“A book, for me is like a kind of shovel, which I use to dig over myself.” (Martin Walser; translation by Denkwerkstatt). Literally inspired by this, we started to dig into our book shelves, publishers catalogues, book stores, and in our memory for thoughtful books.
The result is a list of a clourful conglomerate, surprisingly, partly blunt Werkstatt-Favourites. The selection is subjective – but (as we think) fantastic! The best: we will rework this list quarterly.
What works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016
The Swiss Iris Bohnet is a behavioural economist at Harvard University, where she is a professor, Director of Women and Public Policy Program, and Co-Chair of the Behavioral Insights Group at the Kennedy School of Government. She presents in her publication in easy-to-read mode as well as clearly arranged the current status of research according to the topic. In addition she develops practical ideas of transfer. She regards gender equality in the economy and society as a human right. In addition, she underlines economic reasons that underline the need of the increase of the number of working and leading women in organisations. At the same time she is sceptical, if appellation alone will lead to a change. Some years ago Germany pretended to increase the number of female participants in supervisoring boards significantly. Today, we in fact see much more women in that position. However, there still is no given target to increase the number of women in boards or top management positions but counts on free will and appellation. In many organisations – not in all – we still are far away from Gender Equality. As appellation alone will not serve the idea, she regards it more efficient to change the rules in organisations concerning onbaording, promotion, and daily work by using scientific findings. Bohnet stays objective and avoids a debate that tries to make women and men to victims and/or offenders or better leaders or human beings.
In short: a book really worth reading for everybody who aims to honestly and deeply look into the subject.
Work Rules! Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead by Laszlo Bock, John Murray, 2015
Before becoming Vice President of People Operations at Google Laszlo Bock joined several leading positions e.g. at GE and McKinsey. He left Google in 2016. His book offers an exciting insight into the organizational culture at Google and how they deal with personnel issues. Any HR-activities at Google are scientifically questioned, evaluated, and further developed. Hence, one also finds a lot of references that invite for further research. In comparison to other companies Google does not have the problem in finding candidates as per year 30,000 speculative applications arrive the organization. However, at the same time this number offers different challenges. I found the idea of transparency lived at Google fascinating. This transparency was confirmed by some Googlers I met during a Search Inside Yourself seminar at Google Berlin. The principle: “Only hire people that are better than you!” can just be underlined. The book offers a lot of stimulation to think over recruitment, personnel development, performance measurement, and employee participation in one’s own company. Most exciting is the insight that performance seems not to be distributed according to a normal distribution but according to a Pareto-distribution! Most performance systems in organizations base on the basis idea of a normal distribution of performance. Therefore, the scientific indication that this basic assumption is probably wrong bears explosive substance. We could see that, when I was presenting this theory on our Denkwerkstatt symposium 2017. Many organizations today also question how they should deal with goal systems in the future. Some organizations even dispose them. Those, who do not want to jump that far find in the method of OKR (Objectives and key results) a very interesting alternative.
Conclusion: Worth reading every single page. This book is stimulative and definitively recommendable, even if the American culture is not completely transferable into a German organization.
TED Talks. The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Since mankind exists the spoken word has a special meaning. In the time before the printing press changed the world rhetoric was a naturally part of the education canon. Today, even pupils at elementary schools are asked to do presentations. However, the art of public speaking often is not part of the course. In today’s management-world public speaking and presentations are a vital part of it. Everyone faces the situation to talk in front of an auditorium. But: How do we manage a brilliant speech or presentation? On seminars one learns about the design etc. , however often something is still missing.
On the well-known TED-conferences speaker present various topics demonstrative, exciting and understandable. At the end the audience is informed, deeply moved, and thoughtful. With enthusiasm we often watch TED talks on Youtube. In his book Chris Anderson describes how the best TED-speakers in the 21st century develop and design their presentations. Anderson not only shortly discusses typical presentation techniques one already knew but presents many interesting suggestions and ideas of how to make great speeches and to live up the expectations of the audience as they donate something very precious to us: Their attention and time. Let us deal responsibly with that gift!
Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, Harper, 2017
A brief history of mankind by Yuval Noah Harari, SpeedReader Summaries, 2015
Harari is professor in history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and presents two remarkable books.
In Homo Deus he speculates that democracy, humanism, and liberalism will become irrelevant as a model of society due to the spin-off from data and robots. Of course, this is nuts and close to the bone. However, who aims to understand Trump’s, Putin’s, and Orban’s fantasy of omnipotence should read this book. It is an ode on progress and at the same time brutally honest shows the risks that digitalisation can cause for the elucidation.
A brief history of mankind is the historical work that shows how mankind was able to conquer the world. As Homo Deus this book is very intelligent, with a honest view on the essentials. In addition it is written quite entertaining.
Die Erfindung des Menschen by Renée Schröder, Residenz-Verlag, 2016 (The invention of man; translation bei Denkwerkstatt)
Who wants to learn something about the most important science-based megatrends of today – genetic research and digitalisation – should read this book. Renée Schneider wrote the Sciencebook of 2016 , category natural science; easy reading, however not superficial but meaningful.
We rarely have read a book that presents human history so clearly and at the same time differentiated. It divides the world as history of mind in three categories:
1. Things that exist independently of our thoughts. That is the world of natural science. The real world, the universe.
2. Things that exist only because we created them. They won’t exist, if we would not have thought them up or created them.
3. Things that only exist in our heads. They vanish again, when we die and these thoughts were not written down and spread.
The description about the state of the current research according to number 1 and 2 is brilliant and absolutely in the course of time. In the third category, she appoints all the great myths of human history with special regard to the religions. When she speculates that no God would exist and that the world would need feminism to survive it is enjoyable reading and pointed. She is convinced that evolution has got no place and that human kind has got it in its own hands, if and how we survive. However, she does not ask if however it could exist a god, even without an existing plan. Pierre Theilhard de Charding, Master Eckart, and especially the philosopher Friedrich Schlegel thought about that. Scientists often have a tendency to dogmatism – or in other words: some humility according to the object of research about one is writing is missed. One can go past this section.
With regard to digitalization this book presents some surprises. Renée Schröder asks for a second Enlightment and quotes Emmanuel Kant. Digital and scientific knowledge is growing exponential. 21st century human beings have to come along with that challenge. This implies to learn, to learn, to learn. The author gives impulses about the subects.
Physics of the future by Michio Kaku, Anchor (2012).
Sometimes one finds books and gets angry that one has not found that one earlier. This publication by the well-known US-Physics is one of these books. However, even years after publication it is worth reading it.
Kaku describes incredibly how computer science, artificial intelligence, medicine, nano-technology, energy, astronautics, and welfare will develop over the coming and the next 30 years and till the year 2100.
With regard of the political changes in 2016 with all it’s reactionary ideas the reader realizes quickly that life in the 21st century will take a completely different path as pupular politicians today think. One should listen to physicians.
Conclusion: Exciting and easy to
Das Silicon-Valley-Mindset by Mario Herger (German edition). Plassen (2016).
(The Silicon-Valley-Mindset. Translation by Denkwerkstatt)
An Austrian intellectual moves into Silicon Valley, lives and works there and after 10 years writes a book about his expericences. Goal: advise European companies how to implement a culture of foundation.
With a fresh style he decribes that approximately 40 per cent oft he 30,000 start-ups in California are founded by immigrants. In their home countries many of these founders were reckoned as strivers, smart-arses, nerds, non-cool outsiders and therefore have been excluded.
Arrived at Silicon Valley they meet humans with similar biographies. In addition they often found for the first time understanding. The Sheldons, Leonards, Amy Farrahs, and Howards feel welcome for the first time.The Big Bang Theory as mass phenomena. They meet like-minded persons and start working to improve the world.
Conclusion: An interesting insight into the work-culture of the Silicon Valley.
Digitale Transformation im Unternehmen gestalten: Geschäftsmodelle, Erfolgsfaktoren, Handlungsanweisungen, Fallstudien by Oliver Gassmann und Philipp Sutter. Hanser (2016) – German Edition.
(Shaping digital transformation in organisations: Business Models, success factors, guidlines, case-studies. Translation by Denkwerkstatt)
This book was written by professors of St Gallen University.
The reflexion that academic activities are still analog is great. Incentive systems at universities run against digital excellence. In the middle of the publication the authors plead for sharing research results by Crowd Science. This is something we have not read that clearly before.
Otherwise, the book unfortunately stays in headlines and a vague and indefinite formulation even in the description of the 20 case-studies in organisations.
Conclusion: Who is interested in gaining an overview about that topic is right with that book. For pracitioners that want to implement digitalisation in organisations this book is less applicable.
Digitale Führung: Wie die neuen Technologien unsere Zusammenarbeit wertvoller machen by Martin A. Ciesielski and Thomas Schutz. Springer Gabler (2016).
(Digital Leadership: How new technologies make our cooperation more valuable. Translation by Denkwerkstatt)
Digital Leadership: one more, new product on the book market. 10 books have been published about that issue in 2015/2016. We took a closer look into that book – and still are somewhat of lost and not sure how to review it fairly.
To put it mild, we could write that social media, internet, new software and leading from a distance are challenging every manager today. Yes.
Roland Geschwill supervised an excellent MBA-thesis about that issue at the University Ludwigshafen. In this work theoretical concepts were empirically evaluated by managers (by the example of the pharmaceutical sales at Roche in Mannheim).
However, much is written about leadership and management but much less is empirically researched. One result of the thesis has been that digital communication even at distanced leadership is over-estimated by non-managers. Trust, good and constant communication as well as reliable free space even in distance-realtionships are still the keystone of successful leadership.
Conclusion: There is nothing as digital leading in management practice.
Digitale Demenz: Wie wir uns und unsere Kinder um den Verstand bringen by Manfred Spitzer. Droemer (2012).
(Digital dementia: How we make our childen and ourselves mad. Translation by Denkwerkstatt)
Online bleiben, ohne den Verstand zu verlieren by Jan Kalbitzer. C.H.Beck (2016).
(Staying online without going mad. Translation by Denkwerkstatt)
Two psychiatrists – two books – however completely different results. Jan Kalblitzer, aged 39 leads the psychiatristic department at the Charité in Berlin, Manfred Spitzer, aged 59 is successful author.
Writing books works well, if one sharpens theses – and Spitzer is doing that. In his opinion to deal with IT too early will cause addictive behaviour from children. Kalbitzer shows the opposite and explains that there does not exist something as an addictive diagnosis for IT at psycho-diagnostics.
Pointed was this distanced duel in October 2016 during the tv-show Anne Will where Spitzer off-beated. Sascha Lobo, blogger and book author himself, provoked the psychiatrist who could not cope with that. Different opinions seem to challenge the professer emotionally.
The journal Focus decribes it: „ Moderator Anne Will has a hard time to restrain wrought up scientist Spitzer. He completely lost his poise. He talks about „poor children“ and that youngster should only being introduced to digital media by the age of 14 or 16 years. Programming in the 8th grade at the earliest. Already, he observes many „soulless, will-less humans“, ruined by smart-phone and tablet. Sascha Lobo and the FDP-chairman (annotation: German party: Federal Democratic Party) Lindner try to object. Without effect. „You do not have a clue!“, Spitzer gathering momentum. Anne Will tries: „Mr Spitzer? Mr Spitzer! Can you hear me?“
Jan Kalbitzer is right when blaming Spitzer dishonestly. He cannot give psychiatric diagnoses about an entire generation in TV-shows. However, not only there Spitzer has not distance. By that, he disservices reputable colleagues.
With regard to contents Spitzer’s book is quite weak and disproved broadly. Since a few years one finds Steve-Jobs Elementary schools in the Netherlands (LINK) that start working with iPads very successfully in the first grade. Mental defects? None! Learning outputs are better than at conventional classes.
The fact that the founders of Google keep away their children from IT till the age of 14 is based on them being fans of Montessory schools. Therefore they count on creative learning and not on purely learning facts.
We are happy that Mr Kalbitzer calls out to Mr Spitzer : „Learning-development further develops.“
7 : 1 – Das Jahrhundertspiel by Christian Eichler Droemer, 2015 (no English version)
The 8th of July 2014 impressed the collective memory of all football fans. Many were amazed by the first 4 minutes when 3 goals were shot (2:0, 3:0 and 4:0). Christian Eichler describes in his easily readable book match footages and backgrounds of victory and battering. Not only 14 German players were on the football ground. To win the fourth star the management worked very successfully. Fantastic analysis – the best what we ever read about football.
Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House 2012
Ingenious, not readable, highly controversial, and really recommendable. In case you are searching for suggestions for rethinking your risk-management, you should let that book inspire you.
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux, Nelson Parker 2014
How can one create self-responsible structures in an organization? The former McKinsey Consultant presents organizations that are successful although they work with a low level of control and nearly no management. It works, if organizations are founded with these ideas. However, we would like to advise caution: The author is a follower of the idea of integral spirituality by Ken Wilber. It is possible to combine the ideas of self-responsible structures and spirituality. However,in that case one should know on which party one is going!
Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction by Thals K. McCraw, Belknap Press
Important counsellors of the Federal Government as Jeremy Rifkin design concepts like the third industrial revolution. All of industrial revolutions were accompanied by the economic system we call capitalism. How does this system work and how does it create welfare? Joseph Schumpeter researched the operation- mode of capitalism during the first half of the 20th century. His research and conclusions are all-time. If you want to join talks about the economy of the 21st century you should know this easy readable but nevertheless profound biography written by McCraw.
The better Angels of our Nature. Why Violance has declined by Stven Pinkler, The Viking Press, 2011
A tremendous book about the world-wide decline of violence during the last 50-70 years! This book is a contradiction against any imaginations of doom and culture-pessimism. Reading this book beats running a marathon, visiting a fitness center, extensive visits at a bar, and Zen. It is pure intellectual endorphin. At the same time, Steven Pinker works with current psychological knowledge. These are the best pages about culture we have read during the last 10 years.
The Wisdom of Psychopaths: Lessons in Life from Saints, Spies and Serial-Killer by Kevin Dutton, 2013
Now we have the above bestseller safely in our creative locker. Actually, everyone already suspected it: There’s something psychopathic about management – excluding the violent outbursts, of course. The professor of psychology has produced an easily readable book on the status of current research into this grey area of science. He starts by describing current research. He refers to different test procedures including the Big Five (personality traits). Finally it is established: here are the managers; here are the psychopaths. Some of the book reviews that have been published on Amazon are particularly amusing. Some people would appear to believe that these grey areas can be described in precise scientific terms. The book is a fun read and will hopefully encourage readers to think about their own behaviour in several places.
Das anständige Unternehmen by Reinhard K. Sprenger, DVA, 2015
An der Freiheit des anderen kommt keiner vorbei by Reinhard K. Sprenger, Campus, 2013
After FIFA- and VW – scandal, Das anständige Unternehmen (titel: The decent organization/translation by Denkwerkstatt) is a missed chance to write a good book about this issue. We are still enthusiastic about An der Freiheit des Anderen kommt keiner vorbei (title: Nobody can pass somebody’s elses freedom/translation by Denkwerkstatt). This book is a milestone of leadership literature. Das anständige Unternehmen (titel: The decent organization/translation by Denkwerkstatt) describes what can go wrong if one gives indecent advices. R. Sprenger advised – as far as we know – the Deutsche Bank. So it would have been interesting to learn in one of his books what he brought about there decently.
Selbstorganisation braucht Führung: Die einfachen Geheimnisse agilen Managements by Boris Gloger & Dieter Rösner, Hanser, 2014
Management Y: Agile, Scrum, Design Thinking & Co.: So gelingt der Wandel zur attraktiven und zukunftsfähigen Organisation by Ulf Brandes & andere,Campus, 2014
(Self-organization needs leadership: The simple secrets of agile management/translation by Denkwerkstatt).
This example is dated in the last century about the CEO that was the shortest time in organization’s history in the lead (approximately 2 years). If you want to read a book about the topic Agile we recommend to you the book written by the colleagues of CONTRAIN. Books about neomaniac management-literature are en vogue. Management Y was ￼even discussed non-critically in the journal ORGANISATIONSENTWICKLUNG as a book about the topic of the year. By personal review of literature we detected the example of the elk from Durk Jager (Procter and Gamble).
Steve Jobs: The authorized biography about the founder of Apple from Walter Isaacson.
Jobs never read this biography. However, he initiated it. It seems to be curious to name this authorized. Within this biography, Jobs opponents are given voice to. This book is an important piece of management literature that describes leadership in various facets from the social-romantic hippie to the exceptionally gifted innovator and founder of one of the most successful international organizations in the world. The eternal rebel, fan of Bauhaus and Bob Dylan published with this book his credo and nothing is to be added.
The rebel: from Think different (Steve Jobs & Clow)
Here´s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The troblemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see the things differently. They`re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can`t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some of us may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…are the ones who do.
Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahnemann, Siedler Verlag 2012
Kahneman is psychologist and Nobel prize laureate for economy. This combination by itself is awesome and then this book: Very good to read, scientifically founded, and easily transferable into the personal practice and at the same time self-critical according to the own research work. You can forget the bestseller of Robert Shiller about behavioural economy or Gerd Gigerenzer about gut decisions after reading this book. However, both of them are really heavyweights in their field.
Warum dick nicht doof macht und Genmais nicht tötet: Über Risiken und Nebenwirkungen der Unstatistik von Thomas Bauer, Gerd Gigerenzer, Walter Krämer, Campus, 2014
(Why fat is not making stupid and genetically modified corn does not kill: About risks and side-effect of non-statistics)
Wem gehört Deutschland? by Jens Berger, Westend, 2014 (title: Who owns Germany/translation by Denkwerkstatt)
Did you know that women in Germany earn barely less money than men? You can read this in the book of Gigerenzerand colleagues. This book is a manual to generally dealing carefully with statistics. Nowhere else things are as much idealistically presented than by statistics and figures. The book by Jensa Berger from the taz (German newspaper) is an example for that. Here, figures are used to establish a hip, asserted left view of the world. Funny enough, the german journal SPIEGEL recommends both books. We only recommend one!
Die Macht der Familie: Wirtschaftsdynastien in der Weltgeschichte by David Landes, Pantheon-Verlag, 2008 (The Power of the Family: Economic Dynasties in the History of the World)
The middle class, with many family-run businesses, is Germany’s economic model of success. David Landes describes some of these successful businesses in detail, from their foundation until today. Anyone involved in such a business will find lots of stories on how to develop this type of organization.
Von Alkohol bis Zucker by Christian Mähre, Dumont-Verlag, 2010
(From Alcohol to Sugar: Twelve substances that changed the world)
If you found chemistry boring at school, you will find this book on the subject very entertaining and will not be able to put it down. We are a piece of chemistry and some substances named in this book have made us exactly as productive as we are. We recommend this book to anyone with an interest in personal fitness levels and an interest in what lies behind nutrition.
Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century by Lauren Slater, Bloomsbury Publishing 2005
This 2005 science book reads like a thriller and points to the people behind the experiments. The book is particularly poignant where it draws on personal connections to the experiments by such greats in Psychology as Stanley Milgram, David Rosenhan or Leon Festinger
Employer Branding by Florian Schumacher & Roland Geschwill, Hard Cover, 2009, Gabler Publications
In this book, we anticipated the employer branding boom of today. However, it does not elaborate on the EB marketing approach but the painstaking work by those in Human Resources and Management involved in creating a business that employees are happy to recommend to third parties.
Organisation und Intervention: Ansätze für eine sozialwissenschaftliche Fundierung von Organisationsberatung by Stefan Kühl, Rainer-Hampp-Verlag, 2010 (Organization und Intervention: Approaches to a social-scientific foundation for organizational consulting)
Publications To be perfectly honest, we have been fans of Stefan Kühl ever since reading his book “When Monkeys rule the Zoo” in the early 1990s. The current book describes different consulting approaches and their effectiveness. Followers of the “systemic consulting approach” need to be particularly brave when reading this book. Stefan Kühl simply dissects this approach and renders it non-existent. Many a homepage will have to be re-written as a result. His book on “Coaching” is equally valuable. Stefan Kühl is certain to be the legitimate and intellectual successor of Niklas Luhman – apart from the fact that the “systemic” set regards him as a denigrator of his own side. With Ernst Bloch in mind, all we have left to add is that the good thing about the systemic theory is that it produces heretics.
In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak, Random House, London
Never before have we read 900 pages this quickly. “In Europe” is a historical book as well as a history of literature. It should be compulsory reading for any Year 10 and would completely replace any History, German or European lessons. If you have trade dealings in Europe, you should know something about the history of the last 100 years of this continent. This book has been written for eternity.
Verlockungen zur Unfreiheit by Karen Horn (HRSG), Verlag Neue Züricher Zeitung, 2015, (Allurement for bondage; translation by the author)
Karen Horn layed down the management of the Hayek-Stiftung. The confederation tumbled to the right wing. However, at the end she still could publish this book. It is the completion to DIE IDEE DER FREIHEIT (the idea of freedom) from 2008. Here, 99 works are described on 5 pages each and with regard to the idea of freedom discussed (from Francis Bacon to Jürgen Habermas). This book is really readable and inspiring.
Einsteins Jahrhundertwerk by Thomas Bürke, dtv, 2015 (Einstein’s work of the century; translation by the author)
The general relativity theory is now 100 years old – and what did it cause? Without it, we would not have navigation-systems and much more we would be missing today. Thomas Bürke wrote a wonderful update about Einstein’s work – even readable for non-physicists!
Keith Jarrett by Wolfgang Sandner, rowolth, 2015
Roland’s fondness for Jazz and especially for the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim-Heidelberg-Ludwighafen is well-known. Wolfgang Sandner now after the biography of Miles Davis wrote the next Master-Biography. Those, who like Keith Jarred have to read this one!
Staring at the sun – overcoming the terror of death by Irvin Yalom, 2009 Jossey-Bass
In 2015 this book was recommended to us by Friedemann Schulz von Thun on a professional training about life-themes. Irvin Yalom is a psychoanalyst and made the topic of morbidity according to EPIKUR to his therapeutically focus. If you want to stick deeper into the topic resilience this book is a great approach. Again, Frido suggested a wonderfully readable book that is valuable and runs against the noisy mainstream.