What’s on the X is Y bookshelf? Recommended reads from our team

Published 7/10/2022

We stay curious about research, methods, principles and ways of thinking that support us in building a better business - and help us enable our clients in doing the same. There’s plenty of literature out there on business and management - but these are some of our top picks that we think are in alignment with today’s ways of working. If you’re a business leader, or someone who cares about how you show up in your work, check out some of our recommended reads.

Radical Alignment

How to have game-changing conversations that will transform your business and your life.

By Alexandra Jamieson & Bob Gower

Aligned teams, organisations, communities, partnerships and families rely on communication and trust. 

This book proposes a communication framework that aims to help people handle hard conversations in a very human vulnerable way. It helps to minimise anxiety of having those convos by reducing uncertainty and clarifying assumptions. The framework is reusable for pretty much any conversation - be it work, relationships, families, friends - providing a method for productive, empathy-based communication and collaboration in a way that honours individuality while developing deeper alignment based on mutual trust, respect and empathy.

“Radical Alignment brings you a “low drama, high joy” technique to transform the way you collaborate and communicate in every area of your life.”

Radical Candor

Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

By Kim Scott

This book is for anyone wanting to create better relationships in the workplace, offering up a framework that supports you in becoming a better boss and a better colleague. It shows you that through candid, respectful conversations, you can lead and inspire teams, provide feedback, make smart decisions - all while keeping humanity at the heart of your behaviour and communication.

“Radical Candor is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly.”

How Charts Lie

Getting Smarter about Visual Information

By Alberto Cairo

Charts, infographics and diagrams make it easier for us to consume information - but they also have the potential to mislead. In a world full of data, what we see can often be incomplete or inaccurate or manipulated to promote a particular agenda. This book examines the influence - both negative and positive - that charts can have on our perception of the truth, while helping you identify deceptive visuals, and recognise and interpret helpful information.

“How Charts Lie demystifies an essential new literacy, one that will make us better equipped to navigate our data-driven world.”


The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown

There would be few of us who wouldn’t admit to feeling overcommitted, overloaded, overworked and stretched for time. Busy jobs, demanding lifestyles, incessant notifications… It's no wonder we feel constantly busy, yet never quite seem to nail our to-do list. Essentialism is about reclaiming that time and energy. It’s about cultivating discipline to focus on what is absolutely necessary, while eliminating everything that is not, so you can get more done in less time. It’s in alignment with our own ethos here at X is Y: Do less, more.

“Essentialism is not one more thing—it’s a whole new way of doing everything. It’s about doing less, but better, in every area of our lives.”

Brave New Work

Are you Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?

By Aaron Dignan

Bureaucracy, bottlenecks, silos and short term thinking… Just about every organisation comes up against similar frustrations that can feel difficult to overcome, long term. But as the author of this book says, you can’t fix a team or organisation by tinkering around the edges. Instead, his approach, examined in this book, is to completely reinvent operating systems - the principles and practices that shape their culture - by creating autonomy, trust and transparency.

“In Brave New Work you’ll learn exactly how they and other organisations are inventing a smarter, healthier, and more effective way to work.”

Just Work

How to recognize and eliminate workplace injustice

by Kim Scott 

Victoria is a big fan of Radical Candor, and recommends it to everyone, but right now we’re drawing attention to Kim Scott’s recent follow up - Just Work. After publishing Radical Candor in 2017, Scott started hearing from readers that her advice didn’t work well for everyone. Sure, radical candor worked, but it was easier for straight white men to put into practice than anyone else, and that’s a problem - one that’s rarely addressed in business reads. For many women and people of colour, being radically candid at work backfires, or carries risks that they’ll be perceived as angry or bitchy because of the bias that they face. Just Work writes about how to recognise and eliminate the workplace unfairness or injustices that have led to the bias we so often experience and details recommendations for what individuals and organisations can do to be better.

It’s at times a really personal account and she’s tackling some very gnarly areas, for example: Scott is generally against “zero tolerance” policies that see individuals fired for a first offence; arguing instead for considering violations case by case. In her critique of social shaming and her case for people getting to learn from their mistakes, she presents a view that’s less voiced in this moment and that in itself is worth applauding.

The Fearless Organization

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

by Amy Edmonson

The term ‘psychological safety’ was coined by author Dr Amy Edmondson who described psychological safety as ‘the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes’. She shares that when people feel psychologically safe in their teams and workplaces they feel comfortable to be open and honest, and to participate and contribute wholeheartedly. They can ask questions when they don’t understand something, admit mistakes when something goes wrong, suggest ideas for improvements, challenge others’ ideas if they disagree, and raise concerns when something doesn’t feel quite right. And to thrive in today’s complex and fast-moving world, organisations need to prioritise and foster this.

In ‘The Fearless Organization’, Amy Edmondson describes exactly what psychological safety is, the positive benefits it can bring for organisations and for individuals, and gives us a clear framework for how we can start along the road to create psychological safety in our own workplaces. This is a particularly great read if you’ve heard that term ‘psychological safety’ (it’s been thrown around a lot over the past 2 years) and have wondered what it’s all about. This book lays it all out in an accessible and relatable way.

Have some recommendations of your own? Join the conversation over on LinkedIn

Business leader sitting and reading a book

More posts

Agile team working on a kanban board

What to expect when moving to an Agile methodology of work

Read more
Data team in a hybrid meeting

Five ways to make your hybrid meetings hum

Read more