Curious minds lead to creativity and innovation. Both are the hallmarks of great leadership and entrepreneurs. The guests of our award-winnning interview series Velocitize Talks routinely share their recommendations for books and podcasts, from business classics to creative fiction. Below you will find what Velocitize Talks interviewees are reading and some of their favorites. The breadth and depth of these selected publications showcase the best in curious minds.
1. Cultural Strategy by Douglas Holt
Leigh George, PhD, Founder and CEO, Freedom: “We have a similar idea about branding and that a company can’t just talk about themselves; they have to tap into something that resonates with society.”
Douglas Holt is a cultural strategist and author who has written books on cultural strategies and cultural brands while building a brand strategy consultancy. His theory represents a systematic strategy framework developed over two decades while he was a professor at Harvard and Oxford. “Cultural Strategy” details a strategy playbook for companies to use to further build leadership positions in their categories.
2. Media Post & Digiday publications
Amy Sheridan, Director of Performance Marketing, CBS Interactive: “Since I read pretty much for a living, both for the editorial content and to be great at my job, I’m really into aggregated content rather than one person’s opinion on things.”
Sheridan reads both Media Post and Digiday on a daily basis for unbiased information on what’s going on in the media. Media Post is an integrated publishing site featuring information on the media, marketing and advertising industries. In addition, Digiday is a global news site covering media and marketing, and analyzing technology’s disruption of these industries.
3. Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Shakirah Hill Taylor, VP, Strategic Communication & Digital Strategy, Metropolitan Group: “Right now I’m reading ‘Stamped From the Beginning.’ It’s the definitive history of racist ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. The work I do online allows me to see the impact of information across different communities and how that information, whether it’s accurate or false, impacts those communities.”
Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, this New York Times bestseller “chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history.” According to Forbes, “This book should be on every young leader’s bookshelf. It’s not pretty, but the truth often isn’t.”
4. Gear Patrol
Chad Birenbaum, Creative Director and Co-founder, Duckpin: “I like a blog called Gear Patrol. It has everything: fashion, design, product and tech, so it’s a one-stop shop. I’m a busy guy, so I’m going to go somewhere where I can get everything at once.”
Founded in 2007, Gear Patrol is an award-winning magazine and website dedicated to sharing the latest and greatest products. It also focuses on “seasonal buying guides, maker profiles and long-form dispatches from the front lines of product design.”
5. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns
Jeff Walpole, Co-founder & CEO, Phase2 Technology: “It’s all about the idea of creating this right dynamic with your clients: the power and the struggle for control over the project, the creative, and the deliverables.”
Often described as a cult classic and bible for creative agencies, “Win Without Pitching” by Blair Enns is a book written for creative professionals in order to help them win “more business at higher prices and lower costs of sale.” With glowing reviews by agency owners and creatives alike, the book’s 12 proclamations lay the foundation for running a successful business.
6. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
Jeff Walpole: “It’s all about creating a great culture. It applies to digital or non-digital. The author makes a lot of references to different groups that have created tight-knit cultures often using the same formula. It holds true for anyone who’s running an organization that’s trying to create a great culture and employee experience.”
A New York Times bestseller named one of the best books of the year by Bloomberg and Library Journal, “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle provides leaders with the tools to build a cohesive, motivated culture. The book also “demystifies the culture-building process by identifying three key skills that generate cohesion and cooperation.”
7. The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien
John Prior, Solutions Director, twentysix: “When you’re thinking about the concept of a user, no user represents a single persona. People are different personas at different points in their life.”
One of Prior’s favorite books, “The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien,” tells the story of Irish writer Flann O’Brien. O’Brien was known for picking arguments with himself in newspaper columns using different pen names and a variety of voices. For instance, Prior appreciates O’Brien’s ability to embody different personalities. In fact, he’s used this idea himself when creating user personas. Depending on their role, whether it’s professional or as a consumer, people will have different needs and reactions, Prior says. This is helpful when considering how brands interact with customers and how customers will react.
8. The Like Switch by Dr. Jack Schafer
Jared Mirsky, Founder & CEO, Wick & Mortar: “I’m a huge fan of emotional intelligence. So I’m fascinated by communication because branding and marketing is such a huge communication tool for companies. I also like learning the psychology behind why people buy by body language.”
Mirsky recommends “The Like Switch” by Dr. Jack Schafer, a former FBI Special Agent. Schafer specializes in behavior analysis that details how to influence, attract and, subsequently, win people over. For example, Mirsky notes that sales and marketing aren’t two-dimensional. Understanding the bond between brand and customer requires the tools for how to read people so, in the end, you get them to like you.
9. Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
Adam Wolf, CTO of North America West, Wunderman Thompson: “We can really get tied up in overthinking solutions for people. My philosophy with our technology teams is always, let’s not overthink it.”
Wolf recommends the book “Don’t Overthink It,” by Anne Bogel. As its name suggests, “Don’t Overthink It” offers a framework for making choices that take up an appropriate amount of energy, which can likewise free up time to focus on what matters. Wolf’s takeaway is to guide his team in making decisions, stop second guessing, and find more joy in the process at the same time.
10. Frame Innovation by Kees Dorst
Dan Pankraz, Head of Strategy & Innovation, Leo Burnett Australia: “We take problems at face value and we really don’t look at other analogies of other categories or other systems that have had similar problems.”
Pankraz names “Frame Innovation” by Kees Dorst as an inspirational book that has helped him rethink how to frame a problem through unlocking divergent and lateral ways of problem solving. The book also outlines “how organizations can use practices developed by expert designers to solve today’s open, complex, dynamic, and networked problems.” According to Pankraz, the biggest challenge with innovation today is the amount of literal innovation happening: marginal, incremental improvements on experiences. In other words, bigger changes come from taking a more lateral approach and looking at how other industries have innovated to create something new and revolutionary.
What are you reading? Want to add something to this list? Comment below!