Do you find your best ideas come when you are on holiday?
Ideas need space. As we unwind, our minds wander and connect ideas that were floating around but that we were previously too busy to notice.
When Bill Gates was at Microsoft, he became known for his "Think Weeks" where he would shut off the outside world at a wooded retreat and read all day for a week. Gates knows that reading fuels thinking.
So, if you're lucky to be headed to the beach this summer (or the mountains - or anywhere in between), it's a great time to sit back read, absorb ideas and reflect in a relaxed environment.
You might not have the luxury of 16 hours a day to dedicate to reading but even if you manage a couple of hours a day you can get through two or three books.
Instead of reading entertaining novels, why not dig into some deeper ideas?
I'm going to share some of the books that I've read over the years that have fundamentally enhanced my thinking. If you read any of these, I'd love to hear what you thought...
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, tells the story of his rollercoaster career as a fast growth tech company CEO. He also shares some really important lessons learned. It's a riveting and insightful read, delivered with certainty from a VC who is usually right but will admit when he's wrong.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
We all deal with risk on a daily basis, whether we recognise it or not. This is a thought provoking discussion on uncertainty and probability. Our world does not operate as we like to predict; every so often there are "Black Swan" events that are so unlikely to happen but do.
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking - Oliver Burkeman
This the anti-self help book. Funny, yet with much truth to reveal.
The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness - Dr Steve Peters
Dr Steve Peters helped the British Cycling team to their Olympic gold medal haul by helping them focus on winning psychology. He helps you understand how your mind works and what you can do to to deal with challenging situations. He uses this simple metaphor to explain; we all have a "Chimp" inside our heads as well as our "Human" and a "Computer". He shows us how we can recognise and handle our (sometime troublesome) Chimp .
Kanban - David J. Anderson
Kanban originally started out as production management technique in Japanese manufacturing but it is a great framework to use for software development teams. This book explains why but more importantly explains how to get started.
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters - Richard Rumelt
The subject line says it all. Rumelt is the world authority on strategy. I was lucky to meet him for lunch in 2011 and saw at first hand how insightful a thinker he is. He maps out a framework for strategy and explains it using relevant examples from his decades of experience.
Anything You Want - Derek Sivers
This is a short fun read. Essentially it's a collection of blog posts from Derek Sivers who founded (and later sold) CDBaby. There are some fantastic lessons to be learned here. I admire Derek for having strong convictions of what's right and wrong and how he applied this to business.
Uncommon Wisdom - Fritjof Capra
This is leftfield. I was recommended this book one Sunday morning on our Sunday club ride by a member of my cycling club. It's about the intellectual journey of discovery made by Physicist Frijot Capra in the 1970s that led to him publishing "The Tao of Physics".
The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics - Eric Beinhocker
Of all of the books on this list, this one gave me the biggest step change in my thinking. It explores an alternative view of economics; one that is more aligned with quantum physics, evolutionary theory and behavioural psychology than classical economics. It sounds heavy but it's not; it's a really interesting exploration of how emergent systems work. In short, if you want to understand why our society is the way it is, you'll find this book fascinating.
The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer - Jeffrey Liker
Toyota introduced lean manufacturing to the world with the Toyota Production System. No matter what you think of Toyota cars, this is a fascinating insight into how the Toyota production system came to be and how the company operates. The system is much much more than a production methodology; it's Toyota's culture at work expressed in 14 management principles. Without these (often counter-intuitive) principles the system wouldn't work as well as it does. A real case of the sum being greater than the parts.
I'm always looking for book recommendations, if you have any, please do share!