Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols

By Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

Portfolio, 336 pp., $32

The rate of change in business today happens so quickly that you can no longer plan comfortably in advance—instead change is a state of mind." This is how authors Duarte and Sanchez begin their latest book, Illuminate. And it's how readers embark on a journey to adopt a change-based state of mind, and learn how to help others do the same.

The book presents a simple, straightforward framework that not only enhances communication, but leadership in general—particularly the ability to drive change in any environment. The authors make the case that today's business environment demands leaders who are torchbearers. Torchbearers anticipate and shape the future, envisioning new possibilities; they motivate others through empathetic communication and deliberate engagement.

Illuminate gives aspiring torchbearers strategies and tools for driving sustainable change, moving from dream to leap, to fight to climb, and ultimately, to arrive. But the power of this book is in how the authors have populated each stage with concrete and actionable ways to move people through the process. The authors don't just suggest that leaders use speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols; they explain what people need to hear, do, and see so they can understand, experience, and enthusiastically adopt change.

Duarte and Sanchez introduce the simple but profound notion that when dealing with committed individuals, motivating communication keeps them going; resistant individuals benefit from warning communication that will help them become unstuck.

Illuminate is visually engaging, with a combination of whimsical illustrations and powerful black-and-white photography that viscerally communicates key points.

Case studies are a central feature of the book. But unlike the high-level overviews of cases featured in many business publications, the authors actually deconstruct powerful examples, demonstrating how the actions of individuals and organizations align with their framework. In this way, they allow real-world successes to make their points, featuring successful change efforts of a high-profile nature (Starbucks and Rackspace) as well as less frequently cited ones (the Civil Rights Movement and Charity: Water, a nonprofit). But the real treat is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at Duarte Inc.: its structure, what makes it work, and how it stays on the cutting-edge by following the author's own advice in Illuminate.

Duarte and Sanchez have created an inspiring and information-rich manual that will likely become a well-worn, dog-eared resource for leaders wanting to carry the torch of change.

Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work

Whitney Johnson

Bibliomotion, 208 pp., $24.95

It seems like everybody is talking about "disruptive innovation"—the way entrepreneurs hit on a radical business idea that transforms entire industries. But the term has not yet been applied to individuals seeking a career makeover. In Disrupt Yourself, Johnson explains how to use the principles of disruptive innovation to advance your own career. She offers bold ideas for learning new skills, honing your strengths, jump-starting your creativity, and staying ahead of trends in your industry. For readers who are feeling stale in their jobs, or are pondering a drastic change to their professional lives, Disrupt Yourself is a refreshing, inspiring guide on how to make a (well-calculated) leap of faith.

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Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both

Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer

Crown Business, 320 pp., $27

Cooperation and competition are part of our daily lives. While we often perceive cooperation as positive and selfless, and competition as negative and selfish, both forces can be harnessed simultaneously to achieve better results. Galinksy and Schweitzer explain why we are most successful when we know the right time to do both. Drawing on these two themes, they offer practical advice for the workplace, such as how to build trust (and repair it once it's broken), how to succeed in negotiations, how to motivate employees, and how to resolve conflict. Along the way, they give surprising insights to human behavior and reasoning.

Talking to Crazy: How to Deal With the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life

Mark Goulston

AMACOM, 259 pp., $24.95

You may want to be careful who sees you reading this book. But once you find a decoy cover or a safe space, dive in—Talking to Crazy is a captivating, accessible guide to the many forms of "everyday crazy" we face at work and in our personal lives. Goulston, a psychiatrist and crisis counselor, explains how to "lean into" encounters with people who are acting irrationally—whether it's a bullying boss, a manipulative co-worker, or a whiny family member—and use his Six-Step Sanity Cycle to gradually guide that person to a saner way of thinking and behaving. This approach feels counterintuitive and takes some courage, but Goulston offers compelling evidence of its effectiveness.

What's On Julie Dirksen's Bookshelf?

Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra. Sierra is probably the single biggest influence on me as an instructional designer. Her most recent book is an absolute gem. At first glance it doesn't look like a book about learning, but it's actually an entertaining and knowledgeable primer on how to help learners move along the learning curve to mastery.

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This is the starter book on user experience design. It's a quick and entertaining read. Krug explains user experience design and usability in such clear and accessible terms. It's also a case study on how to create great learning materials. The way he wrote and designed his book informed a lot of the choices I made in my own book.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Behavioral economics has influenced much of my thinking on behavior change, and Kahneman's classic (along with Dan Ariely's books) explains a lot of that pesky human behavior that makes talent development such an interesting and challenging field.