Innovation Leadership Reading List: Books that inspired us in unexpected ways

With the holidays nearing, you might finally find time to sit down with a good book. We have compiled our reading list to help you pick one for the long winter evenings. We asked our colleagues to recommend inspirational books for leaders and to explain their choice shortly. Let the selection below expand your mind and bring fresh insights for the upcoming year!

1. Josef Albers: To Open Eyes

At the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale
Frederick A. Horowitz, Brenda Danilowitz

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A wonderful book about the pioneering German painter and Yale teacher Josef Albers who was famous for guiding students through “learning to see.” In everyday life, our Predictive Mind makes us see things the way it thinks they should look. But this is often not their true nature. To Open Eyes means learning to observe, submit and come closer to understanding the true nature of things. It’s a fascinating journey that resonates with us by developing our agency. Since these essential future-ready skills are still not taught in our educational systems, I highly recommend this book to leaders wanting to prepare for the future.

-Thomas Fundneider, Founder & Chief Executive Officer

2. Invisible Women

Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
Caroline Criado Pérez

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In this book, Caroline Criado Pérez demonstrates a “gender data gap” that makes us treat men as the default and women as atypical – from medical research and government policy to technology, the workplace, and the media. A bulk of the data by which our world runs is built on male bodies and male behaviors and so often disadvantages women and their needs. Pérez not only brings together an impressive range of case studies, stories, and research from across the world that illustrates the hidden ways in which women are forgotten but also explains the profound impact this has on us all and how we should address this issue. By taking up Invisible Women, I invite you to dive into a remarkably intelligently written book that hopefully changes how you view the world. 

-Lena Müller-Naendrup, Urban Ecosystems Architect

3. Surfing Uncertainty

Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind
Andy Clark

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Our brains don’t simply detect what’s going on in the world. Instead, what we know about the world begins with internal guesses that prove helpful or viable. Moreover, our sensory systems provide us with information only when we reject such guesses. Sensory input, the author claims, is, therefore, nothing but error signals. It’s a book so beautifully plausible that it will make you skeptical simultaneously. Go read it!

-Oliver Lukitsch, Agency Catalyst

4. Noise

A Flaw in Human Judgement
Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein

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In a perfect world, we would all make rational decisions. But we don’t. Our bounded rationality limits us to making imperfect judgments. Nevertheless, we try to make the best of it. The authors call this a bias. And they introduce us to a new concept of Noise – a flaw in our judgment that’s easy to measure but hard to explain and overcome. For example, how does one judge, using the same rules, grant refugee asylums in five percent of cases and another in eighty-eight? Job assessment results variance is similarly wild. But for implementing a future-oriented strategy, too much Noise is not acceptable. The book offers the first steps for getting around this problem and improving your decision-making – a sometimes disturbing reading with considerable value.

-Tim Benig, CEO of theLivingCore in Germany

5. Who’s in Charge?

Free Will and the Science of the Brain
Michael S. Gazzaniga

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This book has fundamentally changed my view of the human mind. It influenced how I think about what I did in the past, my work in environmental psychology, and even politics. It starts with the very question of free will and its existence. At the very beginning, you will learn that the term “free will” is a misnomer that doesn’t make sense. And that if we want to learn more about the human mind, we need to change the question itself. 

-Michal Matlon, Place & Architecture Psychologist

6. Theory U

Leading from the Future as it Emerges
C. Otto Scharmer

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When this book appeared in 2007, I didn’t yet know what impact it’d have on my work. I just believed that Scharmer was addressing issues ahead of their time. He talked about profound change and transformation, “learning from the future,” and futures literacies. He was dealing with the big challenges of our current time, not yet so pressing back then. And he did it unorthodoxly and holistically. Scharmer gives us an unconventional and inspiring framework for future-oriented transformation and innovation processes that go beyond classic approaches driven by the past. It’s a visionary book built on a wealth of practical examples and stories rather than a scientific treatise. As such, it leaves many open questions (especially concerning theoretical grounding). However, it’s precisely this openness, combined with concrete practices, that makes this book so interesting.

-Markus F. Peschl, Founder & Chief Science Officer

7. The Enjoyable Company

Making Work Work in the Post-Pandemic World
Thomas Fundneider, Oliver Lukitsch, Michal Matlon, Markus F. Peschl, Carina Rohrbach

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We wrote this one. The Enjoyable Company explains why deep enjoyment will be the new management paradigm, why companies should care, and how leaders can make their organizations enjoyable to work for. As you will learn, this doesn’t only impact employee satisfaction but even creativity and innovation themselves! All of that packaged in a beautiful design and hand-bound for an enjoyable multisensory experience.