Once a month, we order in some lunch and get together around a big table to discuss the latest installment in our company book club. We’re big believers in the continual pursuit of self-improvement, and there is always something (or many things) we can learn from others in our space and adjacent to it.
With the year drawing to a close once again, we looked back on our shelf of dog-eared book club tomes and picked out our favorites. As is the case every year, not everything we read in 2019 was great, so these are just the hits.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Basecamp fame, have an uncanny habit for writing just the right book at just the right time. In 2010, their book Rework was the perfect guide for starting a company and establishing our agency. As we began to grow in 2013, Remote was an insightful outline about how to manage a team with people spread around the map. And today, in 2019 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a needed manifesto on how to build a productive team in an age of buzzing and dining distractions. Each time we read something by these brilliant founders we get inspired to change our work for the better, and we can’t wait for the next one.
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
In the same vein as the Fried and Hansson book above, Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is a necessary little guide about how to reclaim your focus and energy in an increasingly chaotic digital world. We’re often in the business of promoting be-present-in-the-moment experiences via travel and healthy bodies and minds via publishing, so it’s important that we find a way to manage our own day-to-days to “make time” for deep and meaningful work (and play). This book is a helpful, down-to-earth, and step-by-step guide about how to have healthier relationships with our devices, platforms, and schedule.
Drift Marketing Team
Honest and transparent storytelling about what it takes to find customers, build a team, and scale a business are what you’ll find in this quick read from the team at Drift. The big takeaway — focus on conversations with customers, not conversions (makes sense this is the team that coined the idea of Conversational Marketing). That’s one of the key topics covered in this manual, which runs through 41 key tips from the team that built this rising star in the marketing SaaS space.
We typically don’t read our client books in book club, but this one was too on-the-nose for us to let anybody get away without reading it cover-to-cover. Michael and his team at Sub Rosa are some of the best marketers in the business, and this book is the story of how they have developed a secret sauce that has led to an unbroken string of incredible work and unmatched results. Applied Empathy helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes and develop ideas and solutions that spark innovation and solve tough challenges. Nobody today has such a clear articulation of what makes great marketing.
Lastly, speaking of great explainers, nobody working in design has a better moral compass and sharper wit than Mike Monteiro of Mule Design. Like Rework above, Monteiro’s previous book, 2012’s Design is a Job was the right book at the right time earlier in our growth — it taught us how to run a good business, how to present work effectively, and how to handle tough conversations. His latest manifesto is an angry-but-hopeful look at how technology and design have contributed to many of the ills faced by our world today. It’s a survey of what’s wrong, how we got here, and then ultimately how we in the creative and technology industries can use our powers for good to help right the ship. We’ve always been a community-minded company, but this year we have doubled-down in our pursuit of sustainability, education, and economic empowerment — and we’ve turned away work that doesn’t meet our ethical standards.
Do you have any recommendations for things we should read in 2020? Tweet us at @NativesGroup with your recommendations and we’ll add them to our list! Happy reading all.