During the course of the two series I’ve read a lot of books on work culture and the future of work. Some to prepare for discussions. Some on background.
If you’re interested in work culture then here’s my take on the best books, stack ranked.
Social Physics – the single best book on work culture (and featured in episode 16). This book explains how creativity is produced by hundreds of tiny interactions between individuals. It gives the best learnings about how to strive for ‘buzz’ in work environments.
Drive – this firmly sits in the ‘essential classics’ camp. Drive is a remarkable exploration of what motivates us at work. Dan Pink’s model of Purpose/Mastery/Autonomy is easy to remember and simple to apply. Like all books there’s actual some magical content on YouTube that gets you at least halfway along the journey.
Here’s a video of the best parts of Drive.
The brilliance of Drive is that it covers much of what we do at work today, gently pointing our the errors. It’s hard to oversell the brilliance of this book.
Alive at Work – Dan Cable (pre-order today) – one of the most remarkable business books in the last 10 years. An outstanding exploration of the human mind as the tool for workplace happiness.
The Culture Code – the first 40 pages of Daniel Coyle’s book is exhilarating. It backs up lots of things you instinctively felt but layers them with evidence and proof. I loved it.
Deep Work by Cal Newport – Cal Newport is a singular individual. While he ends this volume by saying ‘a deep life is a happy life to lead’ the reader will wonder how applicable it is to their own life. We need to win our bosses over to succeed with Deep Work. The real fight starts now.
The Happiness Track – Emma Seppala – Emma Seppala never once hestitates from providing solutions. The first half of this book is a remarkable and damning litany of statistics about how work is slowly killing us. Emma provides clear guidance of techniques that can help anyone.
Work Sucks – featured in episode 14, this is the story and methodology of the Results Only Work Environment. Filled with examples of ROWE in action. It’s probably a lot better than I gave it credit for. I do tend to be quite grumpy.
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working – part polemic, part self-help. Tony Schwartz’s book is the single best collection of ideas to reform work. It’s impossible to read it and not come away with a handful of improvements to modern work.
Rest – very much an either/or with The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, this book is marginally more readable but slightly less comprehensive. I had an afternoon nap on both days of the weekend after finishing this one. And that’s okay because it’s what all the brainy people do.
The Organized Mind – we’re all busy. We know. Don’t cry about it. Emails. Loads of meetings. Yep, get it. But Daniel Levitin explains why this is exhausting than we realise. With a finite capacity of attention using that attention sparingly is more important than we think.
Also of interest
The Stupidity Paradox – Andre Spicer’s writing is sharp and witty. I do hope he’s not related to Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean. I very much doubt he is, but even if he is, it’s not his fault. I really enjoyed this book. Basically asserting that we’re happy to believe simple things rather than complex ones because it’s easier on our time. Life’s about the journey, not the conclusion. Remember that people. If you haven’t got time for Andre’s book, this Guardian piece was also fabulous.
Obliquity – the idea that we can achieve our goals when we aim for them indirectly was a massive hit when John Kay wrote it in an article in the FT. And rightly so. It’s brilliant. And that’s where it should have ended. It’s one of those books that goes on for about 150 pages too long and you end up wondering if you ever loved it in the first place. Which is a shame. Pssst. Here’s the article: https://www.johnkay.com/2004/01/17/obliquity/