Is it just me, or does this also happen to you? Summer after summer it's the same. Usually, at the beginning of the season, I start to think, "okay, which book should I take on vacation?" (fully aware that, in the end, I'll return home having not opened it once). Why? Probably because I tend to grab a book that's been collecting dust on my shelf -- usually a promo/giveaway about something I don't really care about or a birthday gift that missed the mark (sorry, Grandma, I don't want to read that romance novel). Reading is not the problem; finding a great book is! It's like J.K. Rowling once said:
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
Finding that enjoyable book can be a challenge with the huuuge variety of books out there. That's why recommendations from like-minded people are always appreciated (again, I love my grandma, but we do not have the same taste when it comes to reading). As far as I can remember, nearly all of the book recommendations I've received have been great reads and did not disappoint.
That's why we reached out to a couple of innovation managers asking them which book they would recommend to people working in the same field. These books aren't just about strategic innovation management; they also cover topics like interpersonal relationships, which are as crucial for a sustainable innovation culture as the frameworks that help structure and improve your program.
Below, I compiled their recommendations, a quick summary of the book, and their response to WHY they recommend these books.
P.S., I already ordered two of them. Which ones are on your wishlist? If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below! Happy reading! :-)
Books every innovation manager should read
- "Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers" by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
About the book: The "Business Model Generation" features practical innovation techniques used today by leading consultants and companies worldwide, including 3M, Ericsson, Capgemini, Deloitte, and others. Designed for doers, it is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new models of value creation: for executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all organizations.
Why?: "Because business models are really the most important thing to innovate. The book is beautifully designed and very accessible."
- "Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation" by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman, and David Farber
About the book: "Jobs to Be Done" gives you a clear-cut framework for thinking about your business, outlines a roadmap for discovering new markets, new products and services, and helps you generate creative opportunities to innovate your way to success. Packed with examples from every industry, this complete innovation guide explains both foundational concepts and a detailed action plan developed by innovation expert Stephen Wunker and his team.
Why?: "Because anyone interested in designing/solving customer pain points has to understand the concept of 'hiring products to do a job.'"
- "Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days" by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz / "The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation" by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless
About the book: In "Sprint," designer Jake Knapp created the five-day process at Google, where sprints were used on everything from Google Search to Google X. He joined Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky at Google Ventures, and together they have completed more than a hundred sprints with companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more. A practical guide to answering critical business questions, "Sprint" is a book for teams of any size, from small startups to Fortune 100s, from teachers to nonprofits.
About the book: "Liberating Structures" are novel, practical, and no-nonsense methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size. This book shows you how to use these structures, with detailed descriptions for putting them into practice plus tips on how to get started and traps to avoid. It takes the design and facilitation methods experts use and puts them within reach of anyone in any organization or initiative, from the frontline to the C-suite.
Why?: "Both of these books are very accessible for anyone wanting to change the nature of the interaction between people while creating great value (getting work done)."
- "Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations" by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder
About the book: "Ideas Are Free" sets out a roadmap for totally integrating ideas and idea management into the way companies are structured and operate. Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder draw on their ten years of experience with more than 300 organizations in 15 countries to show precisely how to design a system to take advantage of this virtually free, perpetually renewing font of innovation.
Why?: "It’s a fairly easy book to read with a lot of truth and wisdom to its insights. I like the chapter on 'Small Ideas' specifically because sometimes small ideas can be a great source of big ideas. I see this as being especially true in a vast and diversified campus like UC San Diego. Here is a quote I like in this book that illustrates the point that a process is the solution, rather than a system:
'The real bottleneck to ideas all along has not been the employees’ lack of creativity but management’s inability to listen to them. A great number of organizations have made a similar mistake. It makes little sense to waste resources stimulating more ideas from employees, if you can’t handle the ones they already have.'
Jop van Dillen,
- "The Visual MBA" by Jason Barron
About the book: Jason Barron spent 516 hours in class, completed mountains of homework and shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to complete his MBA at the BYU Marriott School of Business. Along the way, rather than taking boring notes that he would never read (nor use) again, Jason created sketch notes for each class—visually capturing the essential points of his education—and providing an engaging and invaluable resource.
Why?: "I recently bought this book, and it’s very inspiring and easy to use. It summarizes two years of business school in a visual way; it’s basically a tool book for running a venture/org."
- "Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology" by Henry W. Chesbrough
About the book: Over the past several years, Hank Chesbrough has done excellent research and writing on the commercialization of technology and the changing role and context for R&D. This book represents a powerful synthesis of that work in the form of a new paradigm for managing corporate research and bringing new technologies to market. Chesbrough impressively articulates his ideas and how they connect to each other, weaving several disparate areas of work, R&D, corporate venturing, spinoffs, licensing and intellectual property into a single coherent framework.
Why?: "Valuable book for me, as well as 'The Start-up Way' by Eric Ries, these are the most obvious."
- "The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want" by Dave Kerpen
About the book: What does it take to win success and influence? Some people think that in today’s hyper-competitive world, it’s the tough, take-no-prisoners type who comes out on top. But in reality, argues New York Times bestselling author Dave Kerpen, it’s actually those with the best people skills who win the day. Here, through 53 easy-to-execute tips, you’ll learn to master the 11 People Skills that will get you more of what you want in life.
Why? "So much of my work is influencing and persuading, and for that, you need to be able to read and connect with people. I am not a sales person in any way, shape, or form, but I do understand people and relationship,s and I understand the value they bring to an innovation program. You can have the most robust set of tools and techniques, the fanciest platform, and the biggest teams, but if you don’t understand people, you’ll never be able to sell it into the business."
- "Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones" by James Clear
About the book: In this book, Clears reveals exactly how minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule, or the trick to entering the Goldilocks Zone), and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Along the way, he tells inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists who have used the science of tiny habits to stay productive, motivated, and happy.
Why?: "Because innovation is a people thing and behaviors are key to execution."
- "Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company's Future - and What to Do About It" by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert
About the book: Tzuo shows how to use subscriptions to build profitable, ongoing one-on-one relationships with your customers. This may require reinventing substantial parts of your company, from your accounting practices to your entire IT architecture, but the payoff can be enormous. In "Subscribed," you'll learn how companies like Adobe or Caterpillar made the shift, and how you can transform your own product into a valuable service with a practical, step-by-step framework. Find out how you can prepare and prosper now, rather than trying to catch up later.
Why?: "Because transactional models are endangered."
- "Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant" by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
About the book: "Blue Ocean Strategy" presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any organization can use to create and capture their own blue oceans. This expanded edition includes a new preface by the authors: Help! My Ocean Is Turning Red, updates on all cases and examples in the book, bringing their stories up to the present time, and two new chapters and an expanded third one ― "Alignment, Renewal, and Red Ocean Traps" ― that address the most pressing questions readers have asked over the past 10 years.
Why? "'Blue Ocean Strategy' was so significant it has to be part of everyone's reading list."
- "Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries" by Safi Bahcall
About the book: Drawing on the science of phase transitions, Bahcall shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing wild new ideas to rigidly rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice. "Loonshots" identifies the small shifts in structure that control this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice. Using examples that range from the spread of fires in forests to the hunt for terrorists online, and stories of thieves and geniuses and kings, Bahcall shows how this new kind of science helps us understand the behavior of companies and the fate of empires. "Loonshots" distills these insights into lessons for creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries everywhere.
Why?: "Because sometimes you should think big."
- "Innovation for the Fatigued: How to Build a Culture of Deep Creativity" by Alf Rehn
About the book: This book is the antidote to the empty promises that pervade the innovation industry. "Innovation for the Fatigued" will detail where companies have got innovation wrong while celebrating and studying the ones that lead the way. With unique, relatable, and varied examples, renowned innovation and creativity professor Alf Rehn provides a practical model for getting innovation back on track and instilling change at speed with a real concern for market demands.
Why?: "I was looking for a book on innovation culture and the title drew me in. What drew me in was this line: '[...] the most pressing characteristic of contemporary innovation literature is how maddeningly similar and repetitive it is. The advice given is so standardized it cannot be more than a year or so until an AI can write an innovation book, using the same, endlessly repeated advice: look outside your industry for ideas, listen to diverse groups of people, experiment and test with customers, take chances, learn to love failure. See, I just saved you from reading 50 best-selling innovation books published since the early 2010s. You're welcome.' I thought, 'this guy has something different to say.' I've just started reading it, and Alf has a wonderful writing style. I'm looking forward to sections titled: "Curiosity: It Never Killed the Cat," "On the Fine Art of Respectful Disharmony," "Innovation Pornography," and "How to Kill Innovation Culture With an Idea Competition."
Have you read any of these books? Let us know your thoughts! Have any additional recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!