Mike Bowler
Mike Bowler


  • neuroscience

I talk a lot about neuroscience and psychology as it relates to Agile methods and the question everyone asks is “what books do you recommend as an introduction?” There is no single best book to start with so I’m giving you a bunch of categories to pick from.

Note that none of these books are written specifically for agile coaches and few are written for coaches of any kind. Also, as I write this I’m already about six years down this rabbit hole and things I find very approachable may well be difficult for someone just starting out.

The more feedback you can provide me, the better I can make the list. Which did you find to be just the right level of content to get started? What was too advanced for a beginner? What did you find was a good intro that’s not on the list?

The categories themselves are not ordered. Pick the one that sounds most interesting and start there.


  • Influence: The power of persuassion (Robert Cialdini) This is one of the classic books of psychology and was the very first book I’d ever read on the topic.
  • Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Leonard Mlodinow) I’m not sure how many practical tips you’ll get out of this but you’ll be entertained and astounded by what he has to say. A thoroughly enjoyable book.
  • Healthy Parts, Happy Self (Gordon Emmerson) A healthy person has about 150 distinct personalities that take charge at different times. These are called ego-states (or resource-states) and Emmerson is a leading authority on this topic. Of all his books, I’ve found this one to be the most approachable.


Body Language

If you’re interested in understanding body language then I’ll send you directly to Joe Navarro’s work. Navarro is a former FBI profiler who has devoted his career to studying body language and who is now sharing that with the rest of us.

Graphology (handwriting)

This may seem like an odd category to have here but handwriting is just another way to understand and change unconscious behaviour. We can observe and change behaviour through handwriting, just as we would through hypnosis or body language.

Language patterns

These are probably the most immediately applicable books for agile coaches. Each of these authors has spoken at agile events and the topics are easily translatable to what we do.


General note: Hypnosis is highly experiential and it’s unclear to me how much value you’ll get from these if you’ve never done hypnosis in a structured setting before. I’d already taken many weeks of formal hypnosis training before reading any of these.

  • Hypnosis Without Trance: How Hypnosis Really Works (James Tripp). This isn’t the overt style of hypnosis that you may have seen in a stage show or in a movie. This is the part of hypnosis that is more directly useful for coaches. The first half is an understanding of what hypnosis is and then in the second half he dives into many of the subtleties.
  • The Hypnotic Coach: A Conversational Hypnotherapy Tool Kit (Jess Marion). Coaching at a deeply unconscious level using conversational hypnosis and NLP techniques. I’ve been a fan of her writing for a long time and this book is her best, by far. It’s also the most immediately relevant for coaches, who want to make unconscious change without getting into formal trance work.