How does the team at Propeller stay relevant and up to date on business strategy? One way is through reading engaging and insightful business strategy books. We asked a few team members to share what they’ve read recently. From practicing self-reflection and identifying motivations to service-based decision making - here are the top five recommended reads for any consultant or leader.
1. "Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration" by Ed Catmull
Team Member Name: Drew Monroe, Marketing Lead
Brief Synopsis of Book: Creativity Inc. offers “an all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and 'Braintrust' sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture."
Why I Picked it Up: I wanted to know the secret sauce of how the team at Pixar pulls off hit after hit!
Why It’s Engaging: From the first page, I couldn’t put this book down. Much like any Pixar movie, the author’s masterful storytelling ability makes you feel like you’re actually sitting in the meetings where all the ideas for the blockbuster hits become reality.
Why Drew Recommends it: If you’re ever tasked with extracting the best ideas to breathe life into an ambiguous project —this book is for you. It’s your playbook for breaking down creative barriers, getting out of your own way as a manager, and empowering the smallest voices to bring out the biggest ideas in an effective manner.
2. “Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Dr. Kristin Neff
Recommended By: Ashley Begley, Consultant
Brief Synopsis of Book: Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind offers expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve your highest potential and a more contented, fulfilled life.
Why I Picked It Up: It was recommended by my career coach
Why It’s Engaging: The book also includes a variety of self-guided reflection exercises that are particularly engaging and helpful.
Why Ashley Recommends it: I would encourage others to consider reading it because this book gives a valuable perspective on why it is important to exercise self-compassion and give yourself (not just those around you) a little grace.
3. "Thinking in Bets" by Annie Duke
Recommended By: Bryan Rogers, Managing Director, San Francisco
Brief Synopsis of Book: Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions as a result.
Why I Picked It Up: Sometimes we make decisions and the outcome is great. Other times the outcomes aren’t great, and we mistakenly assume we made a “bad” decision. Thinking in Bets helps unravel that assumption.
Why It’s Engaging: The book helps add a perspective that there is a lot happening around us that is completely out of our control. And while we should always strive to manage the risks around us, use the best available information, and think five steps ahead, there is no way to “control” everything and so we have to keep that in mind as well when decisions we make don’t work out how we intended them.
Why Bryan Recommends it: There is a lot of luck in decision making, just like gambling, and Annie Duke helps explain how we can be better decision-makers in life and business.
4. "The Four Tendencies" by Gretchen Rubin
Recommended By: Valarie Diggins, Consultant
Brief Synopsis of Book: There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all answer for building a happier, healthier, more productive life. The Four Tendencies reveals the one simple question that will transform what you do at home, at work, and in life.
Why I Picked It Up: Recommended by a friend
Why It’s Engaging: I'm generally interested in personality analysis, but I find many of the categorizations to be reimaginations of zodiac signs. I appreciated that this focused on one observable trait: source of motivation.
Why Valarie Recommends it: I learned so much, I could easily identify the motivation styles of my friends, family, and coworkers based on our interactions. This helped me learn how to encourage them and motivate myself as well.
5. "Uncommon Service" by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
Recommended By: Annie Lyons, Principal Consultant
Brief Synopsis of Book: In Uncommon Service, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss show how, in a volatile economy where the old rules of strategic advantage no longer hold true, service must become a competitive weapon, not a damage-control function. That means weaving service tightly into every core decision your company makes.
Why I Picked It Up: It's actually an "old" book (written in 2012) about a concept that has since been written about a lot - the strategic advantage of customer service/experience.
Why It’s Engaging: I was immediately hooked to uncommon service because of the approach - the authors really focused on encouraging organizations to understand and define how they both differentiate themselves in business and how that drives their bottom line.
Why Annie Recommends it: It is a foundational thought-starter for a lot of the Experience Design work I do today. Uncommon Service advises you to start by knowing what makes you successful before looking for ways to enhance the service/experience. For me, this is a huge revelation as we explore client challenges - if they don't first understand what they do well and how it makes their business successful, as we start to implement change - we risk messing up that secret sauce.
Hope you enjoyed this brief insight into 5 of our "Propellerites". For more good reads, check out our highlighted resources on the Propeller Resource Center.