9 Future of Work Books You’ll Wish You’d Read

Future You will thank Past You

As author David S. Rose once said, “Any company designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st.” To take on the challenges of the future, we need to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Start here. Below, you’ll find a tightly-curated selection of nine books that represent our favorite approaches to the future of work — from organization design, to leadership, to social media and digitalization, to everyday tools and habits.


1. Reinventing Organizations: An Illustrated Invitation to Join the Conversation on Next-Stage Organizations by Frederic Laloux and Etienne Appert (2016)

‘Reinventing Organizations’, published in 2014, has triggered a movement around the world for more soulful businesses (including a spin-off ‘teal newsletter’ called Enlivening Edge, a wiki and a forum). This 150-page illustrated version conveys the main ideas of the original book and shares many of its real-life stories in a lively, engaging way. Its most famous case study is Buurtzorg, the Dutch healthcare organization with over 9,000 self-managing nurses whose model is now being replicated all over the world.

Available at reinventingorganizations.com and Amazon.

2. What’s the Future of Business? by Brian Solis (2013)

This book sets the scene for the future of business beautifully. It’s packed full of quotes, actionable customer insights, models and thought provokers covering everything from social media to the hero’s journey. Solis’ writing style is dynamic and compelling which makes it an enjoyable book to pick up and dive into whenever you’re craving some inspiration.

Available at WTFBusiness.com and Amazon.

3. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan (2016)

What if instead of just developing high-potential employees or booking annual off-sites, an organization actually centered around the opportunity for every single individual to grow? This book details a selection of practices from organizations who have done just that and have been remarkably successful as a result. They’re called DDOs (or Deliberately Developmental Organizations) and at their core are three elements the authors refer to as ‘Edge’ (developmental aspirations), ‘Home’ (developmental communities), and ‘Groove’ (developmental practices). Includes some useful exercises and templates you can use to work on the development of yourself and your organization.

Available at Waytogrowinc.com and Amazon.

4. The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash A Culture of Innovation by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless (2014)

As the Aristotle quote goes, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Don’t be put off by the 1980s textbook vibe — this book curates 33 east-to-use structures to help reinvent how we run meetings, brainstorms and other discussions. Each one allows you to be clear on purpose, tap into the collective intelligence and creativity of a group, and leave feeling you’ve actually accomplished something! Take the leap and start experimenting.

Available at Liberatingstrutures.com and Amazon.

5. Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) by Salim Ismail (2014)

An Exponential Organization is one that is able to scale and impact the world significantly better, faster and cheaper than traditional organizations. Salim Ismail unpacks how companies like Uber and Airbnb have succeeded by leveraging alternative ways of organizing and exponential technologies. To get a taste, check out this SlideShare.

Available at exponentialorgs.com and Amazon.

6. Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea by Chuck Blakeman (2014)

Blakeman’s provocative style makes for an entertaining read and his message about moving from the Industrial Age to the Participation Age is serious and profound. Here’s his TED talk on the subject. As he puts it,

“The fundamental flaw in the “manager as a solution” mindset is simply that people need to be managed. They don’t. They need to be led, and the difference is not semantic — it is gigantic.”

Available at whyemployeesarealwaysabadidea.com and Amazon.

7. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal (2015)

To defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, General Stanley McChrystal realized he had to restructure his task force from the ground up on the principles of extremely transparent information sharing (what he calls “shared consciousness”) and decentralized decision-making authority (“empowered execution”). An eye-opening read.

Available at mcchrystalgroup.com/teamofteams and Amazon.

8. 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era (2012)

Our brains are wired to be social and social media is so much more than just technology. This book is a joy to read and offers actionable, well-researched insights to help you create value for your customers and employees in the Social Era.

Available at nilofermerchant.com/library/socialera/ and Amazon.

9. Perspectives on new work: Exploring emerging conceptualizations edited by Esko Kilpi (2016)

Finnish futurist Esko Kilpi has skillfully curated snapshots of the future of work from multiple authors and thought leaders. It explores ranging topics from blockchain to learning to reinventing capitalism. As work futurist Stowe Boyd says in the foreword,

“The new architecture of work is right before our eyes: it’s not hiding in some distant future. What remains to be done is change in the social dimension: the realm of contracts, habits, and, yes, even of hearts.”

PDF available to download via this link.

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