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Spring 2017 Recommended Readings for Creative Leaders

January 20, 2017


2017 is opening with a stack of new and helpful books on technology, transformation, and the human and business challenges faced by creative leaders. Here is a list of 17 recommended titles.


Adam Alter, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (Penguin, March 7)

The new book from a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU Stern and the author of Drunk Tank Pink, the bestselling study of how environmental factors shape how we think and behave. Here, Alter tracks the rise of behavioral addiction – to social media, TV binge-watching, work and more – and explores how we can both set better boundaries and learn to use addictive products for good.


Scott D. Anthony, Clark G. Gilbert, and Mark W. Johnson, Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business and Create the Future (Harvard Business Review Press, April 18)

The author of The Little Black Book of Innovation and The First Mile, a former digital media executive, and an innovation consultant have produced an insightful guidebook for transforming both the core and new businesses – and the capabilities linking them – of existing firms. They outline four priorities and describe many practical tools for leaders of such dual transformations.


Amy Blankson, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being In the Digital Era (BenBella Books, April 11)

Stay grounded to focus your energy. Know thyself through data. Train your brain for an optimistic mindset. Create a habitat for happiness. Be a conscious innovator to actively shape your future. The co-founder of GoodThink, a global positive psychology consulting firm, develops these five strategies to help individuals rethink when, where, why and how you use technology in order to thrive today.


Sallie Krawcheck, Own It: The Power of Women at Work (Crown Business, January 17)

A candid manual for building a more diverse and equitable workplace from a former Wall Street executive (Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup) and current digital investment and networking entrepreneur. From negotiation and networking to re-making company culture and doing good, this practical volume describes how women can increasingly use their own rules to succeed in a changing business world.


Bob Kulhan with Chuck Crisafulli, Getting to ‘Yes And’: The Art of Business Improv  (Stanford Business Books , January 11)

An actor, former teacher at Chicago's famed Second City troupe, and now an adjunct professor at Duke and Columbia business schools shares insights from comedic improvisation for better business performance. Kulhan’s lively guide to developing listening, focus, energy, engagement, adaptation, and decision-making skills provides leaders fresh ways to drive positive change in today's fast-paced workplace.


Carsten Linz, Günter Müller-Stewens, and Alexander Zimmermann, Radical Business Model Innovation: Gaining the Competitive Edge in a Disruptive World (Kogan Page, January 28)

With case study contributions from more than a dozen business leaders and academic experts, an SAP executive and two faculty from the University of St. Gallen examine the too-often superficially discussed question of how to transform a company’s business model. The resulting manual outlines how leaders can succeed with key challenges like digitization, ‘servitization’ (shifting to service-driven value), inclusiveness, and customization.


Christian Madsbjerg, Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm (Hachette, March 21)

A founder of ReD Associates and the co-author of the excellent 2014 The Moment of Clarity develops further his approach to solving problems by using the human sciences. The resulting method, sensemaking, turns from big data to thick data – and its deep engagement with culture, language, history, and the social structures underlying human behavior – as the basis of better and more nuanced thinking.


Andy Molinsky, Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (Avery, January 24)

Authenticity, competence, resentment, likability, and morality are five key challenges underlying our avoidance tendencies – and decisions to remain in our comfort zones. A Professor of Management and Psychology at Brandeis, and the author of a study of business behavior across cultural contexts, Global Dexterity, uses them as the basis of exploring the overused but under-examined notion of getting outside your comfort zone.


Jennifer Mueller, Creative Change: Why We Resist It . . . How We Can Embrace It (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 17)

Despite proclaiming a commitment to innovation, many business leaders consistently reject creative alternatives and embrace the familiar. The psychologist and UCSD professor clarifies how we can better recognize creative opportunities, overcome other peoples’ biases for the status quo, and develop organizational means to transform the beliefs around creativity holding companies back.


Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (Knopf, April 24)

The Facebook COO and author of Lean In and the Wharton Professor and author of Give and Take and Originals have written a compelling book about facing personal and professional hardships and finding ways to heal and move forward. In part a memoir of Sandberg’s following the death of her husband, the book offers practical insights to readers seeking to recover from crises or other difficulties and to find renewed meaning at work and in life.


Kim Malone Scott, Radical Candor: How to Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (St. Martin’s, March 14)

A CEO Coach and former Google and Apple employee offers a refreshingly direct and useful guide to how leaders (and others) can give and receive feedback, help people to develop and achieve more, and build a better culture. Scott’s approach turns on providing a range of guidance – both praise and criticism ― intelligently shared to inspire employees and enable organizations to achieve more.


Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair, Innovation and Scaling for Impact: How Effective Social Enterprises Do It (Stanford Business Press, January 4)

A Visiting Scholar at Stanford and the Academic Editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review offer a distinctive, deeply-research analysis of how social enterprises can create value and scale. Through original case studies, they develop helpful innovation archetypes that show how to bypass the usual pathologies of innovation in the non-profit world and achieve greater impact.


Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters (Crown, January 10)

Well-researched and engaging, this new book from the frequent writer on culture, psychology and relationship explores how to find meaning in life’s everyday acts, small gestures and humility. Smith offers lively stories and practical advice on how to cultivate connections to others, identify and work toward a purpose, tell stories about our place in the world, and seek out mystery can immeasurably deepen our lives.


Scott Sonenschein, Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More than You Ever Imagined (HarperBusiness, February 7)

Rather than perpetually chasing after more (time, money and resources), the professor of management at Rice University illuminates the advantage of stretching to make more of what we already have. The result is a powerful framework of resourcefulness that allows us to capitalize on the power of constraints and perform better and more creatively in business and in life.


Brad Stone, The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World (Little, Brown and Company, January 31)

A Senior Editor at Bloomberg News and author of the bestseller about Jeff Bezos and Amazon, The Everything Store, focuses on a new generation of U.S. entrepreneurs. Stone’s book profiles Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb, describes life and work in their companies and others, and explores how the visions of these tech innovators have begun to transform traditional industries like transportation and travel.


Michael Useem, Harbir Singh, Peter Cappelli and Neng Liang, Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China's Great Global Companies (Public Affairs, March 14)

Three Wharton researchers and a China Europe International Business School scholar have written an important study of Chinese firms like Haier, Alibaba, and Lenovo. Focusing on their leadership, the authors identify seven key approaches to building distinctive advantage: their own way forward, the learning company, strategic agility for the long game, talent management, the big boss, growth as gospel, and governance as partnership.


Roberto Verganti, Overcrowded: Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash in Ideas (The MIT Press, February 3)

A professor at Politecnico di Milano and the author of Design-Driven Innovation re-casts the basis of innovation from discovering how things work to recognizing why we need things. Rather than finding one more idea to solve existing problems with new features, Verganti here advocates finding breakthrough meaningful experiences for customers through an individual’s (or organization’s) innovative interpretation and vision.


David Slocum Faculty Director Executiv MBA

Dr. David Slocum

Academic Advisor and Faculty Member
Berlin School of Creative Leadership