Reads for the Head and Heart, November 2022


Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan (2019)

So much writing in the space of business and strategy just seems to recycle the same information in a slightly different package. Aaron Dignan enters this world as a disruptor. He doesn’t just want to change the way we think about strategy; he wants us to change the way we think about the workplace entirely. In Brave New Work, he proposes a radical and dynamic approach for creating real, consistent, and participatory change in organizations. His guiding principles are that the new work needs to be people-empowering and complexity-aware, and he develops these themes over twelve elements of what he calls the operating system of any organization: Purpose; Authority, Structure, Strategy, Resources, Innovation, Workflow, Meetings, Information, Membership, Mastery, and Compensation. Not only did I enjoy this book, but it’s changed the way I think about organizational change.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Organizational Change
  • Business
  • Strategy
  • Community
  • Emergence

My Rating: Premise 10, Intrigue 10, Information 10, Authority 10, Responsibility 10, Success 10, Structure 10, Writing 8, Enjoyment 10, Impact 10: TOTAL: 98

Special Project on Business Strategy and Risk:

  • Strategy Planning for Non-Profit Organizations, 3rd ed., Michael Allison and Jude Kaye (2015), 74: I really liked the premise of this one, since the non-profit setting is one that is generally not the focus for this type of book. I think the framework they present is also valuable. My main complaint, and why it gets a middling rating from me, is that it presented the whole framework twice before expanding on it, and the expansions, while lengthy, didn’t feel like they added much. So, I was really into it for the first 20% or so but then lost interest pretty quickly. (Non-Profits, Strategic Planning)
  • The Light and Fast Organisation, Patrick Hollingworth, 2016, 77: It’s hard to make a statement — especially in such a crowded field — without having a great hook, a big, bold guiding image to capture the audience’s attention. This book definitely has this and this is directly tied to the book’s strengths and weaknesses. Hollingworth’s guiding image is taken from mountain-climbing, specifically the ability of small, independent, bold teams to achieve significantly better results than the traditional expeditionary approach. It’s a great metaphor for the emerging business climate and it works well. Unfortunately, he gets a bit carried away with it, and at times it felt more like a mountaineering guidebook than a book on business strategy! Well-worth reading, but you can safely skim a significant amount. (Business, Strategy, VUCA, Risk, Mountaineering)
  • Fad-Free Strategy, Daniel Deneffe and Herman Vantrappen (2020), 72: For me this was a case of a book’s title framing it poorly for what it delivers. It is less about strategy per se than about specific types of strategy in businesses focused on markets and competition. I found very little of benefit for my non-profit context. I’m sure were I needing the particular type of strategy the book talks about it would be beneficial and my rating higher. I don’t like rating a book poorly because I’m not the intended audience, but am I comfortable doing so when I feel the title positions it incorrectly. (Business, Strategy, Markets)
  • How to Decide, Annie Duke (2020), 62: This guide to decision-making failed for me because it only really deals with one kind of bias — the hindsight fallacy. Good decisions need more scrutiny than this accounts for. (Decision-Making, Risk, Probability)
  • Stragility, Ellen R. Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand (2016), 89: Please see my November 19 post for my review.
  • Stand Out, Dorie Clark (2015), 79: Please see my November 26 post for my review.
  • Agile, Harvard Business Review (2020), 85: Please see my November 19 post for my review

Monthly Roundup:

  • Beyond Worship, James Admans, ed. (2022), 85. This is a touching collection of theological reflections and liturgical pieces written by queer folk of different backgrounds, identifications, and faith traditions. There is much to be gained from the breadth that is included here, but the trade-off of this approach is a certain lack of internal cohesion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a choice whose consequences I felt as a reader. On the whole, I appreciated this collection and it provided some lovely food for thought. (LGBTQ2S+, Spirituality, Christianity, Own Voices, Liturgy)
  • The Deeply Formed Life, Rich Villodas (2020), 75: This is a sort of ‘Christian spirituality 101’ for an intended Evangelical audience. It does a pretty good job of that, presenting some aspects of spirituality that will likely be a needed challenge for that audience. I’m not sure it has much use beyond the explicitly Evangelical (and especially American Evangelical) world, however. And, as someone who thinks in systems, I would have appreciated more intention in terms of why he chose the areas of focus and practices he did. How do they fit into the bigger picture of Christian spirituality? If they don’t capture the whole thing (and how could they!), why did he choose these and not others? (Christianity, Spirituality, Evangelicalism, Sacred Practices)
  • God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu (2013), 90: If The Deeply Formed Life was a B-grade version of ‘Christian spirituality 101’, this older title from Ken Shigematsu is the A-grade version. It is clear, full of ideas, and provides a very helpful framework for describing what a comprehensive and personalized Rule of Life could look like in a contemporary setting. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to integrate their spirituality and daily life, or for priests and pastors looking for Christian education tools. (Christianity, Spirituality, Rule of Life, Sacred Practices)
  • The Rule of St. Benedict: An Introduction to the Contemplative Life, Philip Freeman, trans. and ed. (2020), 81: This is a great, highly accessible new edition and translation of the classic sixth-century community ground rules for monastic life. It’s not particularly applicable for daily life unless you’re contemplating taking on a vocation within a Western Christian monastic setting, but it’s a fascinating resource for understanding what monastic life entailed at the start of the medieval period. (Spirituality, Christianity, Monasticism)
  • Human Permaculture, Bernard Alonso and Cecile Guiochon (2020), 84: Please see my November 26 post for my review.
  • Finding the Mother Tree, Suzanne Simard (2021), 76: Please see my November 26 post for my review.
  • Restoring the Kinship Worldview, Four Arrows and Darcia Narvarez (2022), 80: Please see my November 19 post for my review.
  • The Enchanted Life, Sharon Blackie (2018), 71: Please see my November 19 post for my review.

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