5 favorite new books on influence, empathy, and growth

by | Dec 13, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

Want to encourage someone to do something?  

You’ve got to figure out the best way and time to influence them.  

It also helps to be empathetic and vulnerable, as well as make it easy for them to take action.  

And if it’s been a while since you connected with them, they first need to even remember their encounter with you and your message.    

These are the themes of the most helpful business books I read during 2016 – all backed by science.  

Here are my five favorites in no particular order. Like last year, the list is intentionally short to avoid overtaxing your working memory and causing you overwhelm.

  • The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results by Bob Nease. The “fifty bits” refers to the brain’s bandwidth limitations for conscious thoughts. Each second, the brain processes about 10 million bits of information. However, the pre-frontal cortex (also called the executive function), which directs our conscious thinking and acting, can only process about 50 bits per second of these 10 million bits. The other 99.99995 percent of our bandwidth is allocated to our unconsciousness. This limitation is largely responsible for the gap between what you want to do ─ if you can pay attention long enough ─ and what you actually do. In other words, we’re wired for “inattention and inertia,” which makes it difficult to spur ourselves into action. “Fifty bits design” is a type of behavior design that helps people do things they already want to do. (Fifty Bits has become one of my favorite “go-to” books. See my blog post  Focus on Inattention and Inertia to Initiate Action.)
  • Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions by Carmen Simon. Using the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, the author, who holds doctorates in both cognitive psychology and instructional design, has written both an enlightening and practical book about prospective memory. Recognizing that we have trouble paying attention and remembering things (Yes, we’re wired for inattention and inertia), she describes how to make the most of a difficult situation, especially from a communication perspective. She provides tips on how to influence what other people remember so they can turn their good intentions into actions that help them and ideally benefit you too.
  • An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. The co-authors of Immunity to Change and How the Way We Talk Can Change the WayWe Work propose a radical new way to unleash your company’s potential. In their newest book, they advocate doing away with everyone’s “second job,” which entails covering up your weaknesses, trying to look your best, and managing how others think of you. The book features three companies that have already adopted this approach. The authors discuss theprinciples, concrete practices, and the underlying science of these “DDO’s” – deliberately developmental organizations.  It’s a whole new way of being at work, and a much healthier and productive one.

 What are your favorite business-related books from this past year?  

 And what do you now have on your reading list? Please tell!


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