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5 incredible books that will turbocharge your imagination

20th Aug 2016


Lately, I have been fascinated by stories of executives at the heights of their industry writing about their personal experiences. Whether it’s having the dream to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, aiming to understand more about China’s growing middle class, or chipping away at what makes an app so frustratingly addictive, these are some recommendations from me to you.

Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration — Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios

Ed Catmull has a fascinating story to tell. He has worked with some of the most remarkable people in the world, including Steve Jobs and George Lucas, and continues to steer the ship of one of the world’s most creative companies: Pixar.

Key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to have a big, bold, near-impossible sounding dream. It may take 20 years, but what’s 20 years in the scheme of things, and what do you do after you have actually achieved it?

Work Rules! A practical guide to help people find meaning in work and improve the way they live and lead — Lazlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google.

Lazlo has been involved with hiring thousands of staff for Google. The HR team needed to find solutions to cope with the company’s meteoric rise, which included creating systems that would allow the company to identify and attract the most competent hires.

Key takeaway: Human beings are biased. If an organization truly seeks to hire the most qualified people, it’s important to keep these hidden biases in check. If you want to hire the best, you must strive to create safeguards in your organization to evaluate people fairly.

Zero to One — Notes on startups, or How to build the future — Peter Thiel, Co-founder of Paypal, renounced investor

Peter Thiel discusses his journey co-founding Paypal and working closely with Elon Musk, and Reid Hoffman.

Key takeaway: Monopoly profits are the best kind of profits and all happy companies are the exception, not the rule. It’s better to dominate a captive market than to try and eek out small bits of marketshare elsewhere.

Hooked — how to build habit forming products — Nir Eyal, Consultant, Tech Writer, and occasional instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School

Hooked walks you through the psychology of habits. If you’re building a new app, for example, this book is a step by step guide to creating a positive feedback loop and keeping your users happy — and most importantly, coming back.

Key takeaway: If you understand what drives a habit, you can create better experiences and keep your customers coming back.

The Hooked Model: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, Investment

What Chinese Want —Culture, Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer — Tom Doctoroff, J.W.T Shanghai’s former CEO

China’s middle-class, equivalent to ten times the population of Australia, is changing the power balance of the global economy. We can benefit from learning what forces influence these trends.

Key takeaway: Chinese consumers have distinct patterns of purchasing behavior. As China becomes more influential, these traits will manifest themselves more broadly, particularly in prominent business deals (like real estate and technology) and the emergence of global Chinese brands.

These books have helped to shape my understanding of topics ranging from creativity in the workplace, understanding the modern Chinese consumer, to keeping hidden biases in check. As a Consultant, I want to continually improve by striving to understand the complexity and challenges faced by our candidates and clients.

Please feel free to get in touch with me if you want to geek out and discuss any of the books on this list!

You can find me on Twitter here: @nzieber