Our basic consulting premise is that we should not consult in anything we do not practice or have not done as executives ourselves. However, if you want to understand any consulting firm, you could do a lot worse than scan the shelves of their library. Here is a scan of ours.
This annotated list of books is intended to describe the mix of concepts and methods that make the Centre for Innovative Leadership unique. We have contributed to a few of these works ourselves; other writers are friends; and some are people who we have never met. But we have used their ideas, put them to the test in development of leadership and organisation capacity. These resources have been tempered and hammered against the anvil of organisational experience and we hold tightly to the tools which show the sheen of regular use; as we would to good friends.
Russell Ackoff, Creating the Corporate Future: Corporations are facing unprecedented pressures and unprecedented opportunities. Ackoff's analyses helped us direct our work toward managers' most urgent and compelling needs and goals.
Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness: Argyris and Schön lay out a framework for working with leadership groups on the way they communicate and learn together. We have found their theory of "organizational learning disabilities" to be particularly useful.
David Bohm, Unfolding Meaning: The world-view of modern physics stems from a systems view. Everything is connected to everything else. We are not sure how this connectedness works, but we can see that the whole of mankind is enfolded in each of us: and particularly in the nature of our thought. These insights, gleaned from David Bohm's conversation and writing, have been a critical underlying principle for our work.
Martin Buber, I and Thou: In every one of our reflective conversations, and in all of our coaching, we try to evoke the essential way of being that Martin Buber pointed out: reverence and respect for the "other."
Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Every corporate transformation is an arduous journey, similar to the journey of a mythical hero. Joseph Campbell, the mythologist, presents a composite picture of the heroic quest, which is an archetype of the change process that people and organizations go through as we move toward generative leadership.
Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance: How do we learn to take a "generative" stance? By learning to balance what we most deeply want (our vision) with our most accurate sense of current reality. We design our workshops and interventions to build and learn from the tension created by this balance.
Edwin Friedman, Generation to Generation: People who work with people must learn to observe themselves, moment by moment, making minuscule choices about how to respond in real-time. This requires selfless presence — the ability to be there, in the moment, without ego investment, with a humble self. Continually teaching ourselves to more accurately see things as they truly are. We continually try to train ourselves in this skill, using Friedman and other spiritual practice as our guides.
Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader: Robert Greenleaf gave us our central image of leadership: a lifelong practice revolving around service and respect for peoples' potential. He also emphasized the critical importance of deep intuition, and showed us how the development of leadership involves a personal journey toward wholeness.
Gary Hamel & C K Prahalad, Competing for the Future: We've drawn upon the work of these two analytical thinkers for our approach to strategy as a creative activity. In the context of providing answers, they have given us a bridge between process knowledge and strategic planning. The book describes Hamel throwing up his hands in one meeting, and saying, "You know, the dirty little secret is: No one knows how to create strategy." That's the truth.
Charles Handy, The Age of Unreason: Handy's explication of federalism and subsidiary provides a necessary component of our approach to whole-systems change. Being in a company requires a form of multiple citizenship: Allegiance to your own future, to the future of your family, to your work team, to your individual business unit, to the company, and to society as a whole.
Kiroyuki Itami, Mobilizing Invisible Assets: An excellent book on strategy and alignment, capitalizing on Robert Fritz' now-widely-used vision and current reality model as a way to motivate people and build loyalty. These human "assets" may not show up on the balance sheet, but they represent an extremely effective competitive advantage.
Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: Not just a history of "the stream of corporate change tradition," this book identifies an essential stance for people in a transforming company to take. A heretic is someone who sees a truth that contradicts the conventional wisdom of the enterprise and remains loyal to the enterprise while holding fast to that truth.
Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: The book is difficult, but Korzybski's work on General Semantics represents the unacknowledged foundation for much of our work on mental models and bringing to the surface a consciousness of the process of abstraction. Korzybski was the first person to write, "The map is not the territory."
Sherod Miller, Elam Nunnally, Carol Saline, Dan Wackman, Straight Talk: The art of skillful conversation.
Ikijuro Nonaka and Hirtaka Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company: Their work, and their examples from companies like Canon, showed the strategic value available in making tacit knowledge explicit.
Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: His classic work. Rogers' explication of the value of listening, and the nature of human potential, is a conceptual and practical foundation for our work.
Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline and Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, and Bryan Smith, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook : The approach of developing five "learning disciplines" offers an effective and evocative form of team practice. Our work with large systems amplifies and builds upon that practice. You will find key work by ourselves included in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.
Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, George Ross, Rick Ross, and Bryan Smith, The Dance of Change: This fieldbook provides experience and know-how about change in large organisations. This experience from leadership and practitioners is invaluable to anybody facing the challenges of large-scale change. It is organised into categories, which will speak to the classical key issues facing successful leaders of change efforts.
Kees van der Heijden, Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation: We draw on this book very heavily for our scenario practice. It is compatible and practical; as Kees notes, "If there were a formula for finding the right competitive strategy, then it wouldn't work." The only "Formula" is to apply skillful conversation in strategy work.
Edgar Schein, Process Consultation: One of the most distinctive things about CIL is the type of consulting we do. We're not a solution-oriented consulting firm. Edgar Schein's insights into process consultation helped teach us how to engage clients effectively in this non-directive form of intervention.
Louis van der Merwe, "A Learning Community with Common Purpose," in Lessum, Christie and Needham, African Management and "Organizations on the Move: The Eskom Story", Published by University of Stellenbosch. Two pieces of lore about the ways in which for-profit organizations can come to terms with diverse points of view, from the most informative diversity relations laboratory in the world — South Africa