Management reading list

Here are a few recommendations for managers.

  1. Sowell, T., 1987, A Conflict of Visions, William Morrow
    • Sowell makes a distinction between a constrained (i.e. human nature is stable and based on self-interest) or unconstrained (human nature is good or has the potential to be good) “vision”. He argues that most political beliefs fit into one of these categories, and that people’s judgements are often determined by their existing vision.
  2. Schwartz, Peter. (1997) The Art of the Long View: Planning for Future in an Uncertain World, John Wiley & Sons
    • The pioneer of scenario planning provides a user guide to their construction and use, and demonstrates theur relevance for any decision making under uncertainty.
  3. Postrel, V., 1999, The Future and Its Enemies, Free Press
    • Postrel challenges the conventional wisdom that modern society isn’t delivering, and that we need to take coordinated action to change this trend. Instead, she articulates the case for competition and decentralised decision making, and identifies a “dynamism” world view that permits amazing innovation.
  4. Koch, Charles, G., 2007, The Science of Success, Wiley – especially SoS excerpts
    • This book outlines the concept of “Market-Based Management”, the framework that Koch credits as driving the incredible success of the American conglomerate Koch Industries. It attempts to apply the institutions of a free society and market economy within a firm, and provides an excellent case study on alternatives to hierarchical command structures.
  5. Burlingham, Bo, 2005, Small Giants, Penguin
    • A fascinating collection of case studies of companies that chose to be great rather that big. Most of them may be unfamiliar, but they are all inspirational for their pursuit of excellence as they define it.
  6. Cowen, T., 2009, Create Your Own Economy, Dutton
    • This is an eclectic look at how the internet has affected the way we engage with information. We have more choice, and more ability to cultivate our own consumption that ever before. This caters to people with autistic tendencies, and Cowen not only allows us to understand this condition, but also encourage our inner neural diversity.
  7. Deutsch, D., 2011, The Beginning of Infinity, Penguin – in particular “Optimism” (Chapter 9)
    • In a deep, mind bending work Deutsch argues that the enlightenment was built on the search for good explanations (which is different to attempts to test theories), and claims that a rediscovery of this effort will create the beginning of infinity. He touches upon his expertise as a Physicist to explain famous paradoxes and make a convincing argument in favour of the multiverse.
  8. Ridley, M., 2011, The Rational Optimist, Harper
    • Trade and specialisation have meant that things have never been better, and things will continue to be better provided we remain rational and optimistic.
  9. Poundstone, W., 2011, Priceless, Oneworld – especially the chapters on Prospect Theory and Ultimatum Games
    • Entertaining and accessible overview of behavioural economics and its impact on decision making.
  10. Ries, Eric, 2011, The Lean Startup, Penguin – especially the chapter on batches
    • The classic guide to creating a new organisation under conditions of uncertainty, including practical advice on strategy.
  11. Gleick, J., 2012, The Information, Fourth Estate
    • A somewhat daunting but wholly engrossing history of information, explaining critical innovations such as drum banging, Enigma, through to the internet.
  12. Fisman, R. and Sullivan, T., 2013, The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, Twelve – in particular “What Management is Good For” (Chapter 5)
    • A highly readable explanation for why organisations exist, and a defense of the important role they play in coordinating economic activity.
  13. Leighton, W.A., and Lopez, E.J., 2014, Madmen, Intellectuals and Academic Scribblers, Stanford – especially the chapter on Public Choice theory
    • A scholarly level and yet enjoyable look at how ideas shape the world around us, with excellent examples of times when they can overcome vested interests. The authors identify policy entrepreneurs as key change agents and show how social change occurs.
  14. Skarbek, D., 2014, The Social Order of the Underworld, Oxford University Press
    • One of the very best attempts to study how governance emerges without government. Skarbek presents his academic work on how prisons are organised, cutting across all of the social sciences. He draws upon fascinating fieldwork to explain the role of gangs and destroys many myths about why they form and the functions they serve. This is one of the best contemporary examples of the applicability of economic theory to broad social issues and will change how you think about how people associate.
  15. Weiner, E., 2016, The Geography of Genius, Simon and Schuster – in particular his advice to his daughter
    • A tender travel book that combines affectionate tales of interesting journeys, with a sharp identification of what causes certain locations, at certain points in history, to give rise to outrageous spells of creativity.