Think at London Business School: fresh ideas and opinions from LBS faculty and other experts direct to your inbox
by Chip and Dan Heath:
Recommended by Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour
“Switch is a classic book about why we don’t do the things we know we should be doing. The Heath brothers pick up Haidt’s brilliant metaphor about how the human brain works. We have our rational, strategic part that tells us what we should be doing – sitting like a rider on top of the elephant. Unfortunately, the other part of our brain – the elephant – is larger and more powerful, and is telling us what we want to do.
It’s the rider that sets our early morning alarm for a trip to the gym; it’s the elephant that presses the snooze button when the alarm goes off… The challenge is how to get the elephant and the rider going in the same direction. The answer is to shape the path – make the right behaviours a little bit easier and the wrong behaviours a little bit harder.
So whether you are trying to get fitter or looking to transform a major corporation, this framework has practical, invaluable lessons for all of us about how to align the elephant, the rider and the path. We use this as the core text for many courses on change at the school – highly recommended.”
by Stephen King:
Recommended by Pier Vittorio Mannucci, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour
“Step away from his page-turning novels, and dive directly into King’s creative mind. Through his gripping prose, King brings the reader on a journey into the process of creative writing that is also a journey into his career. The book transcends the boundaries of an essay to become an autobiography, but full of the pathos, thrill, and emotions that Stephen King admires and loves.
King shares tips and tricks from his ‘writing toolbox’, but also analyses the ups and downs of his profession with humour, insight, and his usual narrative ability. The book is not only insightful for wannabe writers and anyone who wants to hone their writing skills, but also for any professional and entrepreneur who struggles finding a balance between personal and professional identity.
King retells his journey towards his ‘true self’, through unfinished books, life-threatening accidents, huge successes and disappointing failures. By telling us what he has learned in the process, King provides us with insightful tips on how become better writers, more balanced professional, and happier individuals.”
by John Carreyrou:
Recommended by Andrew Likierman, Professor of Management Practice in Accounting
“If you like a story combining a startup swiftly valued at $9 billion, success and disaster, goodies and baddies, cameo performances from Henry Kissinger and George Schultz plus the thrill of the chase, this book is for you. And it’s all true.
This is the book that won the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, with our very own Herminia Ibarra one of the judges. It tells the story of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. It all started so well… An invention to revolutionise blood testing by making it simpler and cheaper, led by a young entrepreneur, was the business everyone wanted to succeed. The problem was that the invention didn’t work and the story moves from young bright-eyed hopefuls to dark deceit and cover up. No joke, since this is medicine and incorrect test results are deadly serious.
Enter the author as investigative journalist and the result is rather like All the President’s Men (Watergate) in white lab coats. You can see why the journalists loved it. You can guess the end, but it still reads well. An undemanding romp for the holidays and the Penguin paperback has just come out.”
by Adam Hochschild:
Recommended by Tammy Erickson, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Every so often, I read a book that leaves me wondering how I’ve lived so long and never really understood a certain event or time in history. King Leopold’s Ghost is one of those mind-shifting books.
This is a historian’s account of the Belgian king’s actions in the late 1800’s: a genocidal plundering of the Congo that resulted in 10 million deaths, while simultaneously cultivating a humanitarian reputation throughout Europe.
Much of the story is told from the perspective of single individuals who went to the Congo for work or adventure and unexpectedly stumbled upon a holocaust. Their brave and tenacious efforts to make the world aware of what was happening in Africa is as gripping as any novel.
Although one portion of the terrible tale was told in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this book broadens the story, bringing together many more, often untold threads. You’ll find yourself reflecting on both the larger issues of societal perceptions and our collective willingness to diminish our awareness, trading conscious for economic advantage, and the individual acts of observation and courage.
And, lest you be put off by the serious topic, be assured that the book is very readable. Hochschild writes with wit and a true sense of character. Among other awards, he received the Mark Lynton History Prize for King Leopold’s Ghost, given for the book that best combines “intellectual or scholarly distinction with felicity of expression.” It’s well worth reading, if for no other reason than to marvel at Hochschild’s skill.
by Alberto Savoia:
Recommended by John Mullins, Associate Professor of Management Practice
Nobody changes the world more than entrepreneurs, whether that means inventing automobiles instead of faster horses (Henry Ford); putting computing technology on desks instead of on the floor (Steve Jobs) – and then in our pockets as smartphones (Jobs, again); creating mobile wallets in Kenya (Nick Hughes, M-PESA); and more.
But the “Law of Market Failure” reminds us that 70-90% of new products and new ventures fail. What, then, are would-be changemakers to do to improve upon these dismal odds? v Alberto Savoia’s new book provides a proven set of tools to flip those odds. Citing examples of companies that built The Wrong It (New Coke, the Ford Edsel, and more), he argues that it’s vitally important that you “make sure you are building The Right It before you build it right.” Savoia, the first Director of Engineering at Google, says the key to doing so lies in his notion of “pretotyping”, that is, creating an artifact that precedes a prototype and facilitates the gathering of Your Own real-world Data (YODA) that indicates whether one’s new venture idea is likely to be The Right It – or not.
“But isn’t that a prototype?” one might ask. Prototypes, Savoia points out, exist largely to determine whether an idea for a product or service can be built, how, what’s the best configuration, and so on. A pretotype, on the other hand, is intended to validate, quickly and extremely cheaply, whether an idea is worth pursuing in the first place.
Chock full of examples of sometimes brilliant, sometimes goofy ideas (Second Day Sushi, anyone?), this practical and easy-to-read book should be required reading for every aspiring entrepreneur.
by Linda Yueh:
Recommended by Linda Yueh, Adjunct Professor of Economics
“It’s rather awkward to recommend one’s own book but when asked to suggest a book about leadership, what came immediately to mind were the great economists – ranging from Adam Smith to contemporary thinkers such as Robert Solow – who contributed to the big debates of their day.
For instance, the arguments of classical economists such as David Ricardo, the father of international trade, helped to change the dominant mercantilist ideology that believed that countries should aim for trade surpluses and implemented protectionist policies such as the Corn Laws to achieve that aim. The Corn Laws imposed high tariffs on imported grains that protected the profits of landowners.
The economists who argued for the repeal of the Corn Laws, which finally happened in 1846, changed our world. After an acceptance of Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage that stressed that countries should specialise and trade with other countries, it ushered in a period of globalisation that together with industrialisation led to prosperity.
The greatest economists throughout history weren’t just focused on narrow questions but provided expertise and leadership on the big issues of the day. They provided the sort of expertise that changed the society in which we live. As leading experts in their fields, they were shaping the debates that matter. And that’s what leadership is about”