Influencial Book List

Posted by on Aug 23, 2011 in Book review | 3 Comments
The Inner Fire

The Fire Inspires

There’s an abundance of lists with Agile books out there, the Essential Agile Reading List by Pat Kua, InfoQ Recommended Agile Books, there’s even an AgileBooks blog. I even created a book and link list myself a while ago, but didn’t update it for quite a while… Two good ones have recently been published or updated: Jurgen Appelo sorts 100 books by their ratings on the web, and Yves Hanoulle asked people for personal recommendations.

This (and a book review I wrote this week) inspired me to start on something I’d procrastinated for a while, to list recommended books on People, Business, and Everything Agile… Sounds like another trilogy coming up.

In contrast to the lists mentioned above, this is subjective, personal, and commented. It is not numbered as I don’t have a ranking. I tried to group it, and to give you a sense of the impact each book made on me. This list only contains book I’d rate 5 stars.

The first instalment lists books on Inspiration and Values.

Inspiration and Values

Start With Why—How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

[amazon asin=”1591842808″ template=”simpleimage”] “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” I’ve quoted that quite often since I’ve seen Simon’s TED talk, and am now reading his book. I learned that manipulation (i.e. incentives) works well for single-time transactions, which is why the police offers to pay you for helping them to convict a criminal. But incentives don’t build a relationship, don’t make you believe in a purpose. Dell didn’t succeed with mp3-players because we didn’t believe a computer company would build good ones. Creative was successful with the Zen player—they’d been specialised in music electronics for years. Apple, on the other hand, did not sell so many iPods because they are well-known specialists in that area, nor because they have good marketing (which they do). Apple is successful because we know they think different. They changed the music business because we believe they could. Creative and Dell are examples of companies who sell us WHAT they do (which works reasonably well given they produce something of which we know that’s WHAT they produce). Apple sells WHY. Think different. That leads to two main advantages:

  • they can easily enter a new market and change it, they’ve shown that multiple times, and
  • they create a followership, a level of identification with the company, not only the product, that’s not matched by any WHAT company.

How many Zen-owners or Dell-PC-owners will consider the competition when they buy their next gadget? How many Apple users will not even be remotely interested in the offers of the competition?

Update: I am still reading the book, and while all I wrote above still holds true, there are quite a few things in the text that I greatly disagree with. Simon’s ideas of management and leadership are fairly poor compared to his marketing ideas…

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

[amazon asin=”1594481717″ template=”simpleimage”] Traditional business models are in danger. Three As, Asia, Automation, and Abundance are threats to the way the last century economy worked. If you just compete for price, chances are someone else will do what you do, but cheaper. If your job is repetitive, it might get automated. With so many car models, toothpastes, lawyers, milk producers to choose from, your clients might consider to buy elsewhere. (Note how nicely Sinek’s model fits in here.)

What do you do then? After the farm age, and industrial age, there was an information age. Most big businesses today, including IT businesses, where created and structured and are still led with information age thinking. Many white-collar jobs deal with handling information, and are increasingly replaced by computers… Where does that lead us? According to Pink, this is the conceptual age, the age for artists, designers, where being creative makes a difference.

I love this book because it gives you loads of arguments to tell managers WHY they need to change the way they think.

Drive by Daniel Pink

[amazon asin=”1594484805″ template=”simpleimage”] Motivation to work used to be done with carrots and sticks. That doesn’t work anymore. People need a purpose of what they do (a WHY for the WHAT, does that sound familiar?), they want autonomy to work out for themselves how to do their work, and they need support to achieve mastery in their craft, they want to improve. These three elements drive people to great work.

Pink summarises 50 years of research all over the world, tells inspiring stories, gives lots of examples to back up his case. This book will change the way you think of your workplace. (The ones above will too, I mention it hear because that was the impact it had on me. I told you this was personal, right?)

Linchpin—Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

[amazon asin=”1591844096″ template=”simpleimage”] Indispensable (my review) and simplistic (Jurgen). Read both to decide, both are true for each’s definition of true. Find yours!



Rework by Jason Fried

[amazon asin=”0307463745″ template=”simpleimage”] “Ignore this book at your own peril.” This quote from Seth Godin on the cover says it all, basically. And…

If you want to

  • build a business,
  • make a business more successful,
  • get practical advice on how to grow and stay lean,

read this book. Tip: Most chapters have one or two pages only, with an awesome b&w illustration for each. This makes the book very easily digestable in small, frequent doses. You might need about 5 min to think about each chapter. Don’t read this too fast.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Zsieh (& Zappos Culture Book)

[amazon asin=”0446563048″ template=”simpleimage”] Inspired by a tweet, I ordered the Zappos Culture Book last year. It’s a book that literally radiates CHANGE. You just put it on some table at work. When someone asks what it is, tell them to not touch it. Watch.

Zappos not only sends you their Culture Book for free, they want to make everyone’s contact with the company, including customers, suppliers, guests, a WOW experience. When you order shoes at Zappos, you’ll certainly get them delivered to your door, and you might find a postcard in your box a few days later, saying, “Thank you.” Hand-written.

Tony describes his story in Delivering Happiness. Which for the most part is also the story of Zappos. It’s an amazing read, a good story, and there’s much to be learned from it. Especially if Happiness At Work is something you care about, you want to read this book.


  1. YvesHanoulle
    August 23, 2011

    Thank you.
    Lots of people have asked me to have more info on the books on my list.
    I think the reason why my list is so popular, is because I forced people to only select one book. I think(hope/guess) people only proposed 5 star books.
    What I love most, this list contains books I have not read myself..
    And explains why I should.

    • Olaf
      August 23, 2011

      Thank you:-)
      Much appreciated!

  2. Kathi Bräu
    August 24, 2011

    Schöner und motivierender Beitrag. Danke


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