Books: The New Office Cool

Leadership Associations Now March/April 2015 By: Kristin Clarke

Three books discuss how to build a culture of impact, using science to build a leading-edge learning organization, and 10 lessons about gamesmanship for women in the workplace.

The XYZ Factor: The Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact

Edited by Nancy Lublin and Alyssa Ruderman

Fans of fearless "Chief Old Person" Nancy Lublin and her army of 3-million-plus teenage social activists will find more to love as she herds her 80 young employees through the how-to of this funny, sincere, and insightful business book—cowritten with Alyssa Ruderman and others—called The XYZ Factor: The Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact.

This "mindset for a new kind of office culture where innovation, accessibility, and transparency are normal" encourages workplaces to "adopt the principles of the millennial generation to foster intergenerational productivity." So brace yourselves.

The XYZ Factor is a radical reconstruction of obsessive data-mining and emerging technologies, member relationship-building, impact-measuring, and humorous SMS-based marketing. It thrives in re-envisioned workspaces, a basically flat organizational structure, collaboration to the extreme, and a staff-engagement framework focused on accountability and new ideas.

Baby boomers will be amazed that succeeds because of this selfie-loving self-scrutiny­ and what-if daydreaming, its mosh pit of creativity, and an "it's-Tuesday-let's-party" buoyancy. Serious, important stuff still gets done. Homeless teens now wear nearly half a million donated pairs of jeans. Impoverished families enjoy hosted game nights at shelters. The elderly get their dogs walked in snow. Teens serve as their parents' designated drivers, and bone-marrow transplant patients find matches among students who "Give a Spit."

An XYZ Factor office is where "the cool group" of professionals hang out when they want work to mean something. Consider this a text to join them.

[BenBella Books, Inc.; $29.95; 224 pages]

Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization

By Edward Hess

most associations consider themselves learning communities, but as new research around neuroscience, skill mastery, and productivity emerges, they must continuously study their offerings with a critical eye. Edward Hess of Darden School of Business offers his 12th book as a tool in that process, drilling into core learning competencies and leadership behaviors at UPS, Gore, Bridgewater, and IDEO. Associations will value the chapter on "learning conversations," disclosing the importance of trust and self-empowerment, as well as techniques that disrupt ingrained mental models to transform "autopilot" thinking into "mindful" pondering. A chapter on environments emphasizes the power of simple questions, common learning barriers in large organizations, and classic "inhospitableness to insights." Reserve time for "Reflection Question" homework.

[Columbia University Press; $29.95; 267 pages]

New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace

By Susan Packard

former hgtv Chief Operating Officer Susan Packard knows how to build things, especially careers. Adding to the list of popular ladies-who-lead books, Packard corrals her professional strategies under one theme: gamesmanship. But, in the chapters on "conditioning" and "playing offense" in the "team sport" of business, there is a personal portrait of humble leadership development. Yes, Packard gives a blueprint for executive skill development, but she also nails essentials of "emotional maturity," such as developing grit and mastering team dynamics. You'll go beyond the professional facade of a woman who cofounded a $10 billion brand (Scripps Networks Interactive) and reinforced the foundation of two household names (HBO, CNBC). Read the "Your Turn" to-do's to bolster your climb.

[Prentice Hall Press/Penguin; $25.95; 256 pages]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.