Simplicity reading list


“Summer reading had me a blast

Summer reading happened so fast…“


It’s that time of year where most of us take some holiday. A chance to recharge, see loved ones, reflect on 2017 so far and plan for the rest of the year.

It’s also an opportunity to feed our minds with new ideas and thinking.

We’re often asked for a recommended simplicity reading list. Below are 8 books which have inspired us and which any business leader seeking to simplify will find wisdom within.


Organise for Complexity by Niels Pflaeging.

Short, sharp and provocative. Pflaeging explains why old ways of organisation design no longer work and why this creates complexity by default. His big ideas on new organisation theory are condensed down into a series of simple, single page summaries with accessible visuals.


Six Simple Rules by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman.

Written by Partners at BCG, this book provides a compelling argument as to why neither traditional ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ management approaches work in today’s complex world. Six ‘simple’ rules are proposed. Three under the category of Individual Empowerment (01 Understand what people do, 02 Reinforce Integrators and 03 Increase the total quantity of power) and three under Group Cooperation (04 Increase reciprocity, 05 Extend the shadow of the future and 06 Reward those who cooperate).

If your beach bar Wi-Fi permits, check out the TED talk.


Time, Talent and Energy by Michael Mankins and Eric Garton

Published earlier this year, the book explores the idea that organisations are adept at managing financial capital but much poorer at managing their human capital. The consequence of this mismanagement is a ‘drag’ on performance – time, talent and energy is wasted. Most organisations are trying to solve a productivity puzzle. This book provides some practical solutions.

Worth noting that HBR have serialised heavily.


Why Simple Wins by Lisa Bodell

Following up Kill The Company, this book provides everyday workshop tools to find and then eliminate complexity in order to create more space to get to the work that matters (namely innovation). The book includes a series of compelling, eye-watering data points and a set of simplicity case studies.


Think Simple by Ken Segall

If you’re inspired by Apple (and Steve Jobs in particular), you’ll likely find this book an interesting read.  Segall follows up Insanely Simple – his experiences as Jobs’ advertising agency director over 12 years – with how Jobs and other leaders have put a premium on a simplicity in how they run their organisations.

Warning: if you’re bored of Apple and Steve Jobs, this book is best avoided.


The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Maeda is a well-known MIT academic and a designer of WordPress fame. In this book Maeda outlines 10 rules for simplicity which design thinkers, business leaders, technologists and product designers can apply to remove complexity from what they practice. The first law is Reduce, so we’ll leave the preview at that.

Highly recommended.


From Complexity To Simplicity by Melvin Jay and Simon Collinson

This book draws on a piece of research completed by Warwick Business School which looked at the relationship between organisation performance (EBITDA) and organisation complexity (using proxy measures such as SKUs offered and markets served). The headline is complexity costs the world’s biggest organisations an average 10.2% of net profit each year. This book gives a toolkit on how to find and remove complexity in 6 areas: Strategy, Organisation, Processes, Products & Services, People and Everyday Activity.

Disclaimer: The Founder of Stop. has worked with Jay and Collinson


Simple by Edward De Bono

A classic text by the guru of creative thinking. The book might be nearly 20 years old but its relevance to today’s complex world shows how much of a genius De Bono is. The book provides 10 simple rules that allow us to gain clarity from the complicated at home and at work. The result? More time, less stress and better decisions.

Note: We love this book so much, we summarised it here.