Seven Books You Shouldn’t Be Without


No matter where you intersect the field of human performance, there are certain books that you ought to seriously consider having in your professional library. I’m sure many of you have your own favorites and I’d be interested in hearing about them. Meanwhile here are seven that I personally wouldn’t be without. You’ll notice that in some cases these are not the hottest new books on the shelf, in fact, some are approaching 20 years old. To me, that’s part of what makes them good. They have stood the test of time.

  1. The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman. This book has been around a long time, but its value is timeless. The book is a basic primer for anyone who seeking to understand how people interact with things and how intentional design can improve usability and reduce frustration.
  2. Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance, by Thomas F. Gilbert. I have written about this book more extensively here. Suffice it to say this I believe this book is the jewel in the crown of the performance engineering field.
  3. Performance Engineering at Work, edited by Peter J. Dean. Once you have become acquainted with Gilbert’s work, this book takes that work to the next level by building on Gilbert’s performance engineering model, describing applications of the PE model, exploring the      differences between PE and training, and suggesting themes for the future development and use of PE.
  4. First Things Fast: A Handbook for Performance Analysis, by Allison Rossett. If you’re in the trenches and looking for great information on how to get your arms around real-world problems, this is the book for you. You’ll want to have this book right at hand for at least a few projects, and on your shelf for reference thereafter.
  5. Building Expertise, by Ruth Clark. This book does a wonderful job of applying the principles of cognitive psychology to the domain of human performance improvement. One of my favorite things abut Clark is that she offers lots of examples. Practical application is a dominant theme in her writing.
  6. Job Aids and Performance Support, by Allison Rossett and Lisa Schafer. This book is a great tool for understanding and implementing tools for performance support. Along with the conceptual view of performance support, Rossett and Schafer provide a wealth of examples to illustrate performance support at work.
  7. The Nurnberg Funnel, by John M. Carroll. For those of us who focus on training people to use software applications, this book is an excellent treatise on the challenges associated with that      particular domain. Carroll proposes a minimalist approach to training that is task based and quickly immerses the user in completing meaningful tasks.

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