10 books every L&D leader needs to read

by | Aug 15, 2017 | Articles, Featured

Last week the world celebrated #BookLoversDay, with #shelfies shared and recommendations given on facts and fiction. To join in the fun, here’s 10 books that stood out to us and were recommended by our community that we think every L&D leader should read.

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1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness

Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler

We are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions that make us poorer, less healthy and less happy. And, as Thaler and Sunstein show, no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way. By knowing how people think, we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society. Using dozens of eye-opening examples, the authors demonstrate how to nudge us in the right directions, without restricting our freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new way of looking at the world for individuals and governments alike.

A note from our team: “We’re recommending this one as a clear call to action on thinking about how people make decisions in the everyday. If you want to enforce positive behavioural changes, the best way is for people to choose that course of action for themselves. This book unfolds simple influencing techniques that will inspire your team to try and shape behaviours in innovative ways.”

Find out more / buy

2. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of … well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking at things.

A note from our team:

“When it comes to understanding how the world goes round, it’s important to look at things from a different angle and understanding the relationships between cause and effect. This book will help you think and look at everything differently as a leader.“

Find out more/ buy

Featured content

La Vie en Rose, does seeing ‘life in pink’ matter?

La Vie en Rose, does seeing ‘life in pink’ matter?

Learning can be defined in many ways, but most psychologists would agree that it is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that results from experience. The three major types of learning described by behavioural psychology are; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. In order for learning to stick and becomes the new normal, all three types require self-driven will. Therefore, how people view the world through their lens matters.

Towards Maturity Learning Health Check season extended to Monday 16 September. Early 2019 results highlight that only 7% of L&D leaders report that their organisation encourages and provides time for reflection*

Towards Maturity Learning Health Check season extended to Monday 16 September. Early 2019 results highlight that only 7% of L&D leaders report that their organisation encourages and provides time for reflection*

By popular demand, the 2019 Learning Health Check season has now been extended until Monday 16th September. There is still enough time to complete your review and revisiting regularly can also help learning professionals to measure progress year on year, highlight areas where improvement is needed and provide evidence to build a business case for change.

3. Learning Technologies in the Workplace: How to Successfully Implement Learning Technologies in Organizations

Donald H. Taylor

Knowledge was once power – difficult to find, slow to transmit and coveted. Now we can access almost the sum total of human information with a swipe of our thumbs. The impact on the knowledge economy has been vast, leaving learning and development (L&D) professionals wondering how to keep pace. Many organizations naturally turn to technology to ensure workplace learning at scale and at speed, but stumble when it comes to successfully deploying and using it. Learning Technologies in the Workplace examines 16 years of learning technology implementations to find the secrets behind the most successful.

Examples in the book from the Hershey Company and BP, airlines, tech companies and manufacturers point to four common factors. Successful learning technology teams all have APPA: a clear aim, a people focus, a wide perspective and a pragmatic, can-do attitude. Learning Technologies in the Workplace gives readers practical pointers for each of these four points, helping them implement and use learning technologies well, with particular emphasis on the essential skill of identifying stakeholders and winning their support.

A note from our team:

“Donald Taylor’s latest book takes a leaf out of our own research – looking at what high performing organisations have been doing to bring about success and replicating the principles. Whether you are starting out in your first strategic role, or a seasoned leader with multiple approaches in your toolkit, this book will inspire you with practical examples of what success looks like when it comes to implementation.”

Find out more / buy

4. The Learning Challenge: Dealing with Technology, Innovation and Change in Learning and Development

Nigel Paine

The landscape of workplace learning is transforming rapidly. The recognition of social and informal learning, the gamification of training, dealing with big data and working with extended enterprise are just some of the challenges L&D professionals face in their work today.

The Learning Challenge helps practitioners to make sense of the impact the latest developments in this area are having on the learning function in their organisations. It has been written to be a core part of any learning leader’s toolkit.

With the help of international case studies and exclusive interviews with a range of high-profile experts, Nigel Paine defines the role of the new learning professional and illuminates the practical implications for creating and implementing an effective, forward-looking learning strategy for the 21st-century.

A note from our team:

“This book from the former head of learning at the BBC offers a great overview of how the learning and development industry is being forced to adapt as the working context changes, whilst also finding its own feet as a profession. Dealing with new technologies and the need for innovation requires a strategic mindset that every L&D leader needs.”

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5. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman

Gallup presents the remarkable findings of its massive in-depth study of great managers across a wide variety of situations.

First, Break All the Rules offers specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job. For instance, the authors show ways to structure a trial period for a new worker and how to create a pay plan that rewards people for their expertise instead of how fast they climb the company ladder. “The point is to focus people toward performance,” they write. “The manager is, and should be, totally responsible for this.” Written in plain English and well organised, this book tells you exactly how to improve as a supervisor.

A note from our team:

“A book on management might seem a little unrelated, but good management leads to a great L&D team. If you want your team to excel, you need to be a great manager and look after your own. This book provides a wealth of variety and insight on the characteristics of high functioning and memorable managers.”

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6. Electronic Performance Support Systems

Gloria J. Gery

A note from our team:

“Recommended by Towards Maturity Supporter Charles Jennings, this book was originally published in 1991. We published articles on it and built on the thinking through our research – but although the field has moved on, the principles remain the same. This book defines some timeless principles behind the usage of technology in the workplace, with a performance-focused lens that keeps it all about business outcomes.“

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7: Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age

Clark Quinn

Existing training and development practices need a major overhaul. Learning and development practitioners and managers must increasingly face the fact that old methods are no longer relevant in today’s tech-savvy world and, in many cases, they simply don’t work. In Revolutionize Learning and Development, you’ll get a straightforward look at how people really learn and get introduced to practical steps for rethinking, redesigning, and re-establishing learning delivery. This book shows you how to take advantage of new understandings and new technologies so you can make a meaningful impact on your organisation.

In four sections, the book lays out crucial background knowledge, conceptual frameworks, and practical steps for transforming learning and development so that it has the greatest return for businesses. Managers, practitioners, and executives will benefit from the illustrations, vignettes, and sidebars that highlight the author’s advice and expertise.

A note from our team:

“Clark’s book is a provocative and compelling case for a rethink of how L&D operates. As an organisation seeking to help L&D make the biggest impact possible on business, we think this book should be in your quiver as both a reference and inspiration for transforming the L&D function.

Find out more / buy

8: Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success

Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking is a new approach to high performance, a means of finding an edge in a complex and fast-changing world. It is not just about sport, but has powerful implications for business and politics, as well as for parents and students. In other words, all of us.

Drawing on a dizzying array of case studies and real-world examples, together with cutting-edge research on marginal gains, creativity and grit, Matthew Syed tells the inside story of how success really happens – and how we cannot grow unless we are prepared to learn from our mistakes.

A note from our team:

“Mistakes really can become your best friend! As someone who loved listening to the audiobook cover-to-cover, I know this book has the potential to completely change the way you look at projects, products, processes and mistakes. You’ll feel inspired to go and look for the things you can analyse and improve on for marginal gains or to stop things going sour again. The stories are interesting and it’s really easy to understand why black box thinking is so powerful.”

For a taste of this book, check out the SlideShare.

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9: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Dan Pink

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.

In Drive, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.

A note from our team:

“The concepts presented in this book and the examples given are a stark contrast to the way L&D teams usually think about luring people into engagement. This book will widen your thinking and challenge you to think about engagement outside the box.”

Find out more / buy

10: Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

Walter Isaacson

Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years – as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues – this is the acclaimed, internationally bestselling biography of the ultimate icon of inventiveness. Walter Isaacson tells the story of the rollercoaster life and searingly intense personality of creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing.

A note from our team:

“Every leader needs to be inspired – and why not be inspired by someone who drove themselves to the very edge of what was possible in order to make a dent in the universe? Whether you’re a fan of Apple’s methods or not, Steve Jobs was an innovator who grew a company culture from the ground up. Check out his biography, or pick another one – it’s about learning from the journey of others.”

Find out more / buy

Bonus! The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures

Erin Meyer

Whether you work in a home office or abroad, business success in our ever more globalized and virtual world requires the skills to navigate through cultural differences and decode cultures foreign to your own. Renowned expert Erin Meyer is your guide through this subtle, sometimes treacherous terrain where people from starkly different backgrounds are expected to work harmoniously together.

Even with English as a global language, it’s easy to fall into cultural traps that endanger careers and sink deals when, say, a Brazilian manager tries to fathom how his Chinese suppliers really get things done, or an American team leader tries to get a handle on the intra-team dynamics between his Russian and Indian team members.

In The Culture Map, Erin Meyer provides a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business. She combines a smart analytical framework with practical, actionable advice for succeeding in a global world.

A note from our team:

“If you’re a global or regional leader looking to gel teams together and collaborate more effectively, this book is for you – you’ll learn helpful techniques and insights about different cultures, and whilst the advice is a little basic at points, you’ll have a few moments of realisation where you’ll understand something that happened in hindsight!”

Find out more / buy

Compare your L&D strategy with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check


La Vie en Rose, does seeing ‘life in pink’ matter?

La Vie en Rose, does seeing ‘life in pink’ matter?

Learning can be defined in many ways, but most psychologists would agree that it is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that results from experience. The three major types of learning described by behavioural psychology are; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. In order for learning to stick and becomes the new normal, all three types require self-driven will. Therefore, how people view the world through their lens matters.

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