Reading list heavy rotation

This page shares a current set of books I draw organization talent, change, and leadership thoughts across a range topics like history and economics to user interface design.  Each book has a direct Amazon Associates link for further details.

Here are books, as of November, in play.  I invite you to share thoughts on these books:

1 of 3 — Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz

Toby Elwin, Yes to the Mess, Surprising, Leadership, Lessons from Jazz, Frank J. BarrettFrank Barrett, is an active jazz pianist leading trios and quartets as well as touring the United States, England, and Mexico with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

Frank Barrett, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior at the Naval Post Graduate school and has written and lectured on Social ConstructionismAppreciative Inquiry, Organizational Change, and jazz improvisation and organizational learning.

I have seen him lecture on Miles Davis as a leader, jazz and improvisation and the combination towards organizational change and organizational development.  I paraphrase from the book’s lead in:

How do you cope when faced with complexity and constant change at work? Here’s what the world’s best leaders and teams do: they improvise. They invent novel responses and take calculated risks without a scripted plan or a safety net that guarantees specific outcomes. They negotiate with each other as they proceed, and they don’t dwell on mistakes or stifle each other’s ideas.

This is exactly what great jazz musicians do.

In this book Frank Barrett shows how this improvisational “jazz mind-set” and the skills that go along with it are essential for effective leadership today and draws insights and innovations of jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.

Frank Barrett also taught and certified me in multiple levels of Appreciative Inquiry, along with his contemporary and colleague David Cooperrider.  I have had the pleasure co-facilitating his Miles Davis and “Kind of Blue” leadership lessons and been a participant in other lectures.

Frank is a great person, a great presenter, and a great guide.  Yes to the Mess just came out in August and I look forward to share the journey.  Here is one of his papers Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations: Implications for Organizational Learning.pdf

2 of 3 — Identifying and Managing Project Risk

Organizations that identify and plan project risk ensure resources are available for growth.

project, risk, toby elwin, Tom Kendrick, pmp, project riskRisk is anything that can positively or negatively affect the project. Positive risk frees up resources unexpectedly, negative risk ties up resources unexpectedly. Both present challenges.

The ability to scope, manage, and view a project, from concept to delivery, through a risk lens, presents the essence of organization competitive advantage.

The opposite of project effectiveness bogs down organization capital, both human and financial, through a cycle of change requests that drain human and financial resources and staff motivation who now need to focus how to get a wrong project right.

When you tie up capital resuscitating at-risk projects than capital is not available for investment.

I consider myself a recovering project manager. Yes, project management is a great profession and terrific competence, particularly the Project Management Institute (PMI) certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP), however, a gap (chasm) has revealed itself:

  • One one side: PMI’s feeling the world spins only by the grace of project management.
  • On the opposite side: an all-too-often rash of organizations that appoint project managers as administrative support to keep meetings on the calendar and meeting notes circulated.

That gap between the perspectives is called risk.

As any profession demands maintaining continued education for on-going certification, so too does PMI. There expectation to remain certified presents a need for on-going Professional Development Units (PDUs). My area of chosen focus is risk. My annual lesson plan led me to an Advanced Risk Course and this book was presented in the coursework.

The sub title: Essential Tools for Failure-Proofing Your Project.

Good enough for me to add to my reading list.

3 of 3 — A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough IdeasA More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger - select to open Amazon.com

People are born to inquire and discover. Between the ages of two to five years of age a child asks 40,000 questions. Questions fuel curiosity.

Then we are taught to stop asking, stop seeking, and stop inquiring.

Are questions more valuable than answers?

Warren Berger’s new book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas is an inquiry on inquiry.  The book is outlined, as followed:

  1. The Power of Inquiry
  2. Why We Stop Questioning
  3. The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
  4. Questioning in Business
  5. Questioning for Life

We are so concerned about the answer we have lost the patience for questions.

within the business sector, I found few companies that actually encouraged questioning in any substantive way….many companies— whether consciously or not— have established cultures that tend to discourage inquiry in the form of someone’s asking, for example, Why are we doing this particular thing in this particular way?

Innovation does not exist without questions.

A view of the future begins with questions of the current.

questioning is seen as “inefficient” by many business leaders , who are so anxious to act, to do, that they often feel they don’t have time to question just what it is they’re doing.

And those not in leadership roles frequently perceive (often correctly) that questioning can be hazardous to one’s career: that to raise a hand in the conference room and ask “Why?” is to risk being seen as uninformed, or possibly insubordinate, or maybe both.

Too often we concern ourselves keeping up appearances.

The enemy of curiosity is fear.

questions challenge authority and disrupt established structures, processes, and systems, forcing people to have to at least think about doing something differently. To encourage or even allow questioning is to cede power —not something that is done lightly in hierarchical companies or in government organizations, or even in classrooms, where a teacher must be willing to give up control to allow for more questioning.

Questions challenge authority.

I found my way to this book from my Amazon.com’s Recommendations for You list.  As an Appreciative Inquiry practitioner I know that every question presents a direction.  The challenge is to craft a question that invites participation into what could be.

The very nature of a question invites participation.

So, discover a question to spark more questions.

Recently finished books

The eReader ExperienceAmazon, Kindle, Fire, Touch, DX, Toby Elwin, e ink, tablet, e-readers

I read multiple books at once because I jump from insight to insight and rarely find the mood to just stick with a single topic.  I might read a chapter 2 or 3 times, just to let the idea sink in or germinate through a blog.

I am enthusiastic about Amazon Kindle and the rich ability to store, view, retrieve, and print highlights with your Amazon profile, and to view highlights with others.

I highlight and take a lot of notes. The Amazon Kindle DX 9.7 inch screen is my weapon of choice.  Also, the Kindle app let’s you read on other tablets, computers, or smart phones and keep your library and notes synched.

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