What I’m Reading

Reading is an important part of what I do. These days less for knowledge, more for challenge and insight.

Here’s what I’m reading this month – updated as we go through the month.

December 20

The Craftsman. Richard Sennett. Beautifully researchred and written, this has been a major source of my thinking on the idea of modern artisans.

What is Biodynamics? Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a genius whose thinking touched everything from education to farming. It may be a hundred years old, but the thinking is as fresh as next year’s growth.

The Practice. Seth Godin. In my view his best yet. Takes his previous work, updates it, and wraps it into things we can all do. Excellent.

November 20

Cynefin. I’ve followed Dave Snowden for years, and his clarity of thinking has always been something to lean on. This book, published for the Frameworks 21st Birthday, adds real texture and I have found it to be a real bonus. Highly recommended.

How Spies Think. David Omand. Intelligence analysts have to think dispassionately and critically under stress. Lessons for us all here.

October 20

When more is not better. Roger Martin. I’ve always been a fan of Martin’s work on integrative thinking, and this is a welcome addition. although focused on America, it applies to most developed economies, and certainly the UK. It’s a forensic and excoriating appraisal of the path we are following, and a call to action – with ideas for action.

September 20

The Essentials of Theory U. Otto Scharmer. I read Scharmer’s original year ago, and this revision is welcome. It is sharper, clearer and more usable. I think though you need to do the work of reading the original first to get the depth, but if you have, this version is valuable.

Wilding. Isabella Tree. I read this right after “Braiding Sweetgrass” and they make fine companions. I found it a real provocation around the nature of ecosystems, and particularly the concept of “Shifting Baselines” – what we compare where we are right now to before. The fact that this is a privileged couple does not detract in the slightest from their courage in what they are doing.

August 20

It must be beautiful. Graham Farmelo. There is much less of a gap between science and spirituality than we commonly assume. This book bridges this gap in a very engaging way.

Braiding Sweetgrass. Robin Wall Kimmerer. There is also less of a gap between science and indigenous wisdoms than we might think. This beautiful book looks at them side by side in a moving and beautiful way.

July 20

Dialogue. The Art of Thinking Together. William Isaacs. Another re-read. A more structured approach to the conversatons around human ambition that we seem to have mislaid the art of in business.

The View Through the Medicine Wheel. Leo Rutherford. I’ve long found the challenge to my puzzler trained mind posed by shamanic wisdom productive. This well written book is a pleasure, and in parts could as easily be an introduction to Quantum thinking.

Manifesto for a moral revolution. Jacqueline Novogratz. A very readable account of the development of the Acumen Fund, the lessons learned along the way, and a framework for going forward in any sector. As we shape Humpty 2.0, much to learn from this I think

Green Swans. John Elkington. From the man who brought us the “Triple Bottom Line” a fresh view into what regenerative capitalism could mean beyond what has been captured by Corporates as a “get out of jail” accounting convention.

Overheating. Thomas Hylland Eriksen. A look at globalisation from an anthropologist. Lots of new insights as to how serious this is.

Power of Pull. John Hagel III and John Seely Brown. Another re-read of this seminal work on how small changes can bring things to us rather than us chasing them.

June 20

The View Through the Medicine Wheel. Leo Rutherford. I’ve long found the challenge to my puzzler trained mind of shamanic wisdom productive. This well written book is a pleasure, and in parts could as easily be an introduction to Quantum thinking.

The Square and the Tower. Niall Ferguson. I’m re-reading this excellent book on networks, hierarchies and the quest for power because it seems to speak to our current situation and puts them in context. We have been here before.

Conversational Intelligence. Judith Glaser. Just starting this, inspired by an excellent presentation at the conference, and my increasing conviction is that our loss of skill in “non business” conversation is at the root of many of the challenges we face.

The Opposable Mind. Roger Martin. Another one I’m rereading. How to harness opposites. “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each”

Awakening the Heroes Within. Carol Pearson. I find archetypes a good way of thinking about the forces present in change. This is a good overview.

Trickster makes this world. Lewis Hyde. A closer look at the trickster – the archetype of sudden, disruptive change. Seems approporiate.

May 20

Overheating. Thomas Tylland Ericsson.

April 20

Authentic Swing. Steven Pressfield. A reflection on the writing off his first published book “ the legend of Bagger Vance”. An hours read with many insights on the disciplines, pleasures and pains of working for yourself.

Who do we choose to be?. Margaret Wheatley. About rethinking what we’re doing as leaders, and entertaining the possibility of better.

Transcend. Scott Barry Kaufmann. Rethinking Maslow for the modern era.

The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho. Because it’s one of my favourite ever books in times of uncertainty.

March 20

Radical Uncertainty. Mervyn King and John Kay. An entertaining and thought provoking book on the nature of uncertainty. Written (just) before Covid, they had pretty good timing.

Chaos Imperative. Ori Brafman. A compelling look at how we can handle what appears chaotic, with great examples from multiple areas. Serious reading.

Future of Coaching. Eti Heinzig. A long overdue and provocative examination of coaching. Coaching has gone mainstream, but from being an almost insurgent occupation thirty years ago, much of it has not native, and supports the way we work instrad of challenging it. This is a good read for anybody who includes coaching in their portfolio of skills.

February 20

Uncharted. Margaret Heffernan. A beautifully written and provocative challenge to our relationship with technology.

A world without work. Daniel Susskind. A thought provoking examination of the real impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence. will you be enabled, or replaced?

Learning from the Octopus. Rafe Sagarin. Notionally, a look at what we can learn about security from biology. Much more than that. I love this book.

Cognitive Dominance. Mark McLoughlin. A neurosurgeon who found himself blinded by fear writing about it. Humbling, and maybe the most important book I’ve read for insight in the last twelve months.

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