Books for Inspired Thinking

By Arundati Dandapani, MLitt, CAIP, CIPP/C

Happy New Year!

As the founder of a 6+ year old platform that places Canada’s immigrants at the forefront of insights innovation, along with legal cannabis and non-profit associations, and acquiring several rich dimensions of culture, knowledge mobilization, educational and professional communities since formation, it was good to reflect on some books that shaped my outlook of Canada in a fast-changing North America and world, that would interest any data-led professional looking to understand the country and continent better with consumer shifts, value shifts, market structures over time, and the all-important role immigration integration plays in the success of our economies. Insights from here are also featured in a chapter of my upcoming book What is the Point of Canada? A No-Holds Barred Guide for 21st Century Immigrant Success.

The Big Shift: The Seismic Change In Canadian Politics and Business by Dr. Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson

When colleagues like Joanne Tanaleon bring concepts like business politics, this is the book that pops in mind. New to the Canadian elections in 2015, this book helped me understand top issues facing the Canadian electorate and choices confronting this democracy. My reading of this book was well juxtaposed with an analysis I partnered on with Lisel Douglas about low voter turnout among certain younger age-cohorts in federal elections and my subsequent presentation to the SPSS User Group with recommendations for building a more engaged electorate. As a first-hand immigrant to Canada, I was able to experience that demographic shifts you are part of or represent, impact your relationships with non-immigrants and other immigrants significantly. This book was thus an icebreaker in what to expect from what can seem to outsiders a purely peaceful nation with few conflicts, tensions or undercurrents. Read the book to scratch the surface, and never look back after! Check out my eight year old review here.

Migration Nation:A Practical Guide to Doing Business in a Globalized Canada by Robin Brown and Kathy Cheng

When I was a newly arrived immigrant to Toronto, this book helped me feel confident of my milestones in appreciating the bundle of contradictions Canadian society and Canada’s multiculturalism was to all those new to such a melting pot. I enjoyed how the authors separated types of immigrants including the differences between those who moved here as adults by themselves from others who moved here with their families and in their younger years, and the different impacts life-stages have on assimilation, preferences, values and aspirations. Little surprise, some of these distinct attributes shaped my own motivations and understanding of the marketplace as the platform owner of a community and outlet that taps into the overlooked talent, insights and stories of Canada’s immigrants and much more. Check out my seven-year old review of this book here.

Redesigning Work: A Blueprint for Canada’s Future Well-being and Prosperity by Graham Lowe and Frank Graves

Succeeding in a changed Canada means understanding how international, inter-cultural and inter-generational the Canadian workforce is. Co-authored by Frank Graves well before the pandemic, this book sheds light on important values and public opinion to consider when designing opportunities for a new workforce. Employee experience is something that only workplaces of the future will design for. Why not choose to be one of them? Also, can our economic policies support diverse labour markets equally? Check out Graves’ seven year old article here about some of the themes covered in his own book.

Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them by Susan Delacourt

As someone who has often created conferences and panels that unite marketing research / consumer insights with public opinion research for diverse audiences and clients, I can safely say that Susan Delacourt’s book Shoping for Votes has been a strong influence. Not only is it about the making of brand Canada (also read Alex Marland’s book Brand Command), but it is a detailed vision at the intersection of consumerism and citizenship in how public opinion with consumer insights help us arrive at common answers to enlighten brands and organizations in private and public sectors. Voice of the customer and citizen takes on a new meaning in digitally transformed times, for all those interested in truly staying relevant.

Eureka: The Science and Art of Insights by Andrew Grenville

Andrew Grenville has often championed my leadership, and his second book was his second gift to me in acknowledgement of the challenges we as an industry face together. Namely, the lack of diversity of thought, equity or inclusion, the lack of inter-disciplinary sense-making, the lack of looking out of the box to look inwards or create cultures of innovation at scale sustainably. I have blogged about his work for, Insights Association and CRIC and I was also glad to feature him in another ESOMAR-MRII webinar with Crispin Beale and Brian Lamar last year.

GRIT:The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth

For all those who conflate perceived or real age (perceived because some look younger than they are) with experience without full consideration of other factors impacting the knowledge, work and expertise of your workforce, this book will show you the power of practice, discipline and expertise without limits. I was glad to meet author Angela Duckworth at the University of Toronto’s Rotman series and hear her live on the importance of hard work, persistence and GRIT after finishing this tome.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

Philanthropy and change is home to some of the strangest hypocrisies or what Anand Giridharadas calls “elite charades”. Change-making as it plays out, is left to those at the top of the pyramid. A birthday gift from Vivian Chak, one of the earliest supporters of, this book on global elites everywhere, details how power dynamics and self-righteousness of a few keep societies from achieving equitable impact or desired outcomes for all.  

Cracking The Quebec Code: The 7 Keys to Understanding Quebecers by Jean-Marc Léger, Dr. Jacques Nantel, Pierre Duhamel

Pluralistic societies succeed because of their ability to adapt, innovate and exceed or smash the status quo. This book takes a deep dive into the 7 traits /values of Quebecers and what these mean for businesses and governments serving this diverse society. Quebec also has the highest per capita share of immigrants. The authors came out with a sequel/ update last year.

Check out my eight year old review of the original book here.

The Promise of Canada: 150 Years- People and Ideas that have shaped our Country by Charlotte Gray

I read this fabulous work on the 150th birthday year of Canada spotlighting novel interdisciplinary ideas and visionaries that shaped the nation’s biography. This is a wealth of knowledge Canada’s newcomers can feel inspired by in these stories of past, present and future heroes and ideas that shaped the country’s current day including beavertails, federalism, populism, the secret handshake, and so much else. Any mission to archive and distill the insights and ideas of vastly diverse movers of the past century and a half is a worthy cause. Odd parallel but no coincidence, this is also the reason why I think the insights industry is creating immense wealth with its ESOMAR Insight250 awards series.

How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices by Annie Duke

For any decision-maker stacked with high and low impact decisions, this book is both an empirical and engaging look at the psychology of effective decision-making including the various probabilistic methods people can use to project or arrive at their ideal outcomes, planning against negative outcomes, and ensuring continuity in the efficacy of our decisions. Annie Duke writes with simplicity and flair about the power of showing up, and also bowing out (quitting), where it advances the quality of decision-making, which isn’t always reflected in the quality of outcomes experienced (decision-outcome causalities are fake!) owing to factors like luck. But good decision-making leads to better decision-making and as a habit, its long-term cumulative effects will reward.

The Making of a Global City: How One Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Robert C. Vipond

Toronto is the one of the most diverse cities on the planet, and recently rated by the Economist as the second most livable city in North America. Was it always this way? Robert C. Vipond traces today’s understanding of diversity through the history of a public school from the 1920s to the 90s. Schools play a critical role in integrating newcomers to Canada and in instilling and upholding values like cultural diversity, inclusivity, equality, equity and plurality. This book clearly explained my own passions for ensuring (where possible) educational institutions are both fostering and advancing good citizens.

The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age by Danielle K Citron  

There are many excellent books on privacy, but this was a recent great recommended by the IAPP at one of their conferences. Danielle Citron‘s book is all about how power mongers around the world misuse personal information repeatedly and how such violations are disproportionately experienced by women, minorities, LQBTQ and other underrepresented groups and individuals in digitally transformed times. The personal has always been the political, and that’s why the fight between those who seem to get more privacy rights and those who do not is an ongoing battle, and an important one. Brenda McPhail of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association discussed some of these issues on a webinar I created last fall with other privacy-minded leaders.

Other impactful books I have blogged about here include:

Brand Hacks by Dr. Emmanuel Probst

Non Verbal Communications and Strategic Market Research by Anne Beall

The Essential Role of Language in Survey Research edited by Mandy Sha and Tim Gavel (I am one of the several fortunate authors in this exciting book).

Stay tuned for more books in this series.

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