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January 25, 2022
March 19, 2020

Books for Innovators - Top recommendations by Akos

2020 brought us unexpected difficulties in community life all around the world. Let’s try to make the most out of social distancing - e.g., invest in new knowledge, such as reading relevant books.

If you want to read about innovation or try to learn “things” that are necessary to build your innovation muscles, there is not much help out there. There are a lot of amazing books detailing one method or another. Nevertheless, if you are just starting, you need cornerstones that can help you navigate later.

I believe that anyone working with innovations should have a wide array of knowledge, something innovation-related from every field of business, process, or product development. Or even people-development and organizational innovations.

As I am a strong believer in behaviour and people, books with this perspective will outweigh my list. The reason for this is that people-dynamics, organizational challenges are the hardest to change, therefore have the most significant impact on innovation. Also, you won’t find any biographies, as these can be motivational but will not add a lot to your arsenal.

The list is not in any particular order. Except for the first one, which I consider one of the most important books ever on innovation.

1. Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

This is the Bible. Not from the methodology perspective, but how precisely Christensen points out the biggest flaw in corporate innovation efforts and how market and organizational dynamics rule the innovation world. Unless a visionary leader changes it, this book will endure decades and still be valid and accurate to the last letter. Think of Marcus Aurelius but for innovation.

2. Peter Drucker: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

I could have named anything from Drucker. He was born in Vienna, which by that time was the same country as Budapest, my home town. He was visionary-his books and ideas hold true to this day. His work is a lighthouse and will continue to be even for the next hundred years. Read anything or everything from Drucker. In addition, henceforth, every time you read something that is still true today, check the publishing date… you’ll be shocked.

3. Geoffrey Moore: Crossing the Chasm

What can be more important than product marketing? How do you reach market dominance and build up your market-leading position from being a nobody? That’s what this book is about. The concept, the understanding of the dynamics (again, I know...) make this book a cornerstone in innovation-related product marketing.

4. Jeffrey Gitomer: Sales Bible

This book right here is one of the reasons we are a step ahead in what we do. Our sales background and how we distil everything down to sales and business success has been largely influenced by this sales book. It covers the basics, and even if you are not in sales, it will not hurt to understand it. By reading it, you can focus on how your product can help sales and how and what kind of feedback you can expect from salespeople during the innovation phase or the early market entry efforts.

5. Dan Ariely: Predictably Irrational

Behavioural economics is the key to understanding customers and is a necessary new knowledge. A knowledge area our peers 20 years ago didn’t have access to, as it was not mainstream and marginalized by economics superstars. Ariely’s take on the most common experiments is an easy and entertaining read. It should give you enough insights to reassess how you think of market research and customer’s buying decisions. If you want to dive deeper into this topic and also go into human biology, a great new behavioural bible was just published by Robert M. Sapolsky called 'Behave'.

6. Eric Ries: Lean Startup

It is the only book in this list that is actually about a method. Popularized by Silicon Valley startups, this is the most current and most lethal weapon that startups are wielding against enterprises. Aggressive and fast, but repeatable. After reading the book, make sure to try it out in practice. Some of the steps are fearful at first, while others require a great deal of self-control. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I encourage you to get the Audible exclusive “The Leader’s Guide” full of practical examples (audiobook only). 

7. Kim Scott: Radical Candor

Innovation requires being open to feedback—fast, direct feedback, even in the most stressful situations. Radical candor demonstrates how to do that and how it can help with creating the right feedback culture.

Well, these are my top recommended books for anyone passionate about innovations. Hope you will enjoy learning!