Last year I put a post up about my best reads of 2010, which included the likes of Dan Pink’s Drive and The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely.

This year, I realised that I only had two books that I wanted to highlight and so I decided to tap into the expertise of the rest of the team at GoodPractice to find out what they would recommend.

Below, you'll find our list of the best books on leadership, management and learning and development in 2011.

Adapt by Tim Harford

Every now and then, someone pulls together the strands of many different ideas and research across a wide range of disciplines to create something that makes you go ‘Of course! That’s so obvious!’ And that’s the trick, it’s only obvious after you’ve read it.

At the start of 2010, Dan Pink did that on the subject of motivation with his book Drive. This year, Tim Harford achieves the same feat with problem solving in his book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. In Adapt, Harford describes how problems in complex systems are never solved by clever people coming up with the answer straight away, but through a natural process of trial, error and adaptation.

It’s a truly brilliant book that everyone who ever has to solve a complex problem should know about.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Along with his colleague Amos Tversky, Daniel Kahneman paved the way for a new understanding of human behaviour. Rather than thinking of people as rational machines, Kahneman and Tversky uncovered the foibles and frailty of human cognition that inform so much of our modern understanding of decision making, judgement, risk and behavioural economics.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is Kahneman’s summary of of how we think. It’s a tour de force, and understanding the contents is essential for anyone working in jobs that require an understanding of human behaviour. Luckily, it’s not a dense, technical read and I’ve seen no better description than in the Guardian’s review:

"It is an outstanding book, distinguished by beauty and clarity of detail, precision of presentation and gentleness of manner."


Future Babble by Dan Gardner (recommended by Stef Scott, Editor)

In Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail and Why We Believe Them Anyway, author Dan Gardner takes a critical look at the accuracy of so-called ‘expert’ predictions from across the fields of business, politics, environment and economics. He examines the psychology that explains why people are so compelled to believe and rely upon these predictions, even though they consistently fail.

The New Learning Architect by Clive Shepherd (recommended by James McLuckie, Learning Engagement Manager for Eden Tree)

With so many different learning theories and ideas already in existence, it's often difficult to get excited about a new one. However, renowned learning designer Clive Shepherd provides a rich argument on behalf of the 'new learning architect' concept. Shepherd outlines how learning professionals are failing their clients and customers unless they design environments that allow learners to take advantage of all available opportunities for development, be it formal or informal, or online or offline. Profiles of some of the world's top learning architects help make this a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking must read for anyone working in learning and development.

Nail It Then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahistrom (recommended by Peter Casebow, Chief Executive)

This may not seem like an obvious inclusion, but there is a lot to learn from the evidence based approach suggested by the authors both for organisations and specialist areas such as Learning and Development. If you are looking to stimulate innovation or make sure you are delivering what your customers need then this is the book for you. It's full of counter-intuitive wisdom.

A thought on external memory

I just wanted to share one other thought I had when I compiling this list. When I did this last year, I had to rack my brain to remember when I had read specific books. I asked myself whether I had read Drive in 2010 or before [1], and browse my bookshelves at home as well as the ones at work.

This year was different, because every book I've read has been on my Kindle, or consumed via Audible (the audiobook service from Amazon). I simply had to check through my history on those services to be reminded of the books I had read. It saved me time and was probably a much more accurate process. It was also a really nice way of reflecting on what I've learned over the year, because I read certain books at certain times, which came back to me as I was reviewing them online.

Anyway, those were some of our best reads of the year. What about you?




[1] Luckily that was easy to check because it wasn't released until January 2010