The best books for creating and sustaining knowledge at work

Edward J. Hoffman, Matthew Kohut, and Laurence Prusak Author Of The Smart Mission: NASA’s Lessons for Managing Knowledge, People, and Projects
By Edward J. Hoffman, Matthew Kohut, and Laurence Prusak

Who are we?

The three co-authors of The Smart Mission: NASA’s Lessons for Managing Knowledge, People, and Projects have been at the center of organizational and leadership transformation. Dr. Ed Hoffman was NASA’s first Chief Knowledge Officer and the founding Director of the NASA Academy of Program, Project, and Engineering Leadership (APPEL). Matthew Kohut is the managing partner of KNP Communications. He has prepared executives, elected leaders, diplomats, scientists, and public figures for events ranging from television appearances to TED talks. Laurence Prusak was the founder and executive director of the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management and one of the founding partners for the Ernst and Young Center for Business Innovation.

We wrote...

The Smart Mission: NASA’s Lessons for Managing Knowledge, People, and Projects

By Edward J. Hoffman, Matthew Kohut, Laurence Prusak

Book cover of The Smart Mission: NASA’s Lessons for Managing Knowledge, People, and Projects

What is our book about?

At NASA, people say, “You come for the mission and stay for the people.” This is the essence of a “smart mission.” It begins with understanding the importance of both the mission and the human element. 

We recognize the project as the basic unit of work in many industries and organizations. Software applications, antiviral vaccines, and spacecraft are all produced by teams and managed as projects. Project management traditionally emphasizes control, processes, and tools—but human skills and expertise, not technical tools, are the keys to project success. Projects run on knowledge. This paradigm-shifting book—by three experts with decades of experience at NASA and elsewhere—challenges the conventional wisdom on project management by focusing on intangibles: knowledge, learning, collaboration, teaming, story, and culture.

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of Restarting the Future: How to Fix the Intangible Economy

Why did I love this book?

What will the future of work look like, and how can we prepare to navigate it successfully? This book is at the top of the list for understanding the profound shift that we are living through. The authors follow up their excellent Capitalism without Capital by continuing to describe a workplace based on intangibles. The economy today is driven by forces that place a premium on innovation, knowledge, ideas, and brand, and these intangibles are increasingly vital for growth and success. An outstanding book that provides a framework for the future of work.

By Jonathan Haskel, Stian Westlake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Restarting the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed authors of Capitalism without Capital, radical ideas for restoring prosperity in today's intangible economy

The past two decades have witnessed sluggish economic growth, mounting inequality, dysfunctional competition, and a host of other ills that have left people wondering what has happened to the future they were promised. Restarting the Future reveals how these problems arise from a failure to develop the institutions demanded by an economy now reliant on intangible capital such as ideas, relationships, brands, and knowledge.

In this groundbreaking and provocative book, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue that the great economic disappointment of the…

Book cover of The Journey Beyond Fear: Leverage the Three Pillars of Positivity to Build Your Success

Why did I love this book?

The Journey Beyond Fear is an outstanding work that provides both an understanding and a framework for creating a workplace that is productive and positive. Hagel continues his lifelong research with an entrepreneurial perspective that offers strategic advice for teams and organizations. He lays out a framework that emphasizes the need for productivity and positive human emotions. He underscores that fear-based work is counterproductive, and he illustrates the importance of positive emotion by sharing applicable behaviors and outlining specific ways of creating value from narratives, passion, and platforms.

By John Hagel III,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Journey Beyond Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Conquer your fear, achieve your potential, and make a positive difference in the lives of everyone around you

Whether you're running a business, building a career, raising a family, or attending school, uncertainty has been the name of the game for years-and the feeling reached an all-time high when COVID-19 hit. Even the savviest, smartest, toughest people are understandably feeling enormous pressure and often feeling paralyzed by fear.

The Journey Beyond Fear provides everything you need to identify your fears, face your fears, move beyond your fears-and cultivate emotions that motivate you to pursue valuable business opportunities, realize your full…

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why did I love this book?

Thinking Fast and Slow is Daniel Kahneman’s distillation of a lifetime’s work into a highly readable volume for general audiences. Kahneman and his late collaborator Amos Tversky, both psychologists, shared the Nobel Prize in Economics for their groundbreaking work that helped establish the field of behavioral economics. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman tells the story of how we make decisions, and how our reliance on cognitive shortcuts leads to predictable errors. He manages to convey complex ideas in common language without talking down to his readers. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to examine their decision-making principles and practices.

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

37 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…

Book cover of Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers

Why did I love this book?

These are volatile and tumultuous times, which makes it difficult if not impossible to make decisions with any assurance of accuracy. Kay and King, in this very substantial and learned book, have written what we think is one of the best guides to making these decisions with the best tools and insights we have. The authors have the advantage of being very seasoned practitioners in several domains as well as extremely well-read in the subjects that impact decision-making under these conditions. Their emphasis is on the limits of current mathematical tools, and they advise that we use the more pragmatic and grounded understanding we have from history, philosophy, and our own experiences.

By John Kay, Mervyn King,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Radical Uncertainty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Some uncertainties are resolvable. The insurance industry's actuarial tables and the gambler's roulette wheel both yield to the tools of probability theory. Most situations in life, however, involve a deeper kind of uncertainty, a radical uncertainty for which historical data provide no useful guidance to future outcomes. Radical uncertainty concerns events whose determinants are insufficiently understood for probabilities to be known or forecasting possible. Before President Barack Obama made the fateful decision to send in the Navy Seals, his advisers offered him wildly divergent estimates of the odds that Osama bin Laden would be in the Abbottabad compound. In 2000,…

Post-Capitalist Society

By Peter F. Drucker,

Book cover of Post-Capitalist Society

Why did I love this book?

Peter Drucker remains the finest thinker and writer on management and the forces that influence management in recent times. He was prescient about so many things, but especially on the role of knowledge and knowledge work. He had a great influence on my own career in knowledge, and his books continue to be read and cited. Post-Capitalist Society is a great summation of his ideas as to how the economy and business is evolving.

By Peter F. Drucker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Post-Capitalist Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides insight into the changes that are affecting politics, business and society itself. Business managers need to be aware of these changes in order to benefit from the opportunities that the future has to offer.

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