Organisation design: reading list

Last week someone sent me an email, saying: ‘I eagerly await your blog every week and set aside time to follow all the links you include.   It got me wondering – what blogs do you follow? What magazines do you subscribe to?  I’d love to get your reading lists, you make such interesting connections and my curious brain would love to follow what you follow.’

The hardcopy magazines I subscribe to are:  New Scientist, Economist, Big Issue, I read these three from cover to cover noting bits and bobs that catch my attention for a tweet, a link to a blog piece, or a thought I could pick up later.   

I have a folder on my laptop called ‘newsletters’, and it’s easy enough for me to answer the question “what am I reading?” by listing out all the items that drop into the folder. 

Skimming down it (see extract in image) I see I get about 50 different email newsletters per week – some are daily, some are weekly.   It’s a mix of topics, reflecting my curiosity and interests and the way I believe organisation design is touched, influenced and challenged by the interdependence/interactions of numerous interdisciplinary threads. 

The list isn’t static, I’m pretty ruthless on culling the ones I no longer read, or that have lost relevance to my work.  There are many others I’ve had over the years which I now don’t get. Sometimes I subscribe to a new one, perhaps one recommended by someone or one that I’ve come across in my blog research.  For example, two weeks ago, I subscribed to the newsletter from the Centre for Death and Society which I came across as I was writing my blog on death discussions in organisations.   (I think this topic will develop further in organisation design/development).

But the additions are not quite on a one in/one out basis.  What I’ve noticed is that I tend to keep the total coming in each week to about 50.  It’s a manageable number, and collectively provides a reasonable pool of ideas, challenges, insights and different perspectives.   The tweets I post each day are pretty much all sourced from the newsletters that come my way.

The newsletters and hardcopy mags I get I’ve put into rough categories below and given a few thoughts on why I get them. NOTE the categories also overlap somewhat in content. They are not discrete.

I haven’t put in all the links as it would take me too long and garden design calls, but they are all available for you to Google (google?) and take a look at. 

Technology:  All organisation designers (+ leaders/managers) must have a good grasp on what’s going on in the world of tech.  We live with it every day, we can’t avoid it, and our organisations, personal lives, and society as a whole, are utterly dependent on it.  We do read about the impact of technology on the world of work but that’s not really enough. Some technologies are being developed which are not currently talked about in relation to work, but I think will be. 

So, I get the daily TechCrunch, MIT Tech Review, Open Data Institute, Post*Shift Linklog, Information Week.  Take a look at Tech Crunch’s 18 September China Roundup, and see if you think this will what signals is this sending, what repercussions might it have in your organisation? 

News:  Keeping up with the news and business news (two different things) is hard.  ‘News’ selection is subjective, (why are plane crashes – people killed worldwide in 2020 = 229,  more newsworthy than road deaths – people killed worldwide in 2020 = 1.3 million?).  So what I consider news may not be what someone else does.  Nevertheless, it seems to be enough for my purposes to read The Economist, and get one of their daily newsletters, plus Positive News (we definitely need that), The Guardian, and Quartz.   Occasionally I look at the BBC website, or at the FT and WSJ -but the latter are both paywalled, although I have had a WSJ subscription in the past.

Business updates/comments:  Keeping up with what is going on in thinking around business and management is essential.  There’s a lot of info on business savvy, and I think it’s one of the areas of knowledge that organisation designers (+ leaders/managers) need to focus on.  It’s not enough to know about ‘your’ industry/sector – there’s much that can be learned from the way other industries/sectors do things.  In this category I get info from MIT Sloan Management Review, and Harvard Business Review (I’ve had subscriptions to these two in the past too), HBR Business Books,   Others I get are Stanford Business email (fortnightly), and some from the big 5 consultancies – Accenture, Deloitte, Bain, McKinsey, ReSolutions (I just subscribed to this a few weeks ago), Raconteur, Campaign, Workplace Insight,  De-growth, World@Work, knowledge@wharton, Insead knowledge,

‘Brain food’, culture, society:  I take the phrase ‘brain food’ from the FS blog of the same name.  That blog is thoughtful and provocative and was recommended to me a good while ago, and it’s one I’ve stuck with, although there are several others I enjoy of the same ilk – Brain Pickings, The Big Think, Action for Happiness, Aeon,, Greater Good Science Center, RSA (Royal Society of Arts), On Being.

Some in this category that are more specific to organisation design and development are Culturevist, The Ready, rebels@work,  Leandro Herrero’s daily thoughts (often make me laugh – they’re attuned to my experiences), Cognitive Edge, Stanford Center for Social Innovation, Complexity and Management, Systems Innovation Initiative, Intersection Group, Corporate Rebels.

Science:  I’ve already mentioned New Scientist, which I get as hardcopy and also get some of their other newsletters/updates.  I’ve long been a fan of Science Daily. It is a summary of research across the spectrum and there’s often some research going on that is fascinating and relevant to the organisational world.  Take a look at Leader effectiveness may depend on emotional expression

Think tanks/government/politics:  The external governmental geo-political arena sets a framework for organisational operation. I feel that organisation design/development depends on a reasonable level of awareness of the relationship between government decisions and the impact of these on an organisation’s design. For example, see the Apple/Google /Russian Government news this week – causing me to ask what are the organisational decision processes that led to that Apple/Google decision?  What are the design implications of the decision?  What are the stakeholder ramifications, etc. 

I also get newsletters from the UK’s Civil Service World, GovInsider (Asia Pacific), occasional news from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, Strategic Reading, Reform (a UK think tank), Nesta (ditto).

Summary: All in all I spend some time every day skimming through what’s come in. You’ve got a taster of my current list.   What are you reading that relates in some way to organisation design?  Let me know.