I read a lot of business books.

I've read some that were instantly forgettable.

Yet some are so thought provoking and useful that I refer to them most months in my work as a consultant and advisor.

So here are the books that I most frequently recommend to clients:

Scaling people - Claire Hughes Johnson

This book dives into the messiness and uncertainty that happens after a promising start-up gets going and growth starts to plateau. Claire provides guidance on getting through this critical phase without losing momentum.

Read it if...you are scaling a business or team.

Creativity Inc - Edwin Catmull

An unprecedented look inside Pixar's unique culture that has fueled iconic films. It offers an insider's perspective on how to foster ingenuity and collaboration in teams.

Read it if...you care about culture and how it affects teams.

The Messy Middle - Scott Belsky

A pragmatic guide for founders and leaders navigating the challenging phases of growth. Drawing on his experiences as an entrepreneur and investor, Scott offers candid insights into the unpredictable journey from startup to established business. Lots of practical advice on decision-making, resilience and adapting to change.

Read it if...you want to get deep into the practice of scaling businesses.

Range - How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - David Epstein

An insightful exploration into how generalists and interdisciplinary thinking triumph in a specialised world. Explains how connecting ideas from multiple domains leads to creative breakthroughs.

Read it if...you're designing structures or roles. Or if you're a generalist at work needing validation.

Exponential - Order and Chaos in an Age of Accelerating Technology - Azeem Azhar

A thoughtful analysis on exponential technological change and how leaders can adapt. Examines accelerating computing, surveillance, cannabis, China's social credit system and more.

Read it if...you're developing strategy or are looking to understand technology-related risks and opportunities.

Working Backwards - Colin Bryar and Bill Carr

A behind-the-scenes account of Amazon’s working backwards approach to product development. Useful lessons from Amazon’s customer-centric culture that seeks perfection before solutions exist. See beyond the Bezos fanboy sections to get to the real insights.

Read it if...you're looking for insights on product or service development

Good Habits, Bad Habits - Wendy Wood

The book delves into the science of habit formation, offering founders and leaders some profound insights into human behaviour. It's a research-backed exploration provides practical strategies for cultivating positive habits, enhancing productivity, and fostering a thriving organisational culture.

Read it if...you want to better understand human behaviour and what that means for teams.

Alchemy - The Magic of Original Thinking in a World of Mind-Numbing Conformity - Rory Sutherland

I love Rory Sutherland. His book is an insightful reframe on the role of original thinking in business. He provides thought-provoking ideas on how to foster creativity and breakthroughs.

Read it if...you want some ideas on building innovative cultures focused on inventiveness.

Brave New Work - Aaron Dignan

A classic on progressive organisational design. Aaron's book envisions a future of work that transcends traditional structures, with lots of valuable insights into fostering agility and adaptability within their organisations. Plenty of content on decentralised decision-making and human-centric workplaces.

Read it if...you need help to navigate the evolving landscape of work and leadership.

The Culture Code - The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups - Daniel Coyle

Uses groundbreaking research to delve into what makes some teams successful while others fail. It offers leaders practical insights on building cohesive, high performing cultures.

Read it if...you lead a team.

Team of Teams - Stanley McChrystal

Learn from McChrystal's military experiences, gaining insights into fostering agility and collaboration as well as leadership in complex environments. This book challenges traditional hierarchical models, providing a blueprint for leaders seeking to build adaptive and high-performing organisations.

Read it if...you want to break out of hierarchical thinking in organisational design and leadership.

Corporate Rebels - Make Work More Fun - Joost Minnaar and Pim De Morree

A manifesto for injecting joy into the workplace. With real-world examples, the Corporate Rebels offer insights for leaders to create engaging and fulfilling work environments. By emphasising the importance of fun and creativity, they challenge leaders to rethink traditional approaches, making work not only productive but also enjoyable.

Read it if...you want to learn about new ways of working and widen your horizons as a leader.

Never Split the Difference - Chris Voss

This book translates hostage negotiation tactics into business strategies. Lots of practical techniques for negotiation and decision-making. Voss's insights, drawn from high-stakes situations, provide valuable lessons for founders and leaders navigating complex business environments.

Read it if...you want to improve your negotiation skills.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy - Richard Rumelt

The best book I've ever read on strategy. Good Strategy Bad Strategy clarifies the difference between effective strategic planning versus goals and aspirations. Provides a clear framework for articulating strategy. Absolutely essential reading for leaders aiming to set strategic direction.

Read it if...you ever use the word strategy. In fact, just read it.

Lead Together - Brent Lowe, Susan Basterfield and Travis Marsh

Grounded in lots of practical examples (including my work at Deeson), Brent advocates for collaborative leadership models, fostering inclusivity and shared responsibility. Essential reading for founders and leaders committed to building cohesive teams and achieving organisational success through collaborative leadership.

Read it if...you want to learn about alternative ways of working and models for leadership

Reinventing Organisations - Frederic Laloux

The OG - the first book I read about new ways of working. Envisions a new paradigm for organizational structures. By exploring teal organisations, Laloux challenges traditional hierarchies, offering a roadmap for leaders to create adaptive and purpose-driven workplaces. This book is a revolutionary guide for those seeking to transform their organisations but takes a bit of work to think through how the insights translate into practice.

Read it if...you want a primer on new organisational forms and ways of working.

Scale at Speed - Felix Velarde

Lots of practical insights into accelerating business growth, particularly in service-based companies. Actionable strategies for maintaining agility and innovation while expanding operations. Nice focus on empowering teams over top-down direction.

Read it if...you want a guidebook to scaling and building team capabilities.

Turn The Ship Around! - David Marquet

This book recounts a submarine commander's experience transforming a submarine crew's leadership dynamics. It shows founders and leaders how to empower their teams, fostering a culture of decentralised decision-making for improved performance. Lots of lessons on leadership and accountability.

Read it if...you want to level up your leadership, regardless of the kind of business you work in.

The Positive Organisation - Robert E Quinn

A deep dive into why founders and leaders should take a positive leadership approach. By emphasising the impact of positive culture on employee engagement and business success, the book provides a roadmap for leaders committed to building positive and high-performing teams.

Read it if...you want to learn about leadership practice based on proven evidence.

Humanocracy - Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

Another new ways of working classic. Humanocracy makes the case for reinventing organisations to tap into human potential by putting people at the centre instead of control.

Read it if...you want to build people-centric cultures focused on trust and collaboration.

Leadership Unravelled - Mark Cole and John Higgins

Explores the multifaceted nature of leadership. A comprehensive guide that addresses the personal and professional dimensions of leadership, going well beyond the usual leadership tips that lack depth and thinking.

Read it if...you want a holistic understanding of leadership.

The Manager's Path - Camille Fourier

Aa practical guide for aspiring and seasoned managers alike. With insights into the various stages of a managerial career, this book equips founders and leaders with the tools and perspectives needed for success when managing people.

Read it if...you manage people or teams.

Who - Geoff Smart and Randy Street

A strategic guide to effective hiring. With a focus on making informed and successful hiring decisions, this book is essential for leaders aiming to build high-performing teams and drive success through effective talent acquisition.

Read it if...you hire people.

Team Topologies - Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

For leaders and team managers to help them organise teams to optimise flow of information and make data-informed decisions on team structure. Any leader aiming to maximise their team performance should read this.

Read it if...you're designing organisations or teams.

Human Powered - Trenton Moss

I love Trenton's book. Practical tips aplenty for creating a workplace that centres on the human experience. Lots on collaborative problem solving, managing conflict and inspiring teams.

Read it if...you want to improve team performance.

Executive Coaching - Catherine Sandler

A comprehensive guide to the art and science of psychodynamic coaching for leadership development. Shows how to leverage coaching as a powerful tool for personal and organisational growth. This book is a must-read for founders and leaders seeking to enhance leadership skills through effective coaching practices.

Read it if...you lead or coach people.

Mesh: A human-centric organisational design for a decentralised world - Gráinne Hamilton and Jen Kelchner

This book proposes a human-centric organisational design for the decentralised world. Focusses building adaptive and resilient organisations.

Read it if...you're (re)designing teams or organisations.

Emergent Strategy - Adrienne Maree Brown

This is a transformative guide to organisational change. Brown's exploration of emergent strategies challenges traditional approaches, offering founders and leaders a fresh perspective on adaptability and innovation.

Read it if...you want to increase creativity and responsiveness in your business.

Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time - Dennis Bakke

Aa compelling approach to decision-making that empowers individuals throughout a business. Shows how founders and leaders can create a culture where decision-making is distributed and collaborative.

Read it if...you want to improve the quality of decision-making.

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