FRED'S BOOK OF THE MONTH...
THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET, BECKY CHAMBERS
Something a little different for this month’s book spotlight – and not just because it’s all we had on our shelves.
What do you get when you cram a spaceship full of different species, all with secrets to hide? An award-nominated book that tackles prejudice, chaos, and looks at what it means to be human.
For all the veneer of science fiction, at its core, it’s really a story about characters and connections, and the crew (tentacles and all) very quickly feel real and emotive.
If you’re looking for a pleasant book to while away the hours of lockdown part 2, this is one to pick up.
BE LESS ZOMBIE, ELVIN TURNER
No, this isn’t the latest 2020 survival book. Although perhaps we should start stockpiling tins and toilet rolls…
We can all point the finger towards an organisation that we think just ‘gets’ it. Engaged employees, consistent growth, a fun workspace with beanbags and coffee grinders, charts that always seem to go up. What’s their secret?
In Be Less Zombie, Elvin Turner explores behind the scenes of these innovative companies, uncovering the methods that they use to promote creativity and break the status quo. This insightful how-to guidebook pulls back the cover on how to inject the spark back into your work life at a company level. In essence, teaching us all how to be a little less zombie.
EMBRACE THE SPACE, GARY ENNIS & COLIN KELLY
Coronavirus, Donald Trump, social media. You can hate them all you want but deep down you know they aren't going anywhere!
Built upon a decade of delivering social media training and consultancy to aspiring businesses big and small, Embrace The Space takes just about every platform available and breaks them down piece by piece. Letting you know exactly what it is, what it does, why it does it, and most importantly what you should do with it to see the best results for your company.
Filled to the rafters with sage advice, top tips, cheeky tricks, and questionable quips from Colin and Gary, the only better way to learn the ins and outs of the digital space is to attend one of their training workshops yourself! A comprehensive compendium, Embrace The Space is truly the encyclopedia of social media.
THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY, CARLO M. CIPOLLA
This classic essay, first written in 1976, states unequivocally -
'A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.'
Stupid people are everywhere and there's a lot more of them than you think according to Cipolla. Rife in all places and all walks of life it matters not whether you are a prizefighter or Nobel Prize winner you have just as much chance of being a prize pillock... And there is nothing you can do about it!
'One is stupid in the same way as one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group.'
THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK, MARK MANSON
It seems like every day there is some new attribute we should take cognisance of and work tirelessly to improve within ourselves. Whether it's by being more 'body positive', 'resilient', or (dare we say it) 'woke' the list of must-have characteristics goes on and on. To this end, Manson offers one piece of advice: Don't bother.
These intangible and unrealistic goals of personal perfection are taking up too much of your time, too many of your F*cks and actually costing you your happiness. He posits that true happiness is found through caring more about less, rather than caring more about more and more.
In short, we all have a finite number of F*cks to give and we should be very picky about what we spend them on.
ONE + ONE = THREE, DAVE TROTT
If you have ever heard the phrase 'think outside the box' and wondered 'what the hell does that mean?' and 'how the bloody hell do i do that?' then this is the book for you.
Uncovering cases of ingenuity and creativity throughout history from the Crusades to WW2 to the invention of the credit card this is most definitely a 'masterclass in creative thinking'.
Full to the brim with fascinating and colourful examples ONE + ONE = THREE demonstrates how changing the angle of approach when faced with an impossible problem can yield spectacular results.
Herein lies inspiration aplenty.
RUDE HAND GESTURES OF THE WORLD, ROMANA LEFEVRE
Communication isn't just a one-way street of fancy slogans and catchy taglines. Body language forms an integral part of not only how you get messages across but also determining how well those messages are received.
People's attention span for that which they find boring, irrelevant and useless is at an all-time low but somehow they still manage to wear a smile and nod through it regardless, leaving you to believe they really do give a shit.
This delightful little manual highlights some gestures and signals you should look out for at your next presentation.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT, ADAM KAY
This Is Going To Hurt is a collection of diary entries from former junior doctor Adam Kay covering his first-hand experiences of everything from babies being born to light bulbs in the bum.
Some of the stories are hilarious, some are cringeworthy, some are heartbreaking but every few pages you will find something that reminds you of a sticky situation you and a friend once got into, or a situation you and your family and to face together, or maybe just a time when you were an idiot and wanted desperately to keep something a secret... One thing is guaranteed, your eyes will water!
A truly visceral insight into what the people who look after us when we aren't at our best see every day and trust me, they REALLY have seen it all before!
THE TWITS, ROALD DAHL
With constant in-fighting between major shareholders and staff. Lies, deceit, revenge, nastiness, ugliness, and carelessness by the bucketload, The Twits is essentially a case study of what not to do in order to create and operate a successful upside down African monkey circus.
A toxic work environment with no business plan, no management structure, no health and safety policy, it lays out in graphic detail the devastating consequences of what can happen when your company is built solely on ugly thoughts and diabolical schemes.
10/10 Would recommend!
'A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly'
THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO, ATUL GAWANDE
Checklists have been the scourge of industry for a long time now. Something to be embarrassed about. Avoided at all costs. After all, if you really were an 'expert' worth your salt you would know everything off by heart, wouldn't you?
Not according to journalist, CEO and surgeon Atul Gawande.
From the frontlines of surgery to natural disaster relief checklists are vital in the pursuit of excellence and eradicating errors, you just have to know how and when to use them.
For a deep dive analysis into this month's book check out the expanded edition - https://www.wearebrasstacks.com/insight
DRIVE, DANIEL H. PINK
The thesis of Drive is a simple one: The key to human motivation is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Written plainly, this may seem obvious. But as Pink says, the dominant approach in management is that the best 'way to get us moving in the right direction is by dangling a crunchier carrot or weilding a sharper stick.' He finds numerous fascinating studies to back up his arguments.
Throughout his book, Pink shows us companies that are bucking the trend. And seeing real results in the process - 'For too long there's been a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.'
His arguments for motivation based on the elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose are extremely convincing.
SMALL GIANTS, BO BURLINGHAM
Growth for growth's sake isn't the only way. 'Business leaders are free to choose another path'. Boldness, creativity, and passion.
This isn't merely surface level fantasy. Case studies are varied - from brewing and storage companies to VFX houses and dressmakers. Covering essential topics such as hiring, training, and comms. It is fully aware that SIMPLY being bold and passionate isn't enough to survive. Cash-flow requirements, of course, have to be met. But it wants us to know there is more than one way to thrive.
Small Giants is never dishonest. This 10th-anniversary edition is full of updates. Following up with the companies involved whether they flourished or floundered. The results might just surprise you.
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE?
Some things I can’t stand about Christmas:
Festive bunnets in the office. The inevitable shortage of pigs-in-blankets at dinner. Don't even get me started about tinsel!
But every Christmas Eve since I was a baby skull I'd sit down and read this wonderful little poem. No more rushing, shopping, fretting, wrapping. All of a sudden, it's really Christmas!
If you haven’t picked it up in a while, feel you’ve outgrown it, or just somehow missed it, I recommend dusting off Twas The Night Before Christmas this year. Get some loved ones to gather around and let the excitement of the morrow take over.
'Merry Christmas to all…'
MESSY, TIM HARFORD
As you should know by now we’re fond of books that ruffle feathers and challenge established beliefs. And when it comes to the workplace, Messy is right up our street.
With a plethora of evidence to back up his claims, Harford makes a strong case for a more human approach. Championing autonomy and allowing room for risk and spontaneity, Harford applies his unkempt logic to everything from creativity and workplace happiness to politics and war.
'Many jobs, buildings, and relationships are monotonous and controlling. They sacrifice messy possibility for tidy predictability. And too often we let that happen, because we feel safer that way. That is a shame.'
OCTOBER 2019 - 1ST ANNIVERSARY EDITION!
CIRCULAR, No. 20
Circular is the annual journal of The Typographic Circle. A volunteer organisation bringing lovers of typography and design together. Their 20th edition was kindly gifted to us by Paul from G.F Smith.
Circular is wonderful to look at. Large, experimental typefaces own the space and are as elaborate and elegant as the ideas they convey. This is not something to be read and have your brain take in the words, more so a treat for your (mind's) eye to savour and a demonstration of where you can go with 'just' letters on a page. It is no accident that the theme of No. 20 is ‘inspiration’ because if you can’t find any in here, then I worry where you think you will.
Starting from now Circular shall be replacing The Beano as our annual of choice. Read Fred's expanded review here.
DEEP THINKING, GARRY KASPAROV
'Since you know the outcome of the game before you analyse it, it is very difficult not to eye the eventual loser’s moves more critically, even when it may not be merited.'
Deep Thinking shines a light on and encourages us to overcome many of our ingrained biases when it comes to data and decision making. To help us effectively learn and take more informed action.
The kind of deeper, analytical understanding promoted by Kasparov is foundational for creating lasting change. Leading to results that are real and sustainable as opposed to mere novelty.
Come for the Man Vs. Machine storyline. Stay for the golden nuggets of reflection and wisdom from a truly insightful thinker.
VISUAL DOING, WILLEMIEN BRAND
‘To win hearts and minds you need to present clear information in such a visual way that it oozes creativity, conviction, and passion.’
Building on the principles established in the original (Visual Thinking - Book of the Month Feb 2019), Visual Doing is every bit a book in its own right. Packed full of creative gems like ‘breakfast furniture’ and 'thirty circles', not to mention the literally mind-blowing ‘UZMO’ light bulb method there is plenty here to keep you thinking and scribbling.
What sets this volume apart, however, is the application of these ideas. Breaking down exactly how to use simple but strong visuals individually in your own work, collaboratively in your team and widely across your entire organisation.
PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL, DAN ARIELY
Through plentiful experiments in social economics, Dan Ariely strongly contradicts the view that humans are completely rational beings with un-corrupted views of what we want and need.
He suggests instead that we have an inherent irrationality when it comes to major financial decisions, controlled by various external factors.
By showing that this irrationality is not random, the book works as a tool to help us understand our own decisions, and by doing so, helps us make them with a more planned and controlled approach.
PIG WRESTLING, PETE LINDSAY & MARK BAWDEN
‘Stop thinking about how you are going to solve this problem and start thinking about how you’ll know it is solved’.
As anyone who watched the Game of Thrones finale will tell you, it's stories that matter. Here the authors present their problem-solving technique by way of a fable involving crystal balls, gold nuggets and porcine suplexes!
Bullet pointed summaries can be a little... Knowledge is porridge – 'think less about fixing deficits and more about redirecting energies' - for example, but for the most part, the method rings true and encourages you to reassess the (often falsely assumed) root causes of the problems you face and find an answer to the ‘Miracle Question’… What does good actually look like?
LEONARDO DA VINCI A LIFE IN DRAWING, MARTIN CLAYTON
After visiting the exhibitions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow and the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Fred felt obliged to pick up the full collection.
200 draughts in red chalk and silverpoint give immediate confirmation of Da Vinci’s consummate and unrivaled expertise in the fields of anatomy, architecture, biomechanics, botany, cartography, engineering, geology and so on ad infinitum. The detail is so mesmeric and precise that you must remind yourself every few pages that the purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate Da Vinci’s death… 500 years ago! Breathtaking.
See the entire collection for yourself at the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh from Nov 22nd to Mar 15th 2020.
THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS, GREGORY STOCK Ph.D
A collection of ethical and moral conundrums designed to spark debate, conversation, and inevitably judgment, amongst peers.
Some are tricky:
'If your child were to be boring, stupid or ugly, which one would you prefer?'
Some not so much:
‘If you could take a pill and eat food all day without absorbing calories or nutrition, would you?'
Ideal lunchtime water fountain fodder and guaranteed to get you thinking about who you are and what you stand for.
CURIOUS, IAN LESLIE
A journey from intelligent apes to the discovery of America via the printing press and myriad other examples, Ian Leslie traces the history of human curiosity. A clear advocate of lifelong learning, he argues for the importance of encouraging and nurturing curiosity despite its uncertainties, despite its distractions and despite theistic notions such as the dangers of forbidden fruit, and his case is strong.
By the end, choosing whether to ‘explore the worlds of knowledge that present themselves to us’ or to ‘turn our face from the beauty and the mystery and make for the next appointment’ doesn’t seem like a difficult decision to make.
VISUAL THINKING, WILLEMIEN BRAND
'Your brain only needs three dots to recognise a face.'
Without cliché about exactly how many words a picture might be worth, it's important to remember just how powerful simple imagery can be. Informative and practical, Visual Thinking functions as both a guide to the concepts behind the use of visuals and as a beginner’s handbook for the artistically impaired to create effortlessly engaging visuals on the fly.
Whether collaborating, problem-solving, studying, or just reorganising your DVDs there is plenty to learn here, as Fred can attest to. He’s been doodling all over the office for the past month.
THE NUDE FIGURE - A VISUAL REFERENCE FOR THE ARTIST,
MARK EDWARD SMITH
After a rather heavy festive period, Fred didn't have a lot of reading in him, bless his hard hat. So, rather than skip this month, he thought it best to pick this beaut for his blog.
Elegant and tasteful photographs entirely in black and white give rise to fascinating thoughts on how tone and contrast can affect the human form.
Suffice it to say this is the only book to date which Fred has insisted on 'reading' twice.
MAKE IT STICK - THE SCIENCE OF SUCCESSFUL LEARNING,
PETER C. BROWN, HENRY L. ROEDIGER III & MARK A. MCDANIEL
'We harbour deep convictions that we learn better through single-minded focus and dogged repetition…'
Make it Stick challenges this attitude to learning and many other attitudes like it.
The book should appeal widely and is itself a fine example of the kinds of learning it encourages.
A great advert for a work-smarter-not-harder approach.
THE SAFETY ANARCHIST, SIDNEY DEKKER
A colourful read which centres on the need for more human-centric approaches to safety in the workplace.
Fred wouldn't go as far as Dekker to say that process and procedure infantilise the workforce but wholeheartedly agrees for the need to humanise HSE culture.
LEADERS EAT LAST, SIMON SINEK
'And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.'