Our book picks for 2021

In our book picks for this year, we honour those who helped us shift – our mindset, our thinking and our actions, in this extraordinary time in human history, and the many people who participated in bringing these contributions to life, for us to enjoy and learn from.

This year, we include not only newly published books but have added a special (bonus) pick, from a decade ago, recognising how the past can provide some of the most insightful and practical ways of sustaining growth and innovation.

There were many wonderful books which we considered for this year’s list. We could not include them all. Here are the ones which touched our minds (and hearts) the most.

I hope you find them useful.

1. Aftershocks & Opportunities 2
The first book in this series was published in 2020 and now, a year later, the next compilation of essays in the fast future series is out, and what a good read it is. It provides a glimpse into the ideas, insights, provocations, scenarios, and potentially challenging possibilities, which are emerging around us and how innovation is driving us towards a future of design. From the recovery in specific economic sectors to artificial intelligence, from digital mindsets to connected communities – all within our grasp.

2. Winning the right game
As ecosystems shape the way in which value is conceived and is delivered, tackling our strategic challenges require  us to ask new questions. Prof. Ron Adler reminds us that ecosystem disruption entails not just “becoming digital” but rather mastering what comes next – and the questions we choose to ask can make all the difference.

3. Impact Players
How do we turn our challenges and setbacks into opportunities and realise something more valuable in the process? Liz Wiseman takes us on a journey, meeting the many people she has come to recognise as impact players. From paying attention, to finding new places to put new capabilities to work, she reminds us that we can bring creativity and joy into creating impact. 

4. Facilitating Breakthrough
In this latest book from Adam Kahane, we are taken into the art of facilitation where it is most transformative, where we must tackle challenges that have historical roots and are deeply embedded. He shares with us how we can get diverse groups unstuck, both within organisations and beyond – in sectors, communities, and societies, and move forward together. 

5. Creative acts for curious people
For Sarah Stein Greenberg, the executive director of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, better known as Stanford’s, this book has been a labour of love and years in the making. It is a gem, as she gathered some of the most fascinating and useful assignments from the transformative classes of the, inviting us to discover our creative confidence, the potential inside of us, yet to discover. Learning to undue the mindsets that limit us, she outlines some of the design methods that help us to step into creative, meaningful work.

6. Backable: 
In a world facing the great resignation, many more people are asking this very question – what makes people take a chance on us, back our ideas and support our ventures? Whatever challenge we commit ourselves to, this book provides clear insights into not only building trust but the backing we require for new ideas to come to life.

7. The end of bias
In this book, Jessica Nordell examines not only the deeply-ingrained reasons for the existence of bias, but the solutions, the ways that we can open our minds (and hearts to follow) to experiencing a shared humanity. Drawing on neuroscience as well as social science, she takes us to the edge of our known ecosystem – where two or more ecosystems meet. This is a generative space where we learn to continually question our deeply held beliefs and find better, more equitable solutions.

8. The Business of Belonging
As many of us discovered in recent times, beyond our professional roles, we are community builders and, at the heart of community building is a connection to people. Beautifully written, practical and offering insights to the many aspects of building a community, a tribe, a place where people can practice the business of belonging. A worthwhile read 

Bonus: The great reset
 Richard Florida’s book was written in the aftermath of the 2008/9 financial crisis. As we look backward to draw valuable lessons for the future, Richard offers us no set formulas or a menu for the recovery. Rather, a reminder that periods of crisis give rise to new epochs of great ingenuity and inventiveness. Guiding us through the peaks and valleys of transformation, we find the seeds of innovation and entrepreneurship, and how these can unfold to create immense value, over time. The Great Reset is not as much about how an economy rebound, rather how an economy is remade, and our role in that transformation.

I am curious to know…which have been you favourite books of this year? Which helped you shift perspective, may have inspired you or strengthened your resolve to take action, where it matters most?