28 Books On The Future Of Work That You Need To Read Today - Part One

We tend to live as well as work with one eye trained on the future - we forecast and plan our next move keeping in mind the future.

After all, there’s a good chance that what works today will not work tomorrow. Particularly, in the hyper-dynamic world of business today, it’s prudent to prepare ourselves to unlearn, learn and figure out future trends - today.

That said, what better way to learn than from books written by experts who’ve made it their life’s work to predict the future of work?

Here’s our list of 28 such phenomenal books that are guaranteed to change the way you think about what’s coming up.

Whether you’re looking for ways to lead, build a future-proof culture or adopt the right kind of tech to survive the ever-changing landscape of business, we’ve got you covered.  

So, dive right in and we’ll see you in the future!

1. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization - Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan

In most organizations, there’s an invisible drain of company resources that ultimately allows neither the organization nor it’s employees to perform to their fullest potential. In other words, people spend way too much time and effort on ensuring the blinds remain drawn on their weaknesses and micromanaging how other people perceive them.

Now, consider a company culture that deliberately pushes everyone - not just the “top performers” - to overcome their internal barriers to change and to convert their mistakes and vulnerabilities into glowing opportunities for growth. That is what Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey (and their collaborators) call a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO).

DDOs, according to the authors, are highly in-line with their employees’ strongest motive - to grow. Meaning, they don’t look into developing their people only within their high-potential programs, annual off-site trainings or executive coachings. Instead, DDOs weave the development of their people into the fabric of routine work life, which includes regular company operations, everyday tasks and conversations.

Citing three of the world’s leading companies that thrive because of their DDO mindset, the book offers design principles and concrete practices that explain the science at the bottom of such a culture. It shows how culture is more strategy than fluff and that organizational success comes only when everyone’s developing themselves.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon)

2. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead - Laslzo Bock

We spend most of our lives working than doing anything else in life. Yet work, for most of us, is a drag at best and at its worst, a terrible part of life. While employers know they have to break free from the top-down management structures, that dominate most organizations, it continues to be something that’s easier said than done. 

Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, unveils why it doesn’t have to be that way. Drawing on the latest research in behavioral economics and with his grasp of human psychology, he provides teaching examples from a range of industries.

He explains how the current power structures which favour “managers” don’t take into account the fact that employees are smart and they neither need to be coddled or controlled. Instead, he advocates for “high-freedom” environments where empowerment is the key. Instead of only looking towards the management and the “C-suite” for how the business should be run, he points out there is a fertile source of ideas in real-time.

Employees are likely to flock to open, collaborative and innovative environments and Bock asserts the importance of freedom for the employee, citing examples of companies that achieved results by valuing and listening to their employees. Devoting one chapter to each rule, which range from salary (Pay unfairly, it’s more fair) to hiring (Only hire people who are smarter than you are, no matter how long it takes to find them), Bock doesn’t evangelize the Google way. Instead, he focuses that while everyone (including Google!) makes mistakes, it’s the organizations which operate on strong values, instead of power play, that recover from them the fastest!

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon and Forbes)

3. Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace - Ricardo Semler

When Ricardo Semler took on his family business based in Brazil, it was a lumbering cooperation. And, he took charge by the horns: He broke down traditional, hierarchical structures in the cooperation. And, one by one, he replaced them with new revolutionary ways of doing things. Then, like a phoenix from the flame, a new democratic, autonomous company emerged. In this book, Ricardo tells the story of how he brought about these groundbreaking changes. He also reveals how the business thrived despite operating in often uncertain economic circumstances. A remarkable story with valuable takeaway lessons for us all.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon)

4. Reinventing Organizations: - Frederic Laloux

Reinventing Organizations is today a phenomenon - one that has struck a chord with millions of people around the world, deep enough for them to be talking about the book with their friends and colleagues. The reason? It’s managed to shift the focus from what’s not working with today’s corporate management towards possibilities for change that have inspired scores of organizations. Be it be, corporate companies, institutions like schools or hospitals or non-profits, the book has encouraged leaders and organizations around the world to take up management practices that are not just powerful and purposeful, but soulful as well. The illustrations, besides offering the crux of all the main ideas of the book, offers a lively and engaging accompaniment to the book’s multiple real-life case studies.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon)

5. Reinventing Scale-Ups - Brent Lowe, Susan Basterfield, Travis Marsh

The bookshelves are heavy with items teaching us traditional, predictable business leadership techniques and methods. However, what if all those books don’t help at all? When you’re working on an entrepreneurial project, full of dynamism, energy, and potential, the last thing you need to do is dump a plethora of boarding school rules on your baby. This book takes a different approach, and rather than giving you a to-do-list of best practices, it encourages you to question and challenge yourself. Then, through the process, new methods and thoughts will emerge giving dynamic form to your organization. If you would like your business to match your vision, then this book will help you truly analyze what that means and take steps towards a new reality.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon)

6. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business - Clayton Christensen

First published in 1997, this book is written by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen who demonstrates how successful, outstanding companies can do everything correctly but still lose their market leadership or even collapse, as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over the market.

This situation is characterized by two factors. The first, he points out, that value to innovation is an undulating curve, where the beginning innovations will be of minimal use to the consumer but over time, a base is created along with exponential value. At some point, the value diminishes and the value per change drops bringing it to a similar use for the consumer.

The other characteristic is that established players may have a huge customer set but will have high expectations of annual sales, which can be a drag on their innovation capability. New entrants do not have this expectation attached to their product, so they can innovate at a faster rate and capture the established player’s market, which may not have the time to react effectively to the new product. 

While it sounds inevitable that established players are always going to lose out, Christensen, studies this dilemma across industries and proposes a series of principles and strategies that established market players can tap into to keep themselves relevant.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon and Wikipedia)

7. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure - Tim Harford

Everyone knows it’s important to learn from your mistakes and that failure is a stepping stone. Yet, what we find so difficult to keep in mind, when it is our mistake, is that we need to face up to it. Instead, we can get so upset, that we end up missing the learning opportunity a mistake brings.

Tim Harford, the Financial Times columnist known as the Undercover Economist, presents a different spin on mistakes. According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right the first time.” Examining different visionaries, he proves how adapting is the correct way to achieve success. As our problems become more complex, it becomes harder to predict what the next move should be. Grounding his theories in psychology, he explains how structured trial and error, i.e. experimentation, is the way to deal with failure and outlines three principles for failing productively. Interestingly, he cites university as a great example to follow as, “we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating. Yet, somehow as we grow older we lose it.”

(Synopsis modified from Amazon)

8. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World - General Stanley McChrystal

The battlefield and the world of business are sometimes quite alike. And, this books reveals how General Stanley McChrystal and his colleagues adapted the highly hierarchical and traditional task force they were leading in Iraq, into a network that fused extremely transparent communication and decentralized decision making to defeat the Al Qaeda. They used technology to unite thousands of people across three different continents and extended the best practices of the smallest units in a manner that would have been impossible even a decade earlier. The result was a task force that worked like a “team of teams” and was faster, flatter and more flexible. The lessons learned and the challenges surmounted at the battlefield are of relevance to scores of businesses, nonprofits and other institutions that wanted to open up freedoms to their smallest links and experiment with organization-wide transparency. The team of team strategy has worked for hospital emergency rooms as well as NASA and has the potential to transform your organization as well.

(Synopsis from Amazon)

9. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't - Jim Collins

While everyone aspires to become the next Steve Jobs or Walt Disney, not every company is born with greatness. Many companies start off small and evolve but this means they may not have the “greatness” gene. How do companies which are merely good or even mediocre push through to achieve greatness?

Good to Great is a management book by Jim Collins, a lecturer at Stanford University, and his research team, who explain how companies transition from being merely good to great and why companies fail to make that leap. Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. These companies are considered “great” as they have sustained financial performance several multiples better than the market average. He identifies seven characteristics, including having the right attitude in leaders, hiring the right fit and confronting the brutal facts and yet, never giving up hope. In this list, he also includes eleven examples of how companies that were great but didn’t make the leap (compare Wells Fargo with Bank of America).

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon)

10. The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization - Jacob Morgan

With the rise of flexible and remote working, conventional management models have to be replaced as employees are changing their expectations, values and attitudes. Traditional structures need to be rethought as organizations need to examine how the employee experience pans out.

Organizations that invest in employee experience are more productive, valuable, attractive, innovative, profitable, and have superior stock performance than those who don't. These "Experiential Organizations" crush the competition in every metric. Morgan researched over 150 studies and articles, interviewed more than a 100 executives and analyzed over 250 organizations. He explains 3 different environments that make up every employee experience; how to design to bring out the best; and, what the tangible return is. The end result is a company that brings out the best in its employees.

(Synopsis from Amazon)

11. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters - Priya Parker

Meetings are the bane of every organization. Add to that, office gatherings and Christmas parties, it’s no surprise that we hate any kind of workplace get-together. In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker delves into why some gatherings have moments that make it sparkle while others remain lackluster. Drawing from her personal experience as a facilitator for high powered gatherings and peace process talks, she examines all types of gatherings -conferences, meetings, a courtroom, even an Arab-Israeli summer camp- to figure out what are the moments that make these gatherings. Through The Art of Gathering, you can learn how to create meaningful experiences at work, as she explains how simple, specific changes can breathe life into your get-togethers.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon and Penguin Random House)

12. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success - Adam Grant

In Give and Take, Wharton’s highest-rated professor, Adam Grant has given names to the types of behaviour we find obvious in our workplace: Takers, givers and matchers. Interviewing a large and diverse group of people, including lawyers and professional basketball players, Grant argues that one of the biggest force that sets people apart is their interpersonal code of conduct and reciprocity. He embarks on a journey to explain how reciprocity is a surprising force that impacts professional advancement. Unsurprisingly, givers come out at the top, but surprisingly they also form the bottom of the pile. He delves into what characteristics set these groups apart and concludes with how we can empower these overlooked groups of people.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon and Heleo)

13. Contagious  - Jonah Berger

Everyone knows that the office grapevine is much more effective in spreading the word than official sources - but why? Advertising relies on word-of-mouth and people rely on their networks. But, why do some things catch on more than others? What is the secret for information going viral? These are the questions that intrigued Jonah Berger and he started studying the social influence that is our reality. Examining sources as diverse as steakhouses to a video about a blender, he outlines six principles that drive virality and provides a set of actionable techniques for designing information that will be shared.

(Synopsis from Amazon and Jonah

14. Rework- Jason Fried 

Most businesses operate on the principle of being “professional” and that it’s important to have a brand. But having a brand sometimes may mean, removing the actual human element that creates a brand. It is that element, the “you” that creates the differentiator that competitors cannot replicate. That is just one example of how Rework, a collection of essays by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of Basecamp (formerly 37signals), gives you maverick advice. Unconventional but filled with practical wisdom, this book gives you insight into how you need much lesser than you think and how greatness can be achieved on a shoe-string.

(Synopsis adapted from Amazon and Medium )


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