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Our Favorite 2020 Reads

At KSMC, our people are known for being life-long learners, with a natural curiosity that keeps them exploring ideas and reading—for work and for themselves. Our culture of growth is fueled by this learner mentality paired with the shared value of Deep Expertise. Therefore, it’s no surprise to learn that avid readership finds its way into shared and individual growth across the organization. So much so, in fact, that the bookshelves in our KSMC111 library houses books that have influenced the careers of our team.

In 2017, we assembled a list of our favorite books, podcasts, and articles for the year. We are thrilled to share the books that helped shape our team’s growth in 2020 as well.

Our 2020 Recommended Reading Rundown

Dare to Lead
by Brené Brown

Courage and vulnerability haven’t always been thought of key leadership skills. However, in “Dare to Lead” and her other work, Brené Brown shares their important role in effective leadership. Our Ops Leadership Team chose to read this courage-building book to support an organizational culture where vulnerability is a valued leadership trait.

(Bonus: The team is also appreciating her ongoing podcast, “Unlocking Us,” which has helped the team navigate the personal and professional challenges that 2020 presented to all of us.)

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
by Scott Adams

The KSM Consulting Book Club allows team members to grow together by reading and challenging each other through discussion of professionally relevant books. This year, one of the team favorites was How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Highly skilled in the art of persuasion and successful across a variety of businesses and endeavors, Adams weaves personal stories of his own failures (and successes) in life throughout the book while ascribing lessons he’s learned along the way. Readers shared two key takeaways:

  1. Every skill you learn doubles your chance of success.
  2. Rather than being the best at one domain, combine things you are “pretty good” at in a unique way to create a “skill stack”

Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You
by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Design Thinking is woven into our human-centered approach to solution development, and its usefulness doesn’t end in the professional world. “A method for systematically creating innovative solutions for problems with the goal of developing the best possible solution” can be applied to any challenge—personal or professional. Our team members that read Burnett and Evans’ book described it as “Design Thinking for your personal life.”

(Bonus: If this book is of interest, check out the summary of Mark Caswell’s “How to Design Your Whole Life” workshop.)

White Tears, Brown Scars
by Ruby Hamad

The book was born after Hamad’s article in the Guardian titled “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of color”  Hamad describes how sometimes talking about race with white men is easier than white women and dives deep into her perspective of how the imbalance of power affects feminism. Amrutha Wheeler, Data Science Team Lead, recommends this informative, and sometimes uncomfortable, book to anyone who feels like they are a good ally and may need a critical voice inside their head, as she herself found it incredibly enlightening. 

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
by Malcolm Gladwell

In this book, Gladwell powerfully examines and critiques the common tools and strategies we use when communicating with strangers. He discusses the dangers of conflict and misunderstandings that can result. Max Brundige, KSMC Developer, thoroughly enjoyed how Gladwell was able to take things that are so human and make the reader question them.

(Bonus: Gladwell takes this book to the next level in his audiobook version in which he dictates himself through a news-segment type format—including catchy theme song and all).

Crucial Conversations
by Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan

Having crucial conversations is a vital skill for everyone in a supervisory role (some might argue that it’s a vital skill for simply everyone). The KSMC Leadership Academy dedicates an entire class to crucial conversations and reading this classic managerial book is mandatory homework. It’s a recommended read for those interested in how to communicate with peers and colleagues in clear and direct ways.

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need
by Margot Leitman

Storytelling is a part of our culture, our entertainment, how we learn, and how we talk to each other. The art of storytelling is a constructive tool to help others understand new or complex concepts in a way that facilitates understanding and retention. For our team, great storytelling is a tool to help describe solutions and project details.  This fantastic read was recommended for anyone looking to continue their learning and craft in the skill of storytelling.

Algorithms to Live By
by Brian Christian and Thomas L. Griffiths

Acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths worked together in this captivating study of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives. Mark Caswell, CEO, thought this multifaceted exploration was a great look into how computers can often face the same type of constraints as humans and can help us untangle some of the most basic human questions.

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is the author of 11 books, which have sold over six million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. Lencioni’s books strive to help improve organizational leadership and harvest a beneficial work environment and culture. During our KSMC Leadership Academy, the leaders of our company gathered to expand our knowledge and referenced this book to discuss how executive behavior is an integral part of a strong company.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

At KSMC, we are engineers at heart and are passionate about working towards refining our craft. Andrea Massimilian, KSMC Consultant, is a big fan of personality assessments as a great way to get to know her coworkers and clients. This book helped her learn more about herself and those around her through the Enneagram journey.

On Intelligence
by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee

Brian Banta, Manager with our Public Sector Services team, picked up this book because of his broad interest in the seemingly disparate topics of human consciousness and computer engineering. On Intelligence expands on the analogy of the brain represented through computer software structures. It presents a new theory of how the brain processes information, and what effect that new understanding could potentially have on the development of more intelligent machines. Banta describes Hawkins and Blackslee’s book as “useful for peering into the potential future of technology and what capabilities may be on the horizon.”