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One of the essential parts of being a great leader is always broadening your horizons, and there is no better way to broaden your horizons than a good book. Or maybe a few good books. Here are a few books, on a variety of topics that you might like to check out.

Understanding the new world of work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have a pair of books about how while building 37 Signals and Basecamp they figured out how work is changing—for the better. Both Rework and Remote are solid reads that can be read in short bursts. Rework and Remote are written as a series of essays about work and working remotely. These are books you can pick up for a little inspiration and then set down with a few new ideas under your belt.

A different way to think about how things work together

Service design is a methodology for how to look at how you deliver services to customers. Unlike systems that focus just on streamlining performance or rote customer satisfaction numbers; service design looks at the entire process from both the customer’s perspective as well as the people delivering the service. For example, improving insurance delivery by understanding the frustrations of customer service agents with backend systems helps them deliver better service to customers. This new practice  is common in Europe, but only just coming into North America. The two key books on service design: This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases and Service Design give you a solid footing in applying service design principles to your company. The second book is considered an easier read, while the first is often thought of as a reference and textbook.

Service design methodologies are growing in popularity because they look at what a company delivers as a whole, not as pieces and parts that work independently.

Creating apps that people are addicted to using

Building an app is a big deal right now. WhatsApp’s $19 billion sale to Facebook makes headlines and gets everyone’s attention. So how did WhatsApp do it? Or Candy Crush? Or Angry Birds? Or Evernote? Apps that people not only love to use, but pay to use them more and more. Some of the answers are in Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products eBook. This short, well-written ebook digs into the psychology of how habit forming apps (and services, like Facebook and Twitter) are designed with actions, rewards, and feedbacks that encourage people to invest a little time at first…and get hooked in the meantime. There’s nothing nefarious about this book. This isn’t how to trick people out of their money. This is about creating things people love to use and share with their friends.

While aimed at apps and online services, the same principles can be applied to any business that relies on customers coming back over and over again for your product. In many ways service design methods and Hooked complement each other in their shared perspective on looking at a user or customer’s entire experience with your product.

Understanding how great ideas spread

Innovation and high-performing teams are on the top of executive and manager scorecards. How innovative your team and company are can determine you success or failure in our hyper-connected world. Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s work at the MIT Media Lab has lead to a new understanding of what really connects and motivates teams. Pentland’s research into team energy, engagement, and exploration shed light on how teams who are the most innovative are the ones who connect with a diversity of other teams and each other. Pentland’s newest book Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science looks at how ideas spread through online communities, companies, cities, and the world. His approaches could very well shape how we fix the crises we face around the world. Sound like an exaggeration? Once you get past the first chapter, you’ll understand. There is a lot to be learned from how we act, react, say, and don’t say with the people around us.

Dig beneath the surface to manage your teams

People are complex. People get even more complex when faced with a crisis. A mellow, thoughtful person during a moment of calm can become a take charge, just get it done leader when the stakes are high. David Kantor’s book Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders looks at the roots of communication issues within teams and how leaders can learn to be better leaders and better communicators by understanding how people communicate in different ways in different situations. Told through the example of a fictional leadership team at a fiction company, Kantor helps build a framework for how to approach your team in a new way. A way that will help everyone communicate and understand each other a little better.

Just a few books, what do you suggest?

Like Pentland’s ideas in Social Physics, when people and teams explore—gathering, reading, learning, talking—the wider world they are inspired with new ideas that can help and shape better performance at work and life. Taking the time to read, even just an hour a day, something that broadens your perspective on how the world works, can make a real difference in your life. And if you’re looking for something a little more out of this world, maybe this will fit the bill—An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

What’s on your reading list?

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734