in the underlying principle that personal and organisational purpose drives long-term success and effectiveness. Start with Why, but please follow it up with supporting structure and rigor.
Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic
I picked this up as the text for a Massive Open Online Course I participated in on how to analyse arguments. It is what the title says it is, a way to analytically dissect an argument. I didn’t get through the MOOC and skimmed past much of the book. It is good for those who want to critically dissect what other people say, which at this time is not me.
Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram
A good introduction to the Enneagram with a test to give you a starting point.
The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery
A look at the Enneagram with a strong spiritual focus.
Helen Palmer is a main figure in Enneagram circles, a staple if you are interested in the model.
The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide
A good introduction with a test included.
Principles of the Enneagram
Explains how the enneagram model works, the characteristics of the nine personality types, how to recognize personality types in others, and how to apply the model to personal growth.
Nine Lenses on the World: The Enneagram Perspective
Describes nine personality styles each with its own way of looking at and responding to the world. One of the better descriptions.
Please understand me
Describes sixteen basic personality types, argues that people try to reshape their spouses, children, friends, and coworkers into models of themselves, and discusses different styles of leadership. Very much aligned with the popular MBTI, and contains the assessment in the book.
Meditation, mindfulness, and spirituality
How to Practice: The way to a meaningful life
A how-to guide that walks you through the three practices of morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom. You don’t have to be a Buddhist (I am not) to get value from the sections on morality and meditation. It gets both philosophical and spiritual as it talks about wisdom and emptiness, but there is plenty to apply for anyone searching for meaning.
Mindfulness for Life
The first few chapters provide a clear articulation of mindfulness, followed by practical application to 20 life situations such as depression, addiction, sports and careers. I borrowed many thoughts from the book for a post on mindfulness here: Mindfulness defined: A resolution to consider
Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the key influencers of mindfulness and meditation over the past few decades. The book has short, easy to read chapters that offer great coaching tools, metaphors that can help make sense of what people are experiencing to get more of what they want an less of what they don’t want.
Prayer: Does it make any difference?
Religions, Values and Peak Experiences
Organisational and professional development
Leadership and culture
The Bass Handbook of Leadership
Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
An exceptional book with application beyond the technology startup scene. The principles can be applied to any situation that requires rapid and dynamic change in uncertain and complex environments.
Organizational Culture and Leadership
The book that opened my eyes to what we mean by organisational culture. I give a summary and apply it to the notion of shadow cultures that exist in organisations here: Edgar Schein on Sideways Thoughts
Organizational Culture: Mapping the Terrain
An academic look at culture, highlighting all the ways culture is studied, researched, and applied. I used it as inspiration for my exploration on What is Culture?
Corpus RIOS: The How and What of Business Strategy
Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
Strategist Roger Martin and Procter & Gamble CEO A. G. Lafley team up to share insights from P&G’s success through a lens of a strategic planning model.
Coaching and careers
The Philosophy and Practice of Coaching: Insights and issues for a new era
Seventeen articles that provide great perspectives on coaching. I particularly appreciated the approach to using appreciative inquiry and narrative psychology, which I applied to our engagement with social media in my post here: The stories we tell: Social media as narrative psychology
The Psychology of Executive Coaching: Theory and Application
Understanding Careers: The Metaphors of Working Lives
A practical coaching framework that focuses on three aspects of the coaching relationship: earning the right to coach, a perfect partnership, and dangerous conversations. A good model for anyone who is in a position of helping someone else realise their potential in a one-on-one relationship.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
By using parable, Lencioni outlines what the five dysfunctions of a team can look like. It is easy to see others in his narrative, slightly less comfortable to see ourselves.
Harvard Business Review on Teams that Succeed
A collection of eight HBR articles on successful teams from 2004. Easy to digest, you can’t help but take away one or two nuggets to apply to your situation.
Team Roles at Work
The book contains the complete descriptions of the Belbin team roles to provide an understanding of how to analyse teams and then maximise output by using each member’s strengths. A good reference point for anyone taking teams tough the assessment, but unfortunately the book does not contain the assessment itself.
Abolishing Performance Appraisals
The authors separate the five discrete functions of appraisal: coaching, feedback, compensation, employee development, and legal documentation and clarify the objectives of each. They are very critical of the track record of appraisals. I used their step-by-step process for designing an alternative approach as a basis for a proposed coaching framework. Still leaves a few questions unanswered, but starts the conversation.
Global diversity management
My first book when I started my Master’s path. I felt my mind explode and my world open. Others I am sure do not share my experience with academic text books. That’s OK, it was good for me.
Organisational Behaviour on the Pacific Rim
Standard academic text book, a little about everything. By the time it came across my curriculum, it was perhaps a little too little on many things but I can see how it might be a good introduction.
Writers on Organizations
Who has said what about organizations and their management? This handy compendium gives easy access to the principal ideas of the leading authorities. Brief, clear resumes bring out the main thrust of their thinking. A great quick reference for anyone ding management studies.
Managing change in organizations
A thorough overview of organisational change. Accessible coverage of leadership, management, theories, strategy, and process, with case studies to support. I wonder if all the popular management books on change could be distilled into a half dozen academic texts.
Organizational Change Theories
The book is an academic literature review written for academics. It contains all the information about different approaches to change, but most would struggle for practical application. It is what it sets out to be, a synthesis of theories over time.
The Shame of Reason in Organizational Change
Organisational psychology and social science
Contemporary Social Psychological Theories
This is an academic text, but it is a great summary of theories about the how and why we interact with each other and view ourselves. The book expanded my notion of identity and in particular the concept of how we perceive reality through our communication using symbolic interactionism: Symbolic Interactionism on Sideways Thoughts
Institutions and Organizations
We often refer to people who are ingrained in a way of doing things as being “institutionalised”. All groups of people have an aspects of an institution, The book looks at what this means from different levels of values and roles that emerge in an institution.
Modern Social Theory
I have a soft spot for this one, my first introduction to social theories. The book opened my mind to thoughts from Kant, Marx, Voltaire, Nietzsche, and more. Easy to digest and opens the door to further investigation.
Social Identity Processes in Organizational Contexts
A series of fifteen academic articles that clearly define individual and group identity in organisations. Makes you realise the answer to the question “Who am I?” largely depends on who I am with at the time.
The Medici Effect
A great summary of innovation. In particular, innovation happening at the cross-section of disparate concepts, and the need for successful execution in the right audience.
Sustainability and social change
Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, the last king of Troy. Apollo bestowed upon Cassandra a special gift–the ability to see the future. But when she refused his favors, he twisted her gift with a curse that caused those who heard what she had to say to not believe her. The parallels are obvious for those concerned about the environment. Required reading when I was at the EPA and anyone who feels they are shouting in the wind.
The Natural Advantage of Nations
This book helped frame my perspective on the case for environmental sustainability when I worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. The book is an excellent frame for balancing Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market, the need for innovation, and the role of government as a facilitator and regulator in a free economy.
Readings and Cases in Sustainable Marketing
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
M. K. Gandhi: An Autobiography: Or, the Story of My Experiments With Truth
Christi-Anarchy: Discovering a Radical Spirituality of Compassion
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde’s only novel, a classic instance of the aestheticism of the 19th century English literature. Require reading for anyone experiencing existential thoughts.