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Gary Hamel selects 10 inspiring reads

Gary Hamel, Visiting Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at LBS, selects writings that have inspired him.

By Gary Hamel 20 October 2015

Gary Hamel, Visiting Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at LBS, selects writings that have inspired him. “These books challenge us to rethink how we lead, manage and organise,” he says. “They’re not all new, but they’re all profound.”

gary hamel books

1. The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric S Raymond, 1999

This bible of open source software offers inspiration for all who argue the case for transparency as the best way forward for innovation – and mankind. The book’s tone and substance is included in its subtitle – ‘Musings
on Linux and open source by an accidental revolutionary’. Raymond observed the development of Linux and used some of the ideas in his own project, Fetchmail. Among the 19 ‘lessons’ on offer are: “If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you”; “Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers”; and “The next best thing to having good ideas is recognising good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better”.


2. The Age of Heretics, Art Kleiner, 1996

Art Kleiner is editor of the magazine Strategy+Business. In The Age of Heretics (a second edition came out in 1998) he takes a unique journey into the evolution of management in the post-war era. The heretical figures include W Edwards Deming, the American statistician who is often credited as the inspiration behind the Japanese quality revolution; and other colourful and influential characters. Essentially, it provides the human and intellectual context for modern management and the ideas that drive it, from re-engineering to the learning organisation. 


3. Here comes everybody, Clay Shirky, 2008

Group dynamics have always held an interest for organisations. The mobilising of workers and customers is core to the capitalist endeavour. The internet has brought new possibilities. Clay Shirky’s ground-breaking book traces the dramatic development of modern phenomena including Twitter and Wikpedia and the rise of “mass amateurism”. No other book manages to smartly link the Nobel prize winning economist Ronald Coase and James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.


4. Employees First, Customers Second, Vineet Nayar, 2010

At the Indian company HCL, Vineet Nayar led a managerial revolution. As the title of his book suggests, he turned conventional wisdom on its head and put employees centre stage rather than granting them occasional walk-on parts. The irony is that customers are the major beneficiaries of this arrangement. In doing so, he raised fundamental questions about the relationship between employer and employed, as well as the role of management. The book, says Nayar, “takes a chip out of the marble façade of the office of the CEO”.


5. The Shift, Lynda Gratton, 2011

London Business School’s Lynda Gratton has produced a steady stream of thoughtful books whose impact has grown with each publication. The Shift celebrates and alerts us to the new realities of work. The future of work, once described by futurists and commentators, is now a reality. This is thanks to the cumulative and continuing power of technology, globalisation, demography and longevity, society and energy resources. Gratton describes a world of work where we are moving from being generalists to serial masters; isolated competitors to innovative connectors; and from voracious consumers to impassioned producers.


6. Beyond Empowerment, Doug Kirkpatrick, 2011

‘Empowerment’ was one of the business buzzwords of the 1990s. It imagined a corporate world in which people would be granted the power they craved to improve personal and organisational performance. Kirkpatrick, director of the Association for Talent Development (with 40,000 plus members), cut his empowering teeth at the Morning Star Company in the food industry. This experience serves as the base material and inspiration for Beyond Empowerment, with empowerment reinterpreted as practical management rather than flaky theory.


7. The Power of Pull, John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, 2012

“Institutions will be shaped to provide platforms to help individuals achieve their full potential by connecting with others and better addressing challenging performance needs,” summarise the authors. This is a guide to the new technology-led age where information flows liberally and globally. It is notable for its range of examples from the famed Hong Kong-based outsourcer Li & Fung to Maui surfers. 


8. Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia, 2013

Mackey is co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and Sisodia co-founder of Conscious Capitalism Inc. Their book offers a wholesome and timely take on the modern corporation. It argues the case for organisations to have a higher purpose beyond profit maximisation with stakeholders being integrated and leadership and culture consciously considered and applied. 


9. Every Good Endeavour, Timothy Keller, 2012

The spiritual and religious element to work has been largely overlooked during the last century. The 20th century saw the rise of the great management-led corporation. It was largely a spiritual-free zone. Keller’s book aims to redress the balance by providing Christian responses to fundamental questions about why we spend so much of our time and energy at work. It is the gospel at work.


10. The Open Organisation, Jim Whitehurst, 2015

The CEO of the open source software company, Red Hat, Whitehurst sounds the clarion call for authenticity, transparency and openness in our organisations. His book can be read as a practical field-book to accompany the peons of praise to open innovation written by the likes of Henry Chesbrough et al. Preaching from a practitioner, this book has been described as the “business book of the year”.

Comments (2)

Roland 2 years, 10 months and 5 days ago

Thanks Gary. It is a real inspiring list with a lot of value. Try to get some for Christmas.

Mlbllrd 2 years, 11 months and 13 days ago

Thank you for the list Gary. These look like a great list to read and re-read in order to keep our businesses moving forward in a responsible way.