The most recommended books about self-organization

Who picked these books? Meet our 5 experts.

5 authors created a book list connected to self-organization, and here are their favorite self-organization books.
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Book cover of The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution

Jamie A. Davies Author Of Life Unfolding: How the Human Body Creates Itself

From my list on to make you think about biology.

Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by how very complicated things can arise from comparatively simple ones, because it seems counterintuitive that this is even possible. This led me to lead a life in science, researching how a whole human body can come from a simple egg, and trying to apply what we learn to make new body parts for those who need them. Though much of my professional reading consists of detailed research papers, I have always relied on books to make me think and to show me the big picture. I write books myself, to share with others some of the amazing things that science lets us discover. 

Jamie's book list on to make you think about biology

Jamie A. Davies Why did Jamie love this book?

This book comes at biology from an unusual angle, ignoring fine details and instead of going for the deepest underlying principles of life as seen by a dyed-in-the-wool theoretician. When I read it, I felt I was like being given 'X-ray specs' - an ability to see beyond the surfaces at which we mostly work to hidden mechanisms of order, control, and evolution. I have never seen biology the same way since, and this book changed my research and teaching immediately and lastingly. The writing is superb but still demands concentration and commitment because the concepts may be alien at first, but any reader willing to give the book time and a bit of effort will be richly rewarded.

By Stuart A. Kauffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In what will certainly be one of the key works in the emerging science of complexity, Kauffman here presents a brilliant new paradigm for evolutionary biology. It extends the basic concepts of Darwinian evolution to accommodate recent findings and perspectives from the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The book drives to the heart of the exciting debate on the origins of life and maintenance of order in complex biological systems. It focuses on
the concept of self-organization - the first time this concept has been incorporated into evolutionary theory. The book shows how complex systems, contrary to expectations,…


Book cover of The School in the Cloud: The Emerging Future of Learning

Guy Claxton Author Of What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education

From my list on schools and education.

Who am I?

I’m a cognitive scientist, and I love reading, thinking, and researching about the nature of the human – and especially the young – mind, and what it is capable of. Even while I was still doing my PhD in experimental psychology at Oxford in the early 1970s, I was gripped by the new possibilities for thinking about education that were being opened up by science. In particular, the assumption of a close association between intelligence and intellect was being profoundly challenged, and I could see that there was so much more that education could be, and increasing needed to be, than filling kids’ heads with pockets of dusty knowledge and the ability to knock out small essays and routine calculations. In particular, we now know that learning itself is not a simple reflection of IQ, but is a complex craft that draws on a number of acquired habits that are capable of being systematically cultivated in school – if we have a mind to do it.

Guy's book list on schools and education

Guy Claxton Why did Guy love this book?

You may know of Sugata’s work, even if the name does not ring a bell. He is the Indian professor who decided to cement an online computer into a wall in a slum in Delhi, set up a hidden camera, and waited to see how the local children would react. This was before everyone had a laptop or a mobile phone. The kids quickly gathered round and quickly figured out how to do all kinds of interesting things, without any teaching. Indeed, he found that when teachers tried to ‘help’, the children stopped being resourceful, stopped collaborating as independent learners, and expected to be taught. The School in the Cloud documents the growth of Sugata’s work and global influence since that first experiment, and reminds us forcibly of just how much all children can learn under their own steam – if we will just get out of the way. 

By Sugata Mitra,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The School in the Cloud as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the results of Sugata Mitra's latest research around self-organized learning environments (SOLE) and building "Schools in the Cloud" all over the world.


Book cover of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World

Bettina von Stamm Author Of The Other Side of Growth: An Innovator's Responsibilities in an Emerging World

From my list on today’s complex world and help our planet.

Who am I?

As an innovation expert for over 30 years, I've been cautioning about the "dark side" of innovation and emphasized the importance of sustainability. Though in light of the urgency of our planet's situation, we need to shift our focus from sustainability to regeneration. The unprecedented complexity and connectedness of today’s world demand thinking in systems, and the kind of innovation that leads to the transformation of our current social and economic systems so we can live in harmony with nature. This requires us to question who we collaborate with, what we value, and how we create value. We need to work together differently, with different leadership, and to change our own ways of thinking.

Bettina's book list on today’s complex world and help our planet

Bettina von Stamm Why did Bettina love this book?

In her book, first published in 1999, Meg Wheatley was the first to bring together three topics that have always been close to my heart: leadership, innovation, and complexity theory. 

I also happen to believe that deeply understanding these three is necessary for coping, let alone thriving, in the context of the 21st century. This is the book to start the journey with.

Her thoughts express what I communicate with my writing: the urgency to innovate innovation, a delight in embracing uncertainty and complexity, and the need for leadership approaches to evolve.

By Margaret J. Wheatley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The new edition of the bestselling, acclaimed, and influential guide to applying the new science to organizations and management. In this new edition, Margaret Wheatley describes how the new science radically alters our understanding of the world and how it can teach us to live and work well together in these chaotic times.
 
We live in a time of chaos, rich in potential for new possibilities. A new world is being born. We need new ideas, new ways of seeing, and new relationships to help us now. New science—the new discoveries in biology, chaos theory, and quantum physics that are…


Book cover of The Agility Factor: Building Adaptable Organizations for Superior Performance

Dave Ulrich Author Of Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

From my list on how to improve organizations.

Who am I?

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He has published over 200 articles and book chapters and over 30 books. The organizations where we live, work, play, and worship affect every part of our lives. Organizations turn individual competencies into collective capabilities, isolated events into sustained patterns, and personal values into collective values. In short, organizations matter in our lives. By adapting their answer to “what is an organization,” leaders, employees, customers, and investors will be better able to improve their organization's experiences.

Dave's book list on how to improve organizations

Dave Ulrich Why did Dave love this book?

Ed Lawler has a lifetime of melding academic theory and organization practice. In this research based book, he and his colleagues not only recognize that agility matters, but they do research to validate processes that create organization agility. Agility is one of the emerging capabilities for a successful organization in today’s changing world. Anything El Lawler works is well thought out, researched, and usable.

By Edward E. Lawler, Thomas D. Williams, Christopher G. Worley

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A research-based approach to achieving long-term profitability in business What does it take to guarantee success and profitability over time? Authors Christopher G. Worley, a senior research scientist, Thomas D. Williams, an executive advisor, and Edward E. Lawler III, one of the country's leading management experts, set out to find the answer. In The Agility Factor: Building Adaptable Organizations for Superior Performance the authors reveal the factors that drive long-term profitability based on the practices of successful companies that have consistently outperformed their peers. Of the 234 large companies across 18 industries that were studied, there were few companies that…


Book cover of The Origin Of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics

Gerald Ashley Author Of Two Speed World: The impact of explosive and gradual change - its effect on you and everything else

From my list on decisions bloody decisions.

Who am I?

With a long background in international banking and finance I am an advisor, writer, and speaker on behavioural risk, disruptive change & decision making. My primary interest is in understanding the decision making and risk taking processes of people and organisations, and how we can make better decisions and take more profitable risks. In addition, much of my research and work concentrates on how to understand emerging trends in business; and how our own biases and behaviours affect the way we either succeed or fail in new environments.

Gerald's book list on decisions bloody decisions

Gerald Ashley Why did Gerald love this book?

A fascinating look at Complexity Science and so-called self-organising systems and how they contribute to wealth creation.

This a rather long, and maybe slightly daunting, book. A criticism might be that the author is long winded in some of his detailed examination of new themes and ideas in economics. However, at the heart of the book is the desire to understand how real people, make real decisions in the real world.

By Eric Beinhocker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Origin Of Wealth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Economics is changing radically. This paradigm shift, the biggest in the field for over a century, will have profound implications for business, government and society for decades to come.

In this groundbreaking book, economic thinker and writer Eric Beinhocker surveys the cutting-edge ideas of the leading economists, physicists, biologists and cognitive scientists who are fundamentally reshaping economics, and brings their work alive for a broad audience.

These researchers argue that the economy is a 'complex adaptive system', more akin to the brain, the internet or an ecosystem than to the static picture of economic systems portrayed by traditional theory. They…