Have fun exploring our resources page – useful tips, books and articles that have inspired us, and links to interesting places on the web

Newsletter Archive

The Ponder newsletter is where we share links, resources, ideas, insights, tips, tools, examples, stories and recommended reading about ways to grapple with complex problems. Issued monthly (or thereabouts). Actually, we've been a bit snowed under and haven't been able to find time to issue our newsletter yet - apologies! We hope to get to this very soon so we can share useful stories, tips and resources. Stay tuned!

A printable version of

20 Questions for complex problem solving & strategy development

is available here:  Ponder complex problem solving

Books, articles and links

Here is a selection of some of our favourite books, papers and places on the web that have informed, inspired or interested us…


  • Chaos, James Gleick, 1987  I’ve had my copy since 1993 but it’s still a fascinating read.
  • Complexity Explorer  An initiative from the Santa Fe Institute.  A great (and free) way to get acquainted with the mathematical side of complexity.  To do the free courses properly requires quite a time investment (~ 6 hours per week for ~10 weeks)
  • Complexity, Melanie Mitchell  This book is written by the founder of Complexity Explorer.  A mathematical and scientific perspective of complexity, but those of you who like science, maths, or history, an interesting read for more reasons than understanding what we know about complexity so far.  Important for realising how complexity manifests itself at different scales, from cellular biology to societies.
  • What are the 21st-century skills every student needs?  World Economic Forum article that makes the case for solving complex challenges being top of the list of most important 21st Century skills, five-years running.


  • Towards A Theory of Strategy: Art Lykke and the Army War College Strategy Modelby H. Richard Yarger – the best model for strategy I’ve come across.  This model for strategy is described through a military lens, but has more general applicability to …. pretty much any endeavour.  Highly recommended reading.
  • What is Strategy, by Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1996 – an oldie but such a goodie.  I love this article because it introduces the idea that a strategy is different to a system, but they are both incredibly important.
  • Strategy: A History, by Sir Lawrence Freedman – even The Economist’s book review was thought-provoking (and useful to read if you don’t have time to get through the book itself).

Public Strategy

  • The Art of Public Strategy, Geoff Mulgan  This book gives a useful overview of many important concepts for contemporary public strategy.
  • System Failure:  Why governments must learn to think differently, Jake Chapman, DEMOS, UK  A paper recommended to me in 2009 and was the first to open my eyes to systems thinking in sectors other than engineering

Systems Thinking

  • Thinking in Systems – A Primer, Donella Meadows, edited by Diana Wright.  A wonderful introduction to systems thinking by one of the great systems thinkers.
  • The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge  Chapter 5 in particular is also a great introduction to what systems thinking means and why it is important
  • System Failure:  Why governments must learn to think differently, Jake Chapman, DEMOS, UK  A paper recommended to me in 2009 and was the first to open my eyes to systems thinking in sectors other than engineering
  • Freakonomics, Steven D Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner  Many of the phenomenon these famous economists explore illustrate system dynamics concepts – feedback, time delays, incentives and goals.
  • The Why Axis, Uri Gneezy and John List  Another ‘economics’ popular read, that also illustrates some important systems thinking concepts.  Their main point – the importance of understanding ‘why’ (the reason behind things), is what makes knowledge durable and transferrable, is fundamental.
  • For systems dynamics fans (let me know who you are!), visit Tom Fiddaman’s blog
  • For many other great systems dynamics resources, visit the System Dynamics Society

Design Thinking

  • Change By Design, Tim Brown, 2009 – there are a lot of superficial versions of Design Thinking out there (for example, Design Thinking is not equivalent to having modern furniture and post-it notes! (though they can be useful enablers)).  This book by the head of IDEO, is one of the best resources about Design Thinking that I’ve come across.
  • Stanford University’s crash course in Design Thinking from their design thinking unit – ‘’
  • Mindlab Denmark’s well-known design thinking organisation
  • DesignGov  An 18-month pilot programme from the Australian Government, focused on design thinking.  The site is still available (as at early 2016) and contains some useful information
  • Design Thinking Comes of Age, Harvard Business Review, September 2015
  • Harvard Innovation Lab

Evidence-based policy

  • Evidence-based policy: What is it? How do we get it?  Gary Banks, 2008.  An easy-to-read and useful overview on the topic
  • Evidence-based Policy – A Practical Guide to Doing it Better, Nancy Cartwright and Jeremy Hardie  This book labours the main point (that what works in one context doesn’t necessarily work in another), but it remains one of the most important books for policy-makers to read in Ponder’s opinion.  It describes very well the very important point of necessary conditions for policies to work (they refer to the concept as ‘supporting factors’)

Behavioural Insights

  • Thinking: Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman  A wonderful account of what we think we know about how we think
  • Behavioural Insights team, UK
  • How not to be ignorant about the world,  Hans and Ola Rosling  This TED Talk, June 2014, Berlin. An amusing talk that illustrates the limitations of our intuition
  • Switch, How to Change Things when Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath, 2010
  • Blink, Malcolm Gladwell  The counterpoint to the limitations of intuition

Data and Statistics

Data can be used to reveal powerful new insights, but we also know how easy it is to misinterpret it.  Here are some useful references on doing the former and avoiding the latter.

  • How to Lie with Statistics, Darrell Huff  In print since 1954, this is an easy read about how data can be used to reveal insights (correct or incorrect!)
  • The Tiger that Isn’t:  Seeing through a world of numbers, Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot  A similar book pointing out the susceptibility of data to ministerpretation
  • Any talk by Hans Rosling (mostly on TED, but also on his Gapminder site), but start with this one:  The best stats you’ve ever seen for an insight into how data can be used to reveal new insights and stories.
  •  ABS understanding statistics page  A range of resources from the Australian Bureau of Statistics


  • Are Schools Killing Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson  The most-watched TED talk of all time, arguing that creativity is alongside literacy and numeracy as the most important skills we’ll need in the future

Agility & Innovation

Compelling Communication

  • The Pyramid Principle, Barbara Minto.  A well-respected book on incorporating logic into thinking and communication.
  • Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  Recommended to me in 2009 but I didn’t get around to reading it until 2014.  I wish I’d read it in 2009!  It will change the way you think about how you communicate in all media.
  • How to Give a Killer Presentation, Chris Anderson, Harvard Business Review, June 2013.  An insight into how TED talks are prepared.

Other good stuff we’ve come across….

  • Farnam Street Blog  a philosophical blog that is interested in a lot of the same things that Ponder is
  • Read this Thing.  If you don’t have hours a day spare to trawl the internet for interesting stuff, subscribe to Read This Thing, for a daily link to ‘a fascinating piece of journalism’.
  • Espresso, by The Economist.  A brief, daily distillation of current affairs via app.
  • Vox  a US-focused, but nonetheless interesting, take on news and current affairs.  We like it because of its focus on explanation (see their explainer articles and  cardstacks)
  • The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley, a compelling exploration of different education systems that argues that higher-level thinking is the most important skill for the future
  • A More Beautiful Question, The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger, 2014.  An important reminder that inquiry and curiosity are essential to real-world problem-solving

Know of another great book, article or link that you think should be on this list?  Please visit the Contact page to let us know about it.