Books for the pragmatic change agent

Books internal change makers should read

Many of you have now read Rebels at Worka book by Carmen Medina and Lois Kelly. But what else should you read if you are interested in doing your bit in making your organisation (or your client’s organisation) fit for this century?

Here are some of my personal favourites. I’m a very pragmatic person so I tend to prefer books that are not pure theory and have real life examples and principles you can apply in practice. Consequently a lot of the books I like tend to draw from social sciences (social psychology, behavioural economics, social network theory etc). If you are introducing an enterprise social network and/or trying to make social collaboration part of every day work in your organisation you can’t go terribly wrong with these.

Practical tips

  • Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan & Chip Heath
    Practical advice for people not very high up in the hierarchy. Probably the best handbook for internal change agents I’ve read so far. Here’s a pretty good six page summary.
  • Made To Stick again by Dan & Chip Heath
    The only communications book you will ever need. Easy to read. Concrete and useful advice that I’ve tested in practice. They use a handy shorthand/model “SUCCESs” that sums up the main points of the book.
  • Buzzing communities by Richard Millington
    This book takes a measurable, hands-on approach to community management that draws from social sciences. No fluff here, just hard facts and practical guidance. You can read more about Buzzing communities here. If you are planning to introduce an internal social network you must understand how to use basic community management techniques.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    For many years I thought this classic book is about manipulating people (in a bad way). When I finally read it I realised it’s actually a book about how to take into account other people’s feelings and perspectives and lead in a co-operative way (and not be a total a-hole). Check out this short one page summary.

Big picture stuff

  • Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
    A colleague calls this “The Book”- and rightly so. It’s a good mix of theory and incredibly inspiring case studies of how different types of organisations have ditched clunky hierarchies in favour of self-organising. It’s not as fluffy and idealistic as it sounds.
  • Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Why certain phenomena take off, and others don’t. And who are the people you need to reach for the change to reach the all important tipping point (they are not necessarily managers!). Read the summary.
  • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    How random, unpredictable events shape our world (if you are familiar with the concept of the responsive organisation then this book should be on your reading list). Check out this super short summary.

Do you have any suggestions for the pragmatic change agent reading list? Something that has either practical case studies or principles that you can apply in practice?

– Virpi

2 thoughts on “Books for the pragmatic change agent

  1. Buzzing Communities is our bible. Will check out Reinventing Organizations 😉 Thanks so much for sharing. I’m a fan!

    • Yes, it’s a great book and rare because it actually combines practical, data driven approach with social science. No fluff – love it.

      Re Reinventing Organizations – not everybody likes the first couple of chapters about the different development stages of organizations. If that’s you – just skip the first chapters or go directly to the case studies (they are eye-opening)!

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