• I take 15 minutes to explain what is in a book and discuss the content
  • Attendees apply the thinking to their business, customers, clients, or staff
  • This generates a minimum of 10 ideas per book
  • Repeat 6-10 times and you have 60-100 ideas to stimulate the business
  • 300 books to choose from


The Ideal Team Player – Patrick Lencioni

The one sentence summary

There are three essential virtues that make someone the ideal team player: being humble, hungry and smart.


  • There are three essential virtues that make someone the ideal team player: being humble, hungry and smart.
  • You can plot everyone on a Venn diagram examining these qualities, and the ideal team player has a combination of all three, most of the time.

Humble: humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute.

Hungry: these people are self-motivated and diligent.

Smart: these people demonstrate common sense when dealing with others (it’s not the same as intellectual smartness).

  • Things start getting interesting when you look at people with only one or two of the attributes (see charts). Those with just one are fairly easy to spot:

Humble only = the pawn, who often gets left out

Hungry only = the bulldozer, who often annoys everyone else

Smart only = the charmer, with great social skills but low contribution

  • Those with 2 out of 3 are much harder to spot:

Humble and hungry = the accidental mess-maker, unaware of their effect on people

Humble and smart = the lovable slacker, only does as much as asked

Hungry and smart = the skillful politician, out for their own benefit


  • The technique can be applied to hiring new staff, assessing current employees, developing those who are lacking in one or more of the virtues, and embedding the model into an organization’s culture – the book explains how.
  • Looking carefully at the use of language and the degree to which you pursue lines of inquiry can make a huge difference to the imperfect interview process, as can proper pursuit of references.

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” C. S. Lewis


  • Identifying people as these types shouldn’t be done flippantly. Wrong labelling can be very damaging.
  • Especially don’t assign labels to people who are relatively stronger in one of the three areas – they must significantly better or worse at each trait.
  • Managers also need to be intelligent about how, or whether at all, they use these terms with employees.








Smarter Faster Better – Charles Duhigg

The one sentence summary

It is possible to work smarter, faster and better by improving motivation, goals, team dynamics, decision-making, and the assimilation of data.


  • This is all about the secrets of being productive. There are eight main reasons why good companies and people get things done:

1.    Motivation: make choices that put you in control

2.   Teams: manage the how, not the who

3.   Focus: envision what will happen and plan for that

4.   Goal setting: choose stretching ambitions and break down into sub goals

5.    Managing others: push decision making to whoever is closest to problems

6.   Decision-making: envision multiple futures to plan ahead

7.   Innovation: recombine old and new ideas (90% of the most creative ideas include ideas previously mentioned somewhere else – from a database of 17.9m manuscripts. Innovators are actually intellectual middlemen.)

8.   Absorbing data: when encountering new information, force yourself to do something with it. This is best achieved by disfluency – engaging thoroughly with it, which is harder at first. Inability to do so is called information blindness.

  • Follow the engineering design process: define the dilemma; collect data; brainstorm solutions; debate approaches; experiment


  • The most successful people have an internal locus of control – a belief they can influence their destiny through their choices.
  • Cognitive tunnelling causes people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of them, rather than what really matters.
  • Always ask why you are doing something. If there’s no good reason, don’t.
  • People who take notes on laptops generate twice as many notes as those who write things down, but the hand writers score twice as well in subsequent tests because they absorb and remember more.
  • A little disturbance is the best way to get creative results – not too much, not too little.
  • Teams need to believe that their work is important; to feel their work is personally meaningful; clear goals and defined roles; to know they can depend on each other; and…
  • Psychological safety – this is a shared belief that the group is a safe place for taking risks – the opposite of a blame culture.
  • Creating mental models helps us predict what might happen and cope better – having a hypothesis about how things work reduces surprises.
  • Company cultures fall into 5 categories:
  1. Star: elite hirings and lots of autonomy
  2. Engineering: very technical, with few stars
  3. Bureaucratic: everything spelt out & thick layers of middle management
  4. Autocratic: similar, but with all goals dictated by the CEO
  5. Commitment: working happily for one company for life, because the culture is right (these companies are consistently the most successful)


  • The interwoven narrative examples are sometimes more akin to a novel than a business book.
  • The practical advice at the end is a bit muddled and doesn’t follow the chapter sequence.







The Organized Mind – Daniel Levitin

The one sentence summary

Shift the burden of organizing to the external world, thereby freeing up thinking capacity.


There are four components in the human brain’s attentional system:

1.    The Mind-Wandering mode – daydreaming, great for creativity

2.   The Central Executive mode – to focus and stay on task

3.   The Attentional Filter – purrs along, screening out irrelevant stimuli

4.   The Attentional Switch – operates in background, moves between modes

  • Attention is a limited capacity resource. Switching attention comes at a high cost. Multitasking is now proven not to work. Once on a task, our brains work best if we stick to that task: it pays to uni-task.
  • Even the opportunity to multitask is a distraction: the very presence of unread email can reduce your IQ by 10 points. We all suffer from novelty bias, and in multitaskers this becomes an addiction loop.
  • Email bankruptcy is declaring openly that you will never catch up – usually via an auto reply saying that all past communication has been archived, and if anything is now important, please send it again.
  • Some people suffer from a chronic inability to finish projects. Procrastination = time to complete task x distractibility x delay, divided by self-confidence x task value. Acting as if can be a helpful coping strategy.
  • Being in flow happens when the challenge doesn’t create too much anxiety, nor too much boredom – the Goldilocks notion of just right.


  • The processing capacity of the conscious mind is 120 bits per second. To understand one person talking to us, we need 60 bits, so we can only cope with 2-3 things at once.
  • HSPs (Highly Successful Persons) have many of life’s daily distractions handled for them, giving them the ability to concentrate fully on the person or task at hand. They engage in active sorting, a form of triage (French: sort, sift, classify)
  • Shadow work is work that has been transferred from a company to the customer. We now pack our own groceries, fill out forms, and research everything ourselves. It all takes a lot of time and energy.
  • A Gibsonian Affordance describes an object whose design features tell you something about how to use it – such as the presence (or not) of a door handle.
  • More people have mobile phones than toilets – we suffer from
  • Paul Grice identified the implicature – a figure of speech that indirectly suggests something, without people rudely blurting out orders. He also worked out Gricean Maxims – how cooperative conversations work:
  1. Quantity: be as informative as required, but no more
  2. Quality: Say nothing you believe to be false, or for which you lack evidence
  3. Manner: avoid obscurity and ambiguity; be brief and orderly
  4. Relation: make your contribution relevant.


  • Nothing. It’s excellent.







Connect – John Browne

The one sentence summary

Companies can succeed better by radically engaging with society


  • Companies can succeed better by radically engaging with society
  • There are four tenets that can be adopted to achieve connected leadership:
  1. Map your world: understand the trends that are shaping your context
  2. Define your contribution: quantify the value your company can contribute
  3. Apply world class management: connect the business to society at the highest level
  4. Engage radically: earn trust and credibility by engaging the external world on the front foot and being completely open
  • We have a finite pool of worry, and turn off when we hear trigger words such as ‘carbon dioxide’. A compelling vision of the future is more effective than a shaming strategy.
  • Companies that build a reservoir of goodwill are more robust when it comes to withstanding bad publicity, not always self-generated, such as when Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol painkiller was sabotaged with cyanide in 1982.
  • CSR is defective: executives see it as a fluffy, irrelevant cost centre, and civil society groups see it as meaningless propaganda that fails to achieve anything. If it doesn’t build the business, it’s unsustainable.
  • Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan successfully placed society at the heart of the business model and increased revenues by 10bn Euros.
  • A strategy can be enacted with 3 Cs:

Contest: correcting misperceptions and pushing back against unfair and illogical legislation

Concede and lead: admit when the industry has got things wrong and lead change to improve things

Collaborate: companies that act alone can rarely achieve major change


  • There are three areas that will determine company success and society’s ability to solve ecological challenges:
  1. Be better at exploiting easier win-win solutions
  2. Address long-term threats posed by unsustainable behaviour
  3. Innovation that makes a greener economy attractive and exciting
  • Lee Scott, then CEO of Walmart, only started to think carefully about sustainability after meeting river guide turned consultant Jeb Ellison. As the world’s biggest retailer, size is an advantage. Between 2005 and 2010, they sold 460m energy efficient light bulbs – the equivalent impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking 25m cars off the road.
  • The life expectancy of US companies has shrunk from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today.
  • Enron’s principles were respect, integrity, communication and excellence


  • The chapter headings are unhelpfully enigmatic – it would be much easier to navigate the book if the sub-headings of each had been used on the contents page



Why Should Anyone Work Here? – Goffee & Jones

The one sentence summary

Successful company cultures need honesty and meaning, allowing people to be themselves and do work that makes sense.


  • In the past, businesses made people conform to the organization’s needs. That doesn’t work any more.
  • Leaders need to attract the right people, keep them and inspire them to do their best work.
  • The authors propose six attributes of a healthy company culture:

Difference: Let people be themselves

Radical honesty: Let people know what’s really going on

Extra value: Magnify people’s strengths

Authenticity: Stand for something more than just shareholder value

Meaning: Make the work make sense

Simple rules: Make the rules clear and apply equally to everyone

  • What makes work meaningless?
  1. Scale (companies too big)
  2. Division of labour (silos and lack of connection between people and tasks)
  3. Time lags (big gaps between doing things and their eventual outcome)
  • Connection, community, and cause lead to good morale and effort.
  • Rule creep and complexity in companies actually lead to value loss. Trusting people to do the right thing works best.
  • The best leaders are almost invisible:

“A leader whose existence is unknown to his subordinates is really the most brilliant one.” Zhang Ruimin, CEO of Chinese company Haier


  • There are a set of diagnostic tools and questions to work out whether the culture is healthy.
  • Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  • Don’t try too much.
  • Ipartheid is the dominance of white, male, well-educated technology managers in Silicon Valley
  • HiPos are high potential employees
  • NEETs are young people Not in employment, education or training
  • The average length of share ownership is now just 22 seconds, so most shareholder value is taken on the fly by those not properly involved.


  • The DREAMS acronym is a bit hit and miss, and is inconsistently applied from flyleaf, to chapter heading, to body copy.