The best books to build curiosity and get out of status-quo at work

Who am I?

Having taught thousands of business courses and seeing some of my students flounder made me passionate about developing curiosity in others. I had written my doctoral dissertation on the relationship between emotional intelligence and performance, which led to my interest in studying human behaviors that could make us more successful. After interviewing thousands of top leaders on my nationally syndicated radio show, I saw a pattern of curiosity in highly successful people. I wanted to share that ability to develop curiosity in others. So, I read the books I listed here to build my research foundation. I hope you are curious to read these books and find them as fascinating as I did.

I wrote...

Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential

By Diane Hamilton,

Book cover of Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential

What is my book about?

In Dr. Diane Hamilton's provocative new book, she uncovers what could foreseeably be the next movement to enhance human performance, a critical and direct link to improving motivation and communication-based issues that challenge organizations. Drawing on decades of research and incorporating interviews with some of the top leaders of our time, Hamilton examines the factors that influence curiosity, including fear, assumptions, technology, and environment (FATE). Her ground-breaking research, nominated by Thinkers50 Radar, provides an action plan to transform individuals and organizations. For example, an organization that can stimulate its workers' curiosity can enhance employee engagement, emotional intelligence, innovation, productivity, and the many other by-products that come with that intrinsic but under-utilized attribute.

Foreword by former Chairman and CEO of DocuSign, and former Undersecretary, Keith Krach.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Diane Hamilton Why did I love this book?

Carol Dweck's research helps explain why some people are more willing to explore curiosity based on the impact interaction with others has had on them.

I loved this book because she reveals what parents, teachers, and others inadvertently say or do, that impacts whether we have an open/growth or closed/fixed mindset. When writing my Curiosity Code Index assessment, Dweck's book helped to determine some of the factors associated with the things that inhibit curiosity.

This book will change the way you interact with those around you because it will make you cognizant of the power of how we word things and how that leads to performance.

By Carol S. Dweck,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Mindset as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the renowned psychologist who introduced the world to “growth mindset” comes this updated edition of the million-copy bestseller—featuring transformative insights into redefining success, building lifelong resilience, and supercharging self-improvement.

“Through clever research studies and engaging writing, Dweck illuminates how our beliefs about our capabilities exert tremendous influence on how we learn and which paths we take in life.”—Bill Gates, GatesNotes

“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”

After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this…

Book cover of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Diane Hamilton Why did I love this book?

David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters, and scientists.

He found that being a generalist (having a range of interests) rather than a specialist (having a narrow scope of interest) leads to better performance. I loved the book because he gave many exciting examples of performers in different fields to show how depth of knowledge leads to more curiosity, creativity, and agility.

Sometimes it can be challenging to tie in the importance of curiosity, but Epstein gives wonderful examples of human success.

Furthermore, it helps us learn that the broader our range of interests, the more likely we can become better at the specific things we love to do. 

By David Epstein,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Range as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Fascinating . . . If you're a generalist who has ever felt overshadowed by your specialist colleagues, this book is for you' - Bill Gates

The instant Sunday Times Top Ten and New York Times bestseller
Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
A Financial Times Essential Reads

A powerful argument for how to succeed in any field: develop broad interests and skills while everyone around you is rushing to specialize.

From the '10,000 hours rule' to the power of Tiger parenting, we have been taught that success in any field requires early specialization and many…

Book cover of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Diane Hamilton Why did I love this book?

Daniel Pink is a terrific author who draws on his former experience as a lawyer to build his case in his books. 

What I love about Drive is how Pink explains the mistake we made trying to motivate people incorrectly. He examined the elements of true motivation, which he considers autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

Although curiosity sparks motivation, it is critical to learn the things that motivation impacts if you can ignite that spark.

By Daniel H. Pink,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Drive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller that gives readers a paradigm-shattering new way to think about motivation from the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things,…

Book cover of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Diane Hamilton Why did I love this book?

For a good reason, Simon Sinek’s book and associated TED Talk had tens of millions of views.

I loved his book because he set out to inspire people to find a purpose at work. He explains the value of asking why to create innovative organizations where customers and employees feel loyalty.

Sinek’s work made me want to research what inhibits our sense of asking why, which is critical because if you do not know what hinders you, it is far more difficult to overcome those issues.

By Simon Sinek,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Start With Why as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'It's amazing how a book can change the course of your life, and this book did that' Reader Review

'Imagine the Ted Talk expanded to 2 hours long, with more depth, intrigue and examples' Reader Review

'What he does brilliantly is demonstrate his own why - to inspire others - throughout' Reader Review

'Wow. Wow. Wow. I cannot rate this book highly enough to take a different, positive approach to life and work' Reader Review

Discover your purpose with one simple…

Book cover of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Diane Hamilton Why did I love this book?

While you might wonder why I chose a book on emotional intelligence (EI) as recommended for developing curiosity, Daniel Goleman’s work in EI is critical to understanding that we must go beyond thinking that IQ is everything.

I loved Goleman’s work because he explained why intelligent people with high IQs could fail more than people with lower IQ scores. This understanding was critical to my choosing to research curiosity because it helped me consider the factors that lead to success.

Part of having a solid level of emotional intelligence means asking questions to develop self-awareness and empathy.

By Daniel Goleman,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Emotional Intelligence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The groundbreaking bestseller that redefines intelligence and success Does IQ define our destiny? Daniel Goleman argues that our view of human intelligence is far too narrow, and that our emotions play major role in thought, decision making and individual success. Self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, empathy and social deftness are all qualities that mark people who excel: whose relationships flourish, who are stars in the workplace. With new insights into the brain architecture underlying emotion and rationality, Goleman shows precisely how emotional intelligence can be nurtured and strengthened in all of us.

You might also like...

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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