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This is the third and final post on the best books on strategy and innovation. Consider the list taken together as a “101” set of thought leadership for those passionate about the topics, as a gift list for that special strategist in your life, or the perfect set to make good on that New Year’s resolution to “learn more about strategy and innovation”.
If you haven’t read the first post on the “Classics of Strategy” or the second on “Innovation & Business Modeling”, it’s worth giving both a quick review. This final part, Other Books of Note, is what it sounds like: a grab bag of other works I’ve found useful that any strategist worth their salt should consider reading. Absolutely essential books are noted as *Must Read*.
Part# 3: Other Books of Note
I’ve arranged these works in order of their original date of authorship.
*Must Read* The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier, 2003
The Brand Gap is a key read for those of you who aren’t comfortable talking about “brand” and even better if you still believe the “brand” is the driving force in strategy and innovation. Short answer: it’s not. Longer answer, read Marty’s brief but also excellent book illustrating the critical gap between what customers believe and what companies communicate.
*Must Read* Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath, 2007
While one part of strategy is coming to the right “answer”, another part is being able to effectively communicate it. Made to Stick is a fun read featuring the useful “SUCCESS” framework for making sure the ideas you generate are capable of really having legs with people. Feel like you’ve got a strategic mind but aren’t successful in pitching those strategic ideas? This book is for you.
Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, 2008
That people aren’t all completely rational in their decision-making is well-known to social scientists but mainstream economists and (rationalist) strategists didn’t pick up this fact until relatively recently. Predictably Irrational is the book I would start with to begin to understand why we are built to overpay, underestimate, procrastinate, and overvalue the things we buy. Seems like pretty relevant thinking to know if you’re someone focused on creating new offerings.
*Must Read* The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam, 2008
Similar to the Heath brothers’ work Make it Stick , this book’s focus ends up being more on the communication of strategy than its creation. That said, visual thinking and leveraging simple illustrative and diagrammatic techniques that Roam introduces does drive effective problem solving. Talking or writing about a potential new future is one level of tangibility in new offering development. Creating sketches or pictures of the same is more concrete and more effective, especially when collaborating across disciplines. Roam offers up a simple language which anyone, even those who believe they can’t draw, can use to illustrate.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, 2009
I thought a long time about what books to include related to leadership and motivation. With classic thinking on the topic covered with the earlier Drucker recommendation, I decided the book that most captured leadership thinking of the moment is Drive. Pink argues compellingly that intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic remuneration is the path to satisfied employees and successful companies. I would argue this is especially so in offering development driven organizations. Let’s face it, our best employees and colleagues don’t come to work because they are getting paid. They have many options in this regard. They choose to work with a given organization because of higher order reasons to believe and self-worth. It’s easy to critique Drive as a “black and white” view of the world. Also, a greater percentage of the book could delve into how its key ideas could be used in the world outside of consulting or academia. Criticism aside, he does draw the big picture correctly and we would be fools to ignore him.
This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn & Jakob Schneider, 2011
Living in Europe, it’s clear the specific notion of “Service Design” is a lot more prevalent than in the US. Over here, we have a slew of academic programs created to teach it and a northern European design legacy focused on extending design to a larger stakeholder set, the wider social fabric, which predates it. That said, similar thinking (holistic and cross-channel) and tool sets (service blueprints, journeys, etc.) have been used and taught extensively in the US under the names UX, experience design or experience strategy. This is Service Design Thinking is a nice overview of the field and worth reading as “strategy” becomes more tightly linked to offerings and offerings become more service-based.
Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL by Roger Martin1, 2011
It was hard to justify listing two books from any author on a “best of” list but Rotman School of Business Dean, Roger Martin, has authored a work that is so essential to our modern times that it is also hard to ignore. Fixing the Game outlines the issues in modern day US capitalism in a salient and provocative manner. He not only asks the right questions about why our system is broken but then provides compelling and concrete answers for how to fix it. Core to society generating the most value, the best strategies and the greatest level of innovation is a corporate and economic system which enables fairness and competition. If our leaders listen to Martin, we’ll all be better for it.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, 2011
As frustrating as Isaacson’s sloppy writing is at times, it’s hard to ignore reading the authorized biography of perhaps the greatest innovator of our era. Steve Jobs’ life is filled with stories about bringing new solutions into the world: mostly successes, but also failures. I come away from the book liking Jobs less but also respecting him more. My biggest disappointment in the book is that it doesn’t tell us more about how Jobs worked to facilitate some of the greatest innovations of the last 30 years. Given the time Isaacson spent with him, we would all hope the book had a bit more to share about the process Steve went through to produce such consistently revolutionary new things.
As I said in part one and two of this post, this list could have been edited down or, more easily, greatly expanded. Contact me via twitter to make other suggestions and I’ll include those in an update to this post.
1 Disclaimer: Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business, wrote the foreword for my book, Naked Innovation. That doesn’t make him any less smart. You should read his books.
This is the second of three parts post on the best books on strategy and innovation. Consider the list taken together as a “101” book set for those passionate about the topics, as a gift list for that special strategist in your life, or the perfect set to make good on that New Year’s resolution to “learn more about strategy and innovation”. Absolutely essential books are noted as *Must Read*.
If you haven’t read the first post on the “Classics of Strategy”, it’s worth giving it a quick review. This part, on Innovation & Business Models, focus on recent books written in our current era of “Continuous Innovation”, post-2000, and illustrate a marked shift in strategic thinking to opportunity identification and iterative development as well as the movement from traditional business “planning” to more organic “modeling”. I’ll be following up later this week with part 3, “Other Books of Note”, which is what it sounds like: a grab bag of other works I’ve found useful that any strategist worth their salt should consider reading.
Post #2: Innovation & Business Modeling
I’ve arranged these works in order of their original date of authorship.
*Must Read* Doblin 10 Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley1 and others at Doblin Group, 1995 (or earlier)
I’m starting off with one work which isn’t a book and which was first devised prior to 2000–two attributes which sort of break the rules I just set up. That said, this work is too important to ignore and just feels like it was created post-2000, even though it wasn’t. There are many typologies of innovation but none are as useful or as complete as Doblin’s model. While most people traditionally thought about innovation as updating products or services, the smart folks at Doblin recognized that innovation could come from anywhere in the value web. By pushing your teams to concept along the 10 Types, you’re sure to come up with better integrated solutions with a much higher hit rate. Doblin just updated their “10 Types of Innovation” and you would be well served to spend some time with them. It’s free!
*Must Read* Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through the Wilds of Strategic Management by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel, 2001
Strategy Safari walks readers through a range–one could say a “safari”–of types of strategy. As probably the most well known proponent of “Evolutionist” strategy, Mintzberg comes from a theoretical standpoint that claims we can’t fully understand a strategy until it’s in our rearview mirror, eg. behind us. Luckily, he and his co-authors have taken the time to look at thousands of companies with the purpose of identifying patterns of useful strategy. It’s a fascinating journey. By reading Porter, Mintzberg and Schwartz, you experience the three schools of Strategy with a capital “S”: rationalist, evolutionist and processual.
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, 2004
Blue Ocean Strategy sort of took the world by storm with the simplicity of its message: compete in uncontested spaces rather than where competition is intense within an industry. Written by Kim and Mauborgne of the self-titled Blue Ocean Strategy Institute of Insead, reframed Southwest, Cirque du Soleil and Starbuck’s success into one of competing in “Blue”–wide open–rather than “Red”–highly competitive–oceans. It’s one of a few popular business books on this larger list that could be labeled a “one trick pony”. That said, each of the “tricks” from these ponies are worth knowing, including Blue Ocean.
*Must Read* Naked Innovation: Uncovering a Shared Practice for Creating Value by Zachary Jean Paradis and David McGaw, 2007
This book is about innovation—how to create value for people through new or improved services and products. Naked Innovation helps unveil some of the mysteries of the process—stripping it down to reveal structures that multidisciplinary teams can share. The book is organized around the innovation process itself and spans references from the Art of War to the Doblin 10 Types. It’s an attempt at integrating strategy and innovation like it has never been integrated before. Because it’s never been formally “published”, Dave and I sell it through Blurb at cost. Given I’ve written a book on this topic, I better deep it worth recommending.
Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik with Peter Mortensen, 2009
As we’ve come to realize we what little success comes from sitting in isolated conference rooms coming up with “next big thing”, our focus on customers and people has become more pronounced. Unfortunately, the day-to-day reality is that we still spend too much of our time focused internally towards our organizations and not enough time looking outward connected to customers. This is where Wired to Care comes. Dev and Peter, both from Jump Associates, have written an inspiring work built around listening and empathizing with people and how this type of activity can be ingrained in an organization to drive success.
The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin2, 2009
Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business, is one of the world’s greatest thinkers on strategy and innovation. Trained as a classical strategist and someone who helped lead Monitor, the firm founded by Michael Porter (yes, that Porter), Martin spent his career helping companies develop successful strategies when he had an epiphany. He realized that for far too long, businesses were built around the exploitation of a single idea or situation, becoming increasingly efficient through reliable mathematical analysis and optimization. Martin’s epiphany was that running an organization not only required reliability-driven exploitation but also exploration by testing the validity of future businesses through more inductive means of understanding. Bridging this reliability-validity gap is the topic of the book and what Martin convincingly argues is required to be successful in our era of continuous innovation.
*Must Read* Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, 2010
Osterwalder and Pigneur worked with hundreds of other brilliant designers, researchers, strategists and others to create Business Model Generation. The book works a lot like giant “concept construction work sheets”. Namely, the book is designed around a business model “Canvas” with the key components needed to iterate through the design of new businesses. It’s a great book and presents a simpler, more graphic approach to breaking the functional parts of a business down. If you’re considering starting a business, I could recommend no two better books than it and the final piece on this list, The Lean Startup.
Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business by Luke Williams, 2010
Disrupt is a fun read. Luke Williams, former Chief Creative Officer and now Fellow of frog design, helped formalize the firm’s process, “frogThink”, and this book documents it. Disrupt romps through stories of design-led innovation and, similar to my book Naked Innovation, is organized around the process itself. One piece I found particularly valuable is the section where Williams discusses disruptive hypothesis generation. It’s a fun process and absolutely useful. Disrupt is probably the best design-led innovation book I’ve read to date.
*Must Read* The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, 2011
Don’t know what a “minimum viable product” is? Considering founding a new company? There was everything Drucker wrote about entrepreneurship, a ton of other stuff, and then The Lean Startup. What Drucker outlined is just as important today as when he wrote it. The majority of the other writing on starting a new business between his and The Lean Startup is not very useful. The book is filled with tons of great examples and principles for start-ups. While primarily focused on creating new companies, the book’s many principles also have relevance to entrepreneurs as well. It’s the newest book on this list–just published in September, 2011–and I predict it will be seen as a classic in a decades time.
As I said in part 1 of this post, this list could have easily been edited down or expanded. A few books I’m looking forward to reading but haven’t include Innovation X: Why a Company's Toughest Problems Are Its Greatest Advantage by Adam Richdardson, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, and The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century by Stephen Denning. Contact me via twitter to make other suggestions and I’ll include major oversights in an update to this post in a week or so. Expect part three late this week, which will outline “Other Books of Note” -- a grab bag of other works I’ve found useful that any strategist worth their salt should consider reading.
1 Disclaimer: Larry Keeley was a professor of mine at the IIT Institute of Design and his thinking continues to be a big impact on me.
2 Disclaimer: Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business, wrote the foreword for Naked Innovation. That doesn’t make him any less smart. You should read his books.
A couple of weeks ago a colleague at work asked me for my best recommendations for books on strategy. A week later, Helen Walters tweeted a request to followers to suggest their most essential books on innovation. Consider this list a “101” set for those passionate about strategy and innovation, as a gift list for that special strategist in your life, or the perfect set to make good on that New Year’s resolution to “learn more about strategy”. Absolutely essential books are noted as *Must Read*.
The list is broken down in three areas to be released in three separate posts: The Classics of Strategy, Innovation & Business Models, and Other Books of Note. This post, the “Classics”, refer to books written pre-2000 that introduce traditional models of strategy still useful today. Innovation & Business Models focus on recent books written in our current era of “Continuous Innovation”, post-2000, and illustrate a marked shift in strategic thinking to opportunity identification and iterative development as well as the movement from traditional business “planning” to more organic “modeling”. Other Books of Note is what it sounds like: it’s a grab bag of other works I’ve found useful that any strategist worth their salt should consider reading.
Part 1: The Classics of Strategy
I’ve arranged these works in order of their original date of authorship.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (translated by Ralph D. Sawyer), 5th century BC, translated 1994
If you believe that a book on war strategy written 2500 years ago could have nothing to offer us in 2012, you would be wrong. A favorite quote of mine from the Art of War illustrates the point: “[success] without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.” That quote, and the supporting thinking, could easily come out of of Blue Ocean Strategy or many other of today’s books on strategy. Sun Tzu offers similar new insight with each re-reading.
*Must Read* The Essential Drucker: In One Volume the Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management by Peter Drucker, published in 2001 but collected from a series of books written much earlier
Peter Drucker was a leader, a visionary, a prolific writer and the deepest of thinkers of the last century. If you haven’t read anything by the man who coined the term “Knowledge Worker” back in 1959, do yourself a favor and pick up this “Essential” anthology which collects some of the most important chapters of his writing across management, purpose, innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and society. Given Drucker proposed the best definition on what the purpose of a company (or organization) is, it would be foolhardy to ignore him.
Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers, 1962
The “grandaddy” of books on innovation, Diffusions was ahead of its time but still very relevant 50 years after it’s first release in the latest (5th) edition. Rogers initial study of why farmers weren’t adopting new agricultural methods, his subsequent research and synthesis set up every innovation thinker that followed. If you’re serious about mastering innovation thinking and wish to understand how innovation was viewed prior to it being a fashionable concept in strategy, you need to read this book.
*Must Read* Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by Michael E. Porter, 1985
If you could pick just one book that would represent classic, rationalist school business strategy, it would have to be Competitive Advantage. Ever hear of the 5 forces? This is the book, following a series of legendary Harvard Business Review articles, that outlines what it is and how to use it. Executing a quick five forces analysis is something I still do at the start of every project. Understanding Porter, at the very least, gives one insight into how traditional strategists think about problems.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, Peter M. Senge, 1990
While Drucker is undeniably the most innovative thinker in general management, Senge’s focus on organizational dynamics and mechanics provides an excellent treatise on how systems thinking can be integrated with, and applied to, strategy. Senge’s ability to connect sometimes disparate modes of thinking into a cohesive and useful whole for leaders and strategists is remarkable. His key notion of the “learning organization” is more relevant today than when he first introduced it over two decades ago.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore, 1991
Crossing the Chasm was a massive hit at the time of its release in outlining how technology products were different from typical consumer goods. This was a big deal at the time as technology as a category only then became realistic to consider making a leap to average consumers. All and all, there are only a couple key points to take out of the book with a lot of stories illustrating these couple of points. The first point is that early adopters of tech products really aren’t the same as mainstream consumers and tech products have unique adoption curves. You can learn the second point by reading the book. It’s certainly an entertaining read.
Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World by Peter Schwartz, 1992
You could call Art of the Long View a one trick pony given it’s mostly one key concept with a lot of supporting stories. That all said, scenario planning is a pretty good trick and representative of one of the three classic schools of strategy, namely the processualist school. There are some newer books that tackle the topic in a more depth but these were less influential.
Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, 1996
In Competing for the Future, Hamel and Prahalad popularized the notion of “Core Competencies”. Although interest on the concept has fallen out of favor, the book holds a host of gems on how companies need to define clear strategic intent and then understand what competencies will really “get them there”. Hamel continues to be a leading strategic thinker in the field while Prahalad’s important work focused on the base of the pyramid was cut short by a too early passing.
*Must Read* Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, 1997
The Innovator’s Dilemma pushed the general business population to realize disruptive innovation was important to their businesses and critical to strategy. The first of many essential works by perhaps the greatest author on innovation ever, Dilemma is a tour de force illustrating why, as companies scale around a set of products and competencies, they fail to recognize initially smaller or less lucrative markets as their future or their demise. If there’s one book that really kicked off our era of Continuous Innovation, this is it and is still the best of many fantastic books Christensen has written.
Needless to say, this list could have easily been edited down or expanded. Given it’s one individual’s recommendations, it would be great to hear from readers to see what other works might be recommended. Contact me via twitter to make other suggestions and I’ll include those in an update to this post in a week or so. Expect my next post Monday, which will outline relevant books in Innovation and Business Modeling.