Reading

Reading

I read voraciously. These are some of the books that have had a profound impact on how I approach work, life, and purpose.

Reinventing orgs

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stages of Human Consciousness

Frederick Laloux

This book. Combining Spiral Dynamics with Ken Wilber's Integral Theory, Laloux examines the evolution of organizational models alongside the evolution of human consciousness. He includes case studies of 12 organizations operating at the 'holistic' or 'teal' level, covering structures, practices, and cultures which include self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose. As if the book wasn't enough, Laloux launched a follow-up video series, Insights for the Journey, that's definitely worth a watch (or five).

Fifth discipline

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organizations

Peter Senge

Senge, like Deming before him, is interested in transforming the way we manage our organizations asserting that there are "ways of working together that are vastly more satisfying and more productive than the prevailing system of management." Most managers focus on short-term performance improvements creating cultures of uniformity and compliance. In contrast, Senge believes that a culture of learning based on aspiration, understanding complexity, and reflective conversations leads to more successful and humanistic organizations. But our organizations work the way they do because of how we work as individuals - in order to change our organizations we have to change ourselves.

Heart aroused

The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

David Whyte

What happens when you put a poet inside corporate America? This book. Through poetry and prose, David Whyte takes on nothing less than what it means to be whole and authentic at work. Calling for more humanity in the workplace and asking us to address the deep fears we usually keep hidden, this book is a masterpiece of wisdom, learning, and leadership. Not to mention you will have a whole new appreciation for Beowulf!

Thinking in systems

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Donella H. Meadows

"Magical leverage points are not easily accessible, even if we know where they are and which direction to push them. There are no cheap tickets to mastery. You have to work hard at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of not-knowing. In the end, it seems that mastery has less to do with pushing leverage points than it does with strategically, profoundly, madly, letting go and dancing with the system."

Flourishing enterprise

Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business

Chris Laszlo and Judy Sorum Brown

I don't know about you, but I sure do love the word flourishing. Laszlo and Brown build on the history of management theory and organizational development by integrating the two strands and arguing (convincingly) for the connection between spirituality and business success. Don't worry, this book doesn't get all religious on you! Sprituality in this context is described as a deep sense of caring - for self, for others, and for the world. We can develop our capacity to care through reflective practices that help us understand the nature of beliefs and how they shape our thinking and behaviors. And when we can change our behaviors, we can change ourselves and our organizations.

How do you design

How do you design? A Compendium of Models

Hugh Dubberly

Ever wish you could have a book filled with all the models of design processes in existence? Wish no further! Dubberly has done the hard work of finding and annotating various models of what it means to design,and YOU get the fun task of sitting back and pondering the plurality of processes (nice alliteration, hey?).

Design methods

Design Methods: seeds of human futures

J. Christopher Jones

How do desigers work and what does it mean to design? Design isn't magic but the ways in which designers work can seem elusive (and in the 70s when this book was being written it largely was). Jones' work is an attempt to demystify the process and show how intuition and rationality can co-exist in the design process.

Problems of design

Problems of Design

George Nelson

George Nelson pretty much brought Herman Miller into the modern age and in the process he got to hang with some pretty amazing designers (Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, et al.). He also spent a good amount of time reflecting on what it means to design, earning him the epithet metadesigner. In 'Problems of Design' Nelson applies design to pretty much everything from furniture to organizations to society, often with a prescient understanding of the challenges we face today in a world of accelerating change and intangible relationships.

Art as experience

Art as Experience

John Dewey

Chapter 3 - 'Having an Experience' should be required reading for all designers.

Art of possibility

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Just like I never thought I'd have a favorite physicist (Feynam), I never thought I'd have a favorite conductor (Zander). And yet here we are. If you don't feel like reading the book pop over to Youtube and watch How to Give an A to get a feel for Zander's enthusiasm and positivity. 'The Art of Possibility' is a rumination on how we encounter reality, the assumptions that block us, and the art of rearranging ourselves. The book is structured around nine simple practices that give us ways to work with rigid perceptions and belief systems. While the practices are simple they're definitely not easy, making this a book to come back to over and over again.

Computers and cognition

Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design

Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores

Winograd and Flores set out to reorient to how we design and use computer systems and in the process wrote a treatise on ontological design.

"In ontological designing we are doing more than asking what can be built. We are engaging in a philosophical discourse about the self – about what we can do and what can be. Tools are fundamental to action, and through our actions we generate the world. The transformation we are concerned with is not a technical one, but a continuing evolution of how we understand our surroundings and ourselves – of how we continue becoming the beings we are."

Biology of love

The Origin of Humanness in the Biology of Love

Humberto Maturana Romesin and Gerda Verden-Zoller

Excuse me while I nerd out for a second, but Maturana's ideas around the 'braiding of languaging and emotioning' as they relate to lineages could provide insight into how organizational cultures grow and evolve. I'm still working on this theory but in the meantime give Maturana's writings a whirl. They're somewhat non-linear but the freshness of his perspective is bound to get your neurons firing.