Three New Books to Step Up Your Game at Work (and in Life)

October 22, 2016, 1:00 PM UTC
Illustration by Javier Jaén

1. “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”
by Thomas L. Friedman

The globe-trotting New York Times columnist’s most famous book was about the world being flat. This one is all about the world being fast. Globalization, along with breakneck technological and environmental shifts, is driving change at a faster pace than most people, companies, and governments can manage, Friedman writes. The book is a sprawling exploration of the state of the world—awesome, but kind of scary by Friedman’s rendering. His main piece of advice for individuals, corporations, and countries is clear: Take a deep breath and adapt. This world isn’t going to wait for you.

Pro Tip: Make time to connect with people: In a digital era, face-to-face contact becomes increasingly important.  

2. “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations
by Dan Ariely

A surprisingly empathetic and practical volume, behavioral economist Dan Ariely’s slim, 100-page primer on motivation will be the book you wish your boss had read. Positive feedback, mutual respect, and a sense of connection to a larger purpose, he finds, are crucial to happiness and productivity at the office and beyond.

Ariely is a working academic and illustrates his thesis through a series of experiments: In one, he gives two groups of people word puzzles. For the first group, researchers check participants’ work; for another group, they shred it without looking at it. The people whose efforts were acknowledged did significantly more work for less pay.

Pro Tip: Bored with your job? Try to change your mental framing. Ariely gives the example of a man tired of his duties cleaning hospital instruments—but once he internalized that his job was crucial for patient safety, he found renewed energy and got a promotion. ­

3. “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
by Tim Harford

Embrace chaos to tap into your true creative potential. That’s the premise of the latest book from Tim Harford, of Undercover Economist fame. The British author argues in favor of welcoming messiness into our lives as a gateway to ­innovation—and ultimately success—even as he explores the psychology behind why we cling to tidiness for the order and safety it promises.

Harford deftly weaves together real-life examples of notable figures who cozied up to disorder to varying degrees on the road to success, from Steve Jobs’ fascination with serendipity to the bedlam of Donald Trump’s shocking rise to the top of the Republican Party.

Pro Tip: Prioritize three tasks for the day and alternate work on each based on when inspiration strikes.  

A version of this article appears in the November 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “You’re Already Good. Here’s How to Step It Up.”