Books are important to me. Growing up, almost every free wall in my parents’ house was lined with bookshelves, some of them stacked two deep. I spent most of my pre- Red Hat career in book publishing, first working during college at The University of North Carolina Press. After college, I went to work for a literary agent named Rafe Sagalyn in Washington DC. Working for Rafe was a great experience because he built his reputation on big think/idea books and business books.
His first big book was the huge bestseller Megatrends by John Naisbitt back in the early 80s. When I was there, I personally got to work with, among others, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe on their great books about generational patterns in society (check out The Fourth Turning… very prophetic these days) and Don Peppers, author of some books back in the 90s like The 1:1 Future about relationship marketing that were the grandparents of today’s books on social media marketing.
I also got to play agent and author myself too. As an agent, I represented some of Tom Bodett’s work (yes, he is the Motel 6 guy, but was also a commentator on NPR) and sold a wonderful novel called The Frequency of Souls to FSG. As author, I helped Rafe write two “cutting edge” books about getting free and open access to government information (they have not aged well, I’m afraid).
Fast forwarding to today, Rafe actually was the agent for two recent big think books that I love, Authenticity and A Whole New Mind, so he is still making things happen.
After I left book publishing, reading became fun again. I read novels and travel literature for a while, nothing that made me think too much. But when I got to Red Hat, I relapsed and started reading the big think books like the ones I used to work on with Rafe. I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to try to remember the books that have been the biggest influences on my thinking, and get them all down in one place, so here goes:
Without these ten books, Dark Matter might not even matter to me.
Great post by Red Hat’s Karsten Wade on the role of failure in Fedora (and in life). One of the key tenets of both the open source and design thinking movements is the idea of “failing fast.” To innovate, we need to overcome the fear of failure, and learn how, as Karsten notes, failure is a sign that we have pushed things to their limits. Because that’s where you have to be if you want to innovate:)
One of the gurus of the failing fast mentality is David Kelley of IDEO— the guy who started the Stanford “d-school” and a leader of the design thinking movement. Here’s a Fast Company article from a couple of years ago where he talks some more about how to suceed by failing fast.
My friends Jeff Mackanic and David Burney both recommended that I read Gary Hamel’s latest book, The Future of Management, which was named the best business book of the year by Amazon in 2007. I was absolutely blown away. The whole way through, I was like, “tell it, brother!”
The basic thesis of the book? The management model developed in the late 19th and early 20th century and integral to the success of the industrial revolution is starting to show signs of wear. It is being replaced by a new model, embodied by companies like Whole Foods, Google, and W.L. Gore (the makers of Gore-Tex); all three are highlighted in the book.
Red Hat, and the open source movement in general, are another perfect case study of this new management model. Concepts like the meritocracy of ideas, transparency & openness, collaboration, authenticity, and a whole host of other ideas that have made Red Hat successful appear over and over in the book.