Max Bazerman: Books for Leaders

Max Bazerman, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration  at Harvard Business School, recommends 7 reads for leaders.
Max Bazerman, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration
at Harvard Business School, recommends 7 reads for leaders.

Max Bazerman, the author of the best book on general decision making that I’ve ever read, Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, came out with 7 book recommendations.

I hadn’t heard of two of these, which I picked up.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I think we’ve all heard of this one. Bazerman says:

The development of decision research is the most pronounced influence of the social sciences on professional education and societal change that we have witnessed in the last half century. Kahneman is the greatest social scientist of our time, and Thinking, Fast and Slow provides an integrated history of the fields of behavioral decision research and behavioral economics, the role of our two different systems for processing information (System 1 vs. System 2), and the wonderful story of Kahneman’s relationship with Amos Tversky (Tversky would have shared Kahneman’s Nobel Prize had he not passed away at an early age.).

2. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

This is another one I think most of you have heard of but it’s a classic. I once used this book as the foundation to make the case to a management team for hiring a group of behavioural psychologists. Along with Thinking, Fast and Slow it is part of the ultimate behavioural economics reading list.

Nudge takes the study of how humans depart from rational decision making and turns this work into a prescriptive strategy for action. Over the last 40 years, we have learned a great deal about the systematic and predictable ways in which the human mind departs from rational action. Yet, we have observed dozens of studies that show the limits of trying to debias the human mind. Nudge highlights that we do not need to debias humans, we simply need to understand humans, and create decision architectures with a realistic understanding of the human to guide humans to wise decisions. Nudge has emerged as the bible of behavioral insight teams that are transforming the ways countries help to devise wise policies.

3. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Lewis is an amazing writer, with the talent to capture amazing features of how humans have the capacity to overcome common limitations. Moneyball (that would have been on the list, but I imposed a one book per author limit) was a fascinating look about how overcoming common human limits allowed baseball leaders to develop unique and effective leadership strategies. In The Big Short, Lewis shows how people can notice, even when most of us are failing to do so. Lewis shows that it was possible to notice vast problems with our economy by 2007, and tells the amazing account of those who did.

4. Eyewitness To Power: The Essence of Leadership Nixon to Clinton by David Gergen

This one looks fascinating.

David Gergen is an amazingly insightful intellect about so many things, including the nature of Presidential leadership. His writing is wonderful, and his ability to pull out the nuggets of effective leadership in his closing chapter is a lasting contribution. You will learn about four Presidents that have escaped you in the past, and in the process, learn some insights about leadership in your organization.

5. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
This book has been recommended to me by so many smart people that there must be something to it.

Joshua Greene is a wonderful mix of insightful philosopher, careful psychologist, and keen observer of human morality. If you have ever been confronted with the famous “trolley problem”, and want to learn more, Moral Tribes is the place to go. Whether you are a philosopher looking for a new path, a psychologist looking for insight from a new direction, or simply a human who wants to understand your own morality, this book is terrific.

6. Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton

For decades, the study of consumer behavior has been dominated by the question of how marketers can understand consumers to sell their products and services. Dunn and Norton use contemporary social science to provide insight into what consumers can do to make themselves, rather than marketers, happy.

7. The Art and Science of Negotiation by Howard Raiffa

The Art and Science of Negotiation is where it all began from an intellectual standpoint, where Raiffa provides insight into how to think systematically in a world where you cannot count on the other side to do so.