For business

Our favorite books for learning & development leaders

For nearly twenty years, the team at getAbstract has read and summarized over 18,000 of the world’s best business, leadership, and non-fiction books for organizations of all sizes (including nearly 40% of the Fortune 100).

We thought it would be a neat idea to compile a list of our top ten books for learning leaders. If you are responsible for cultivating a culture of learning inside your organization, this list is for you.

The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth DisciplineThe Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge is one of our favorite books of all time on creating a learning culture. As more and more industries transition to “knowledge work”, it’s critical that they be constantly learning as a group. In fact, this is key to the sustainability of the organization over the long-term.

In order to make this transition, organizations will need to master five disciplines, including a very important discipline that integrates all the others, called systems thinking.


The Expertise Economy

The Expertise EconomyThe Expertise Economy by Kelly Palmer and David Blake is a new addition to the list (as it was only released a few months ago); the focus of this book is on how workplace learning has changed as the internet offers virtually unlimited learning opportunities.

Palmer and Blake build a compelling case that organizations must enable self-directed learning instead of relying as heavily on traditional corporate training. If you want to learn where the learning industry is going, we recommend this book.


The Power of Habit

The Power of HabitThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a fantastic book on how habits form and what you can do about it. While this may not be a traditional book for learning professionals, we believe it’s important that leaders understand how habits form. Specifically, we believe this book can be a helpful complement when implementing organizational learning programs. If you understand how habits form, it can help you build more effective programs that “stick”.



Organizational Culture & Leadership

Organizational Culture + LeadershipAnother management classic, Organizational Culture & Leadership by Edgar Schein provides a fantastic foundation for how organizational culture forms. In this book, Schein breaks down culture into three elements (visible artifacts, espoused beliefs, and basic underlying assumptions) and goes into depth about how culture changes over time.

As a learning leader, it’s important to understand how culture shapes the initiatives you have planned. This is not a short read (it’s over 400 pages), but it will help you build more effective programs.


Reframing Organizations

Reframing OrganizationsReframing Organizations by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal is another long read (400+ pages) but is an amazing resource on how to reframe how you approach problems and opportunities at work. For example, the structural frame is a logical outlook, focused on rational decision-making and goal setting, while the human resource frame encourages readers to make decisions from a human-centered perspective.

If you are looking to improve how you approach problems and improve how you think, this is worth the read.


The Coaching Habit

Coaching HabitWe also recommend The Coaching Habit by Michael Stanier. While this book is geared toward empowering managers, there’s a lot of great insights into how you can become a better coach, specifically by asking the right questions. In addition, this book lays out a repeatable framework for developing a habit of coaching others.

We believe this skillset is important for learning professionals, as coaching is a key component to unlock the capabilities of the people inside your organization. This was also one of our most popular book summaries on getAbstract this year.


How to Measure Training Results

How to measure training resultsHow to Measure Training Results by Jack Phillips and Ron Stone is not the most inspiring book on our list, but it’s our favorite book on measuring the ROI of training programs. If you are responsible for conceptualizing and implementing training programs at your company, you will want to make sure you are measuring their success (and making improvements if necessary).

This practical guide covers how to evaluate training programs in ten steps, including creating training objectives, collecting the right data, and how to calculate a return on the investment. It’s the most tactical read on our list.


How to Read a Book

How to Read a BookIf you plan on reading any of the books above, we recommend picking up a copy of How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren as well. This book was written in the early 1970s and presents a compelling narrative on why conventional reading skills are insufficient for understanding difficult books. In addition, the authors present a way to acquire more sophisticated reading skills, performing activities like systematic “skimming”, reading analytically, and more.

If you want to develop a new way of reading, pick up this book.


Wrapping up

We hope you enjoyed these recommendations and have found your next book to read. If you’d like to see more recommendations, you can browse our channel on training and development. If you’d like to learn more about how getAbstract can help unlock lifelong learning for your company, feel free to learn more.

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