book recommendations

Tales from Geeks, Neuroscientists and Originals

3 minute read


If you want to lead, read. We have talked before about why the consumption of books is the best diet for developing as a leader.

You may have some time over Christmas and want an alternative to flicking through the Radio Times or your Private Eye annual. Or you may be making a New Year’s resolution to read more (it’s a good one to make).

Either way, here are three recommendations for stimulating business thinking from books I’ve read this year:

Originals by Adam Grant.

The most interesting business book I’ve read in a while. Adam Grant tells a great anecdote and tickles your thinking buds brilliantly. Read this to get perspectives on things such as:
Strategic procrastination (why some things are better for a pause and a think): At Caffeine we talk about ‘percolation’ as a way of describing this & it’s an  important concept that people like Sheryl Sandberg claim has really altered their way of approaching business.

Why many of the world’s smartest investors including Steve Jobs got it so wrong about the potential of the Segway.If we want to improve our idea selection we shouldn’t look at whether people have been successful. We need to track how they’ve been successful… it’s never the idea; it’s always the execution.” The mention of Segway always makes me think about Ricky Gervais’ brilliant Comic Relief entrance on one…

Why older people can be as innovative as younger ones. This talks about how originals can be young geniuses or old masters. Very appealing stats here for those who don’t squeak into the millennial bracket. Interestingly includes the evidence that ‘older employees tend to submit more ideas and higher quality ideas than their younger colleagues, with the most valuable suggestions coming from employees older than fifty-five.’

Buy it here. and see Adam Grant talking about the surprising habits of original thinkers at Ted.

The Brain by David Eagleman.

Beyond some basic understanding of left and right brain thinking learnt, and then quickly forgotten, at school I hadn’t given much thought to the brain until I was given a copy of this book.  But it’s clear that brain science matters for all of us.

Our brain is the perpetual machinery by which we navigate the world, make decisions and imagine new possibilities.  Understanding the brain better, sheds light on what we accept as true (more pertinent than ever), how we should educate, why we love, how we fight and how to design our bodies for the centuries to come.  It’s a fascinating subject and David Eagleman takes the latest scientific research and turns it into the ‘story of you’ that’s as gripping as any blockbuster novel.

He tackles the big questions such as:

Who am I? – neurally speaking, who we are depends on where we’ve been. All our experiences – from single conversations to our broader culture & upbringing – shape the microscopic details of our brain. Our brain shapeshifts relentlessly, constantly rewriting its circuitry throughout our lives so that our identity is a moving target; it never reaches an endpoint.

What is reality? – Here’s the bombshell:  the world around us, with its rich colours, scents, textures and sounds is just an illusion.  If we perceived reality as it actually is, we’d be shocked by its colourless, odourless, tasteless silence.  Outside our brain, there is just energy and matter. Over millions of years of evolution the human brain has become adept at turning this energy and matter into the rich sensory experience of being in the world.  HOW?  Read the book and find out.

In an nutshell, this is the story of how our life shapes our brain and how our brain shapes our life. If you’re curious and have an appetite for self-exploration, this is the book for you.

Sports Geek: A visual tour of Sporting Myths, Debate and Data by Rob Minto.

As a fan of data and a lover of a good ‘loo book’, this one was right up my street. Written by the FT journalist Rob Minto it’s sharp, insightful and interesting. It covers 20 sports and reading this will turn you into a pub quiz expert and one able to talk knowledgeably about topics such as:

World Cup Woes: Which country’s fans suffer the most? ‘Next time England goes out on penalties… take heart that at least you aren’t supporting Mexico, the Netherlands or the US’

Why Bolt could do Better: A fascinating look at why the fastest man ever has room to improve.

F1: Can it be Fast, Exciting and Safe? – What Minto calls ‘The Trilemma’ of F1 together with ‘How much does Pole Position count’ (it’s less of an advantage than you think).

Interesting to see that like in business you don’t always have to be first but you do have to be fast.

Sports Geek is not technically a strategic business book but it’s a Christmas treat I bet you’ll love and it is a timely reminder of the importance of facts and data in supporting strong opinions. Not everyone lives in a post-truth universe. It’s beautifully laid out as well so I’ve bought several copies for Christmas presents (great last-minute ideas #noneedtothankme #here-to-help).

Hope your Christmas stockings are full of great reads. Please tweet us @caffeinepartner any other good books.


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Sophie Devonshire
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