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Bibliography and Reading List

My goal in this eclectic list is to give you a starting point in exploring the intersection of management and evolutionary biology.

I’ve included an Amazon link for each book for your convenience, but feel free to support your local bookstore.

If you’re reading this, you probably already have my book, but here’s a link in case you want to spread the word.

The Third Chimpanzee is Jared Diamond’s exciting, very readable overview of evolutionary biology. Together with Dennet’s Dangerous Idea, it’s now much easier to get your head around the implications of how we got here. Both books make the point first made by Darwin–evolution is glorious and powerful, but it’s stupid and slow. Working as an inexorable engine, it enables and promotes change wherever there is competition.

Darwinizing Culture : The Status of Memetics As a Science edited by Robert Aunger is a fascinating look at memes. The editor takes a very clear-eyed view and allows proponents of all sides of the issue to have their say. It’s hard to read this book and come away 100% persuaded that the memes=genes analogy is valid. At the same time, you know that there’s something here, and even if the analogy isn’t perfect, it’s useful.

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea is evolution for smart people. Dan Dennett goes deep and wide at the same time. It’s much slower going than Diamond, though.

The Red Queen is one of the most exciting, thoughtful books on this list. It offers leading-edge theory and thinking about sex and competition and the way organisms co-evolve. Ridley assumes a little knowledge about evolutionary biology but not much. It’s very approachable.

The Selfish Gene is the classic, one of the first books to read if you want to explore the dynamics of evolution. Just about anyone who’s up on evolutionary biology will assume that you’ve read this and The Extended Phenotype. Richard Dawkins is at the cutting edge of his field and this proves it. Don’t buy the paperback if you can help it, though, because Oxford prints the type very, very small.

Sue Blackmore gave memes a new lease on life with this book-length romp through memetic theory. No one agrees with everything in The Meme Machine, but we all disagree with something different! It’s a lot of fun and will open up new ways of thinking about memes.

The Knowing Doing Gap, by Pfeffer and Sutton, is one of the best books to ever come out of Stanford Business School. They explain, in clear and lucid terms, why companies can’t do what they think they want to do. I loved this book–my copy is covered with notes. It inspired a lot of my book–after all, if you can’t get your employees to do what you know is right, maybe you shouldn’t try. Instead, perhaps you can get them to figure out what’s right and have them do it themselves.

Funky Business is a vast repository of speed, change and dynamic capitalism. As breathless as the title, this book will wake you up and shake you up. Change is the new normal, and these guys will do whatever they can to persuade you of that fact. (Nice haircuts).

Where did farms come from? Where did the Neanderthals go? In less than a hundred pages, Colin Tudge’s Neanderthals, Bandits, and Farmers takes you through some brilliant mind games. I wish I had more room in my book to share some of these brilliant insights. The subtext of this book and the next is that once you establish the framework of evolution, you can take it pretty far.

Part of the same series as Neanderthals, The Truth About Cinderella is a short book that explains, in Darwinian terms, why stepmothers (and fathers) are sometimes evil. And they are—stepfathers are one hundred times as likely to beat their children, for example. Gary Becker won a Nobel prize for some of the work quoted here. Surprising stuff.

Creative Destruction takes the position that companies aren’t built to last, and that successful winning strategies get in the way of new ones. I disagree with the author’s top-down solution to this issue, but they do a fine job of taking an academic approach to the problem. All the statistics and case studies that you won’t find in Survival is Not Enough are here for you.

Guns, Germs and Steel is a fascinating romp through the last millenium, explaining, why, for example, the European settlers infected native americans with germs and not vice versa. The ideas Diamond shares in this book go a long way to explaining how memes spread from one company and one market to another. It’s practically a memetic history of the world as we know it.

Liberation Management is Tom Peters’ overlooked magnum opus. Far more important than In Search of Excellence, this dense book is worth a read (or a re-read). An even better way to get started is to read The Pursuit of Wow! and The Tom Peters Seminar. If you need hunters and wizards in your company (and who doesn’t), you need these books. You can find Wow! by clicking on the link below:

Even more from the very cool Jared Diamond. The title, Why Is Sex Fun?, tells you all you need to know. Fun sex is not a requirement for life, and this book helps us explain why we evolved this way.

The Change Monster is popular in big companies that are trying to manage change until things get back to normal. As you can imagine, I’m no fan of this approach, but Duck makes an excellent case for paying attention to the pain people feel as they stare the fear of change in the face.

The Triple Helix tries to bridge the gap between the hard sciences (including evolution) and the less measurable impacts of environment and nurture on a species.

Bullseye uncovers the very simple idea that things that get measured, get done. Probably more than you need to know, but if you want to start measuring for success, here’s a great place to start.

If you go to see the Producers on Broadway, you just spent $500 on your ticket. Even if you received it as a gift from a friend, it cost you plenty to go–because you could have scalped it and kept the money instead. People do economically irrational things all the time (and justify them as rational) and yet modern economics refuses to recognize this behavior. Your company acts in a very similar way. In The Winner’s Curse (which I predict will win Thaler a Nobel Prize), you will enjoy yourself at the same time you learn about how (and why) your co-workers do dumb things.

Mean Genes puts a pop culture spin on your DNA. It’s Dear Abby meets Charles Darwin, and it explains why we gossip, cheat, flirt, steal and get fat.

Slack had a big impact on me. As a former project manager, I saw all the symptoms of managers treating their people as cogs in a machine. This is a simple, fast and fun book that may change the way you manage forever.

Extraordinary Chickens is the only coffee-table picture book on my list. The amazing photos of artificially selected chickens will make it clear to you that changing the genes can change everything.

Michael Schrage’s tour de force about prototyping is called Serious Play. It will give you the ammunition you need to start the prototyping meme in your organization.

Matt Ridley strikes again. Genome is not as gripping as The Red Queen, this is nevertheless a stunning introduction to the mechanics of the human chromosome.

Together with The Selfish Gene, this book–The Extended Phenotype–assures Dawkins is role in history as the greatest evolutionary biologist of the 20th century. Again, the type is too small, but it’s a great book if you want to dig deep into evolutionary biology. This is the book where Dawkins introduced the meme of the meme.

In Consciousness Explained, Dan Dennett takes a whack at some of the most universal questions of philosophy. Why can we think? What’s that voice inside my head? I think he’s on to something, and either way, his analysis will challenge you to come up with a better answer. Once you’ve worked your way through the books on evolutionary biology, the obvious ideas in this book might change your life.

In The Mating Mind, Geoffrey Miller turned my perception of evolutionary biology upside down. He has a brilliant writing style, and it completely sold me on his thesis that sexual selection is largely responsible for our brains.

Ideo is the most successful industrial design firm working today, and in The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley, the company’s general manager, goes a long way of explaining how these wizards do their wizardry. There’s no question we need breakthrough thinking to stay ahead of the competition, and Ideo appears to have a knack for it. Check out for a look at their extraordinary portfolio.

In Kinds of Minds, Dennett reinforces the arguments he made in Consciousness Explained and goes on to add other insights about the relationships between our brains and evolution.

Edward O. Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize for On Human Nature and the sheer scope of this book tells you why. Using his background is zoology and evolutionary biology, Wilson explains sex, religion, hope and altruism, among other topics.

Apparently, human beings aren’t the only species able to imitate. In The Imitation Factor, Lee Alan Dugatkin argues that many species–including fish–are able to influence the future evolution of their offspring through imitation. I’m not sure that fish are going to rival our creation of memes, but it’s a neat argument, well made.

In the 1960s, a giant in the field of evolutionary biology was George Williams. In Adaptation and Natural Selection, he lays out his version of how evolution happens. This book is a cornerstone of a lot of current thought in the field.

Robert Sapolsky lived with a tribe of baboons for decades. In the poignant A Primate’s Memoir he tells us what it was like. This book, more than just about any other, persuaded me on an emotional level just how close humans are to other species.

Darwin’s original The Origin of Species is available for free from the Gutenberg Project. There’s also a PDF available.

Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management

This is a short book, but it was incredibly influential. Taylor laid out the case for the factory-centric model of industry, and just about every organization in the world uses it today. My book calls for an end to this model, and if I’m very lucky, I’ll be 10% as successful in making this new case as he was with his!