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Berlin Brief

New Books for Creative Leaders to Read to Start 2015

January 28, 2015

The coming months feature an impressive batch of new books on various aspects of creative leadership. Surveying history, crossing fields of endeavor, profiling individual leaders, and examining multiple industries, they offer fresh insights and practical guides to action in business and life. For readers looking to become more creative and effective, inspired and inspiring, the following titles are a great way to start the new year.

Kevin Ashton, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery (Doubleday, January 20)

From the writer on innovation and technology who coined the term, “internet of things,” comes a lively and astute historical survey of creative work and invention in business, art, and science. Throughout, Ashton demonstrates how creative success doesn’t strike from extraordinary actions but “accumulates” from small and ordinary steps.

Laszlo Bock, Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google that Will Transform How You Live and Lead (Twelve, April 7)

The much-anticipated exploration of new ways of thinking about and behaving at work from the longtime head of Google’s ‘People Operations.’  The result is a manifesto on how to approach work differently in order to attract and grow the best talent – and, in the process for leaders, to grow themselves.

David Butler and Linda Tischler, Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility (and How You Can Too) (Simon & Schuster, February 10)

Coca-Cola’s VP of Innovation and an editor at Fast Company use actual case studies from Coca-Cola to show how established firms can benefit from the principles and practices of agility, entrepreneurship and design thinking more commonly associated with start-ups in order to respond to shifting market conditions more dynamically and to scale more successfully.

Nicholas Carlson, Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! (Twelve, January 6)

Business Insider’s Chief Correspondent offers a revealing, layered and often quite personal portrait of one of today’s most high-profile creative leaders. Yoking together both the longer history of Yahoo! and Mayer’s own mercurial career, Carlson has written a fascinating account of the challenges of sustainability and change in the digital-media era.

Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Change the World (Simon & Schuster, February 3)

The authors of the 2012 Abundance – a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Singularity University and a best-selling writer – lay out the contemporary elements that they claim together can enable “exponential entrepreneurship.” They helpfully describe disruptive technologies, the psychology of bold thinking, and the hyper-connected crowd that together afford opportunities for creating wealth and change.

Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter, Triggers: How Behavior Change Begins, How to Make It Meaningful, How to Make It Last (Crown Business, May 19)

One of the world’s leading executive coaches, and author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, looks at the factors, both external and internal, that provoke negative behaviors like anger and resistance. Goldsmith and Reiter explain clearly how we can identify and overcome these “triggers” that prevent us from contributing to positive change and providing productive leadership for others.

Marc Hurwitz and Samantha Hurwitz, Leadership is Half the Story: A Fresh Look at Followership, Leadership, and Collaboration (Rotman-UTP Publishing, March 31)

Drawing lessons from decades of entrepreneurial and corporate experience, the Hurwitzes have formulated a new holistic approach to collaboration that celebrates the democratic and complementary qualities of creative leadership. To do so, they discuss “co-flow,” building connections, and developing various partnering skills that allow leaders and followers to work together more productively and creatively.

Herminia Ibarra, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, February 10)

One of our most consistently insightful management thinkers, Ibarra has written an important book that is both ambitiously original and immediately practical. Against orthodoxy, the INSEAD professor argues for leaders to act first then to think – and to use the “outsights” resulting from the experience as a basis for meaningful individual growth and enabling of people and organizations.

John Kounios and Mark Beeman, The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain (Random House, April 14)

Two neuroscientists offer an accessible explanation of how creative insights emerge. Combining examples ranging from the Buddha and Christopher Columbus to the Beatles with the outcomes of current brain research, Kuonios and Beeman affirm that everyone has creative potential and then provide practical techniques to help readers to find those elusive aha moments more often. 

Tim Leberecht, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater than Yourself (Harper Business, January 6)

The former CMO of Frog has written a playful and probing book about how to re-think and re-enchant business and our engagement with work. Stepping away from the analytical and rational bases of prevailing management thinking, Leberecht emphasizes the role of passion and the unmeasurable in arguing that it is a recognition of the human heart of business that increasingly enables success.

General Stanley McChrystal, Chris Fussell, Tantum Collins, and David Silverman, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (Portfolio, May 12)

Contrary to the stereotypical view of regimentation and lockstep authority, the military has actively developed new approaches to dealing with the uncertainty and complexity of the twenty-first century. Here, the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and author of My Share of the Task outlines specific and tested rules for more consistently effective leadership.

Alex Pentland, Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter (Penguin, January 27)

MIT’s “Sandy” Pentland is perhaps our leading analyst of the human and network dynamics and dimensions of Big Data.  Building on the success of last year’s Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread, this new book explores how we can maximize the value of ideas spread by social networks and transform them into more productive behaviors and interactions.

Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 21)

Faculty members from the MIT Sloan School and Stanford Graduate School of Business provide an accessible guide to developing and improving rules for better navigating the increased complexity of our everyday lives. Using diverse examples like Tina Fey, household burglars and Japanese engineers, they demonstrate how to adopt simpler yet more effective habits.

Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ecco, May 19)

A biography by a Bloomberg Businessweek writer of one of the most daring entrepreneurs and creative leaders of our time, a “contemporary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs.”

Faris Yakob, Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising in a Digital World (Kogan Page, April 25)

The award-winning strategist, innovation expert, and co-founder of Genius Steals offers a fresh multidisciplinary take on the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape. For those leaders seeking a better understanding of how ideas can still move people and how branding can thrive in the connected age, an excellent read.

David Slocum Faculty Director Executiv MBA

Dr. David Slocum

Academic Advisor and Faculty Member
Berlin School of Creative Leadership