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.

The books we picked & why

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Restarting the Future: How to Fix the Intangible Economy

By Jonathan Haskel, Stian Westlake,

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

Why 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.

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

By John Hagel III,

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

Why 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.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why 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.

Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers

By Mervyn King, John Kay,

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

Why 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.

Post-Capitalist Society

By Peter F. Drucker,

Book cover of Post-Capitalist Society

Why 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.

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