• Toby Sinclair

10 Books To Help Change Agents Grow

Updated: Feb 6



I have 559 books on my 'want-to-read' list. And it's always growing with recommendations. I'll never read all these books.


Sound familiar?


The challenge. How to decide what books to read.


Start with your goals.


This is an exercise I do every year. I think "How can I create more change personally and professionally?"


I review my reading list to find books aligned to goals. You can read summaries of the books I read last year here


As Change Agents I'm sure we have common goals. Here my goals for this year and books I've researched


Goals:

  1. Developing Better Habits

  2. Creating better content

  3. Developing Creativity

  4. Finding Purpose and Meaning

  5. Working with Complexity

  6. Increasing Productivity

  7. Learning how to teach better

  8. Becoming a better Leader

  9. Developing Senior Leadership Teams

  10. Improving Communication


1. Developing Better Habits


The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson


Habits are the foundation of life and work. You can always improve them. One way to do this is to learn from others. Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur and investor. He's created a big change in the world. This book shares his philosophy, habits and routines.


"Getting rich is not just about luck; happiness is not just a trait we are born with. These aspirations may seem out of reach, but building wealth and being happy are skills we can learn.
So what are these skills, and how do we learn them? What are the principles that should guide our efforts? What does progress really look like?"


2. Creating Better Content


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg


Writing is a powerful way to inspire change. It's why you are here. I'm always developing this skill. This is the book writers always recommend. I'm excited to read it.


For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way.



3. Developing Creativity


Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone


Creativity is a skill I'm always developing. This one was recommended by Steve Chapman at his Mask Workshops.


In this landmark work Keith Johnstone provides a revelatory guide to rediscovering and unlocking the imagination. Admired for its clarity and zest, Impro lays bare the techniques and exercises used to foster spontaneity and narrative skill for actors.



4. Finding Purpose and Meaning


The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran


A book recommended by Naval Ravikant. The description alone intrigues me:


"The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational"


5. Working with Complexity


Design Unbound by Ann M Pendleton-Jullian, John Seely Brown


In 2020 I completed the Cynefin Foundation Training, Read the Cynefin Book and created a set of Organisation Design Principles that embrace complexity. I'm looking forward to continuing my learning in 2021.


Design Unbound presents a new tool set for having agency in the twenty-first century, in what the authors characterize as a white water world--rapidly changing, hyperconnected, and radically contingent. These are the tools of a new kind of practice that is the offspring of complexity science, which gives us a new lens through which to view the world as entangled and emerging, and architecture, which is about designing contexts



6. Increasing Productivity


How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens


In 2020 I created 30 book summaries. My note-taking and summarisation improved dramatically the more summaries I published. I'm hoping to continue improving further in 2021 with the help of this book.


The Take Smart Notes principle is based on established psychological insight and draws from a tried and tested note-taking-technique. This is the first comprehensive guide and description of this system in English, and not only does it explain how it works, but also why. It suits students and academics in the social sciences and humanities, nonfiction writers and others who are in the business of reading, thinking and writing.



7. Learning how to teach better


How We Learn by Stanislas Dehaene


In 2020 I really enjoyed 'Ultralearning by Scott Young'. Learning how to learn is a skill that can help you be successful. It can also improve your teaching.


In How We Learn, Stanislas Dehaene finds the boundary of computer science, neurobiology, and cognitive psychology to explain how learning really works and how to make the best use of the brain's learning algorithms in our schools and universities, as well as in everyday life and at any age.


8. Becoming a better leader


The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier


The Coaching Habit was one of the first books I read about coaching. Michael Bungay-Stainer has a great way of simplifying complex topics. I'm really looking forward to how this compares to the Coaching Habit.


Learn how to confront and quell the three advice monsters that lurk inside us all, and how to resist the seven temptations that can ensnare even the most well-meaning manager.



9. Developing Senior Leadership Teams


Leadership Team Coaching by Peter Hawkins


Helping Senior Leadership teams improve is a big part of my day-to-day role. Therefore I'm always looking for ideas and inspiration to help them improve. I really enjoyed reading Senior Leadership Teams in 2020. This is the next book on my list.


Offering a practical road map with numerous examples, Leadership Team Coaching brings together the latest research to teach how to develop people from disparate groups into high performing teams.


10. Improving Communication


Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel, Jeffrey Fredrick


Everything in organisations revolves around communication. Therefore I'm always looking for ways to improve. I'm excited to explore the lessons shared in this book.


A successful digital transformation must start with a conversational transformation.



©2020 by Toby Sinclair.

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