1. Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull. One of the founders of Pixar describes the secret of their success including turning Disney Animation around. It comes down to focusing on how people interact with each other. Their “braintrust” meetings are a core part of this where ideas are debated, but the idea-owner can ignore or take on whatever he or she wants.
2. Scaling Up Excellence by Rao and Sutton. Everyone loves to talk about scaling up good stuff. This book tells you how. One of the key take-ways is that leaders have to get involved in the managerial mess of scaling; otherwise it is doomed to stay on PowerPoint presentations.
3. Getting Things Done by David Allen. My workload feels like it has trebled this year, so I’ve been groping around for ideas on time management. I came across this book, which I later discovered has a cult following, which has two main messages. First, get all the “to do’s” out of your head and on to paper. This stops them gnawing away at the back of your mind. Second, create very clear action-oriented lists. So have a list called “to email” – which tell you who you have to email, have another for “calls” and so on. Simple, but effective.
4. What Works for Women at Work by Williams. The best summary of the latest thinking on the challenges women face that men do not. The four big ones are Prove-It-Again (women get assessed on past experience, men on future potential), the Tightrope (women have to avoid being too feminine or too masculine), the Maternal Wall (unlike men, when women have kids they are viewed as no longer being ambitious) and the Tug of War (other women can hold women back
5. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone. I attended an improv class and this book was recommended. Despite its target audience of actors, its lessons and techniques on how to improvise can be applied to any sphere of work. A key thing is to be aware of your environment and letting go of inhibitions.
6. Owning the Earth, by Andro Linklater. A sweeping history of land ownership and how it has been instrumental in building the institutions for capitalist economies. Put simply, to own or transfer ownership of land, you need contract law, financing, surveyors and law enforcement. It reminds me of the De Soto’s “The Mystery of Capital” that made waves in the early 2000
7. The Creation of Inequality by Flannery and Marcus. While everyone focused on Piketty’s “Capital” as the seminal book on inequality, I feel “The Creation of Inequality” is far more original. With their expertise in anthropology and archaeology, they look at how inequality has changed across thousands of years and across thousands of cultures. Too difficult to summarise in a line, but one finding was that the most equal societies are kin-based hunter-gatherer communities.
8. The Circle by Dave Eggers. The thinly veiled satire on Google. A fun read and by the end of it the slogan “Privacy is theft” gets drummed into your head.