Wouldn’t life be great if you could educate people simply by telling them things? Unfortunately, as any education professional will confirm, that’s not really how learning works, so I’m not about to recommend a reading list that directly tells you how to be better at your job. Instead, I’m going to suggest a few titles you might enjoy, and which will introduce a few ideas in other fields that you can think about applying in your own. After all, it’s the inspiration from that thought process that makes all the difference.
- Winning Ugly (Brad Gilbert)
Brad Gilbert was a professional tennis player who reached No. 4 in the world, seemingly without ever having any major strengths to call upon in his game. He was, however, a wonderful strategist, and a master of analyzing the state of the game and selecting the best approach to unsettle and eventually defeat his opponent. In this book he explains exactly how he was able to overcome superior players, and discusses the lengths he would go to in order to prepare for matches, leaving absolutely nothing to chance. In his own words, “95% of the times you go out there on court there will be a way for you to win. You just have to find it.”
As the title suggests, his style was based on work rather than talent. He knew how to get the very best out of the ability that he had. He urges tennis players to get the basics right, focus on the key points, observe match situations very keenly, almost from detached perspective, and make the most of the opportunities created. Although the book is written to guide tennis players, its applications go far beyond that. Read it, and think how you can apply its lessons to your own situation.
- Black Box Thinking (Matthew Syed)
Learning from your mistakes is often claimed to be a good idea, but it happens far less often than it should. There are plenty of social and cultural reasons why people, and entire industries, will hide their mistakes rather than admitting to them and working to find ways to ensure they are never repeated. Anyone responsible for improving a large organization, or whose role is to manage other staff, would find this particular book very useful. It shows what happens, why it shouldn’t happen, and what should be done instead. Its ideas are applicable in all walks of life, and could just help you to make a difference.
- Antifragile (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
This is the fourth in a series of books, all of which are well worth your time. The structure and themes of the book are complicated and very difficult to summarize: every page forces the reader to think. One element I find particularly enjoyable is that every other page introduces ideas or cultural references which intrigue and inspire the reader to go and do some further research. The author is a Lebanese risk analyst and statistician who specializes in probability. Read this book, read his other books, and then re-read them.
- Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (Richard Moore)
Great Britain had achieved precious little in track cycling throughout Olympic history, picking up nothing more than an occasional gold medal whenever a particularly talented individual came along. Then, with the introduction of funding from the country’s national lottery, things became serious. The British cycling programme developed from nowhere to dominate the sport at the Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro Olympics, winning gold in well over half the available events, with plenty more silver and bronze besides. This books follows the process leading up to the London games, and explains how the theory of marginal gains (the idea where a series of tiny improvements across a range of aspects can add up to a significant overall advantage) allied to a working environment designed to achieve success can lead to unprecedented outcomes on the track. The Team GB motto, “Better never stops”, can be applied anywhere.
- Guns, Germs & Steel (Jared Diamond)
If you’re a hotelier, your role will bring you into contact with the wider world every day, so a better understanding of why this world is the way it is, and how it got here, can only be a good thing. This book pivots upon the events which took place in 16th century Cajamarca, Peru, when the Spanish were able to overcome the Incas. The question the book answers is that of how a small Spanish force could triumph so swiftly. How had the histories of the two civilizations come to a point where one could defeat the other which such relative ease? The answer involves a long journey through mankind’s past 14,000 years, and explores a number of subjects in great depth. Anyone who wants to understand today’s world better would find this book an intriguing starting point.