There’s a reason why most successful leaders set aside time to read books. Reading stretches your experience beyond the people and situations you encounter on your own. Reading articles and blog posts will help keep you current. Reading books takes you deeper into important thoughts, situations, and experiences.
This is part of a series of posts that will help you discover good books on a variety of topics. This post will help you find great books on innovation. “Innovation” is a buzzword of the day. So, it’s surprising that there are so few good books on the topic. One reason is the common confusion of “creativity” and “innovation.”
Creativity and Innovation are Not the Same
Creativity and innovation are different. Creativity is the process of coming up with new ideas. Human beings do this naturally and easily. Innovation is different. Innovation is about combining and modifying ideas to create something useful. That “something useful” might be as big as a world-changing business or as mundane as coming up with a better system to handle customer complaints.
Ever since I helped a major corporation create a training program on creativity and innovation, I’ve read a lot of books about both topics. For my money, there’s one book on innovation that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The One Best Book on Innovation
Greg Satell’s Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating in A Disruptive Age is the best book I’ve read on innovation. Ever. If you only buy and read one book on innovation, make it this one.
Satell does an excellent job of covering the basic ground about innovation and busting innovation myths. He also does two other things that add value to the book and make it unique. His Innovation Matrix gives you a quick way to sort out what kind of situation you’re facing. Once you know that, you can learn about the tools and activities you can use to meet different challenges.
He also does an excellent job of connecting innovation to business. Many other books on innovation either give you purely abstract principles or use illustrations from the world of invention by people like James Dyson and Thomas Edison.
Mapping Innovation is clearly the best book on innovation and its application to business, but it’s not the only good book. Here are a couple of other books to consider.
Complementary Books on Innovation
David Robertson’s book, The Power of Little Ideas is about the kind of innovation that Greg Satell classifies as “sustaining” innovation. It’s about developing a family of complimentary innovations around a product or service. Those innovations all add value to the original without changing it at all. Here’s my full review.
Another solid book is Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, by Clayton M. Christensen, Karen Dillon, Taddy Hall, and David S. Duncan. This book is about a theory called Jobs to Be Done. The theory says that people buy things (or “hire” them, in the jargon of the theory) to get something done. If you understand why and how they buy, you can create products with something more than a gambler’s chance of success. Here’s my full review.
“Design thinking” has been popularized as a way to promote and create innovation in any kind of organization. The poster company for design thinking is the firm, IDEO. Tom Kelley is the General Manager of IDEO. His book is The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity From IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm.
Special note. Before you buy this book, read the reviews on Amazon. While the overall writing quality is very high, there are some specific things that several people didn’t like.
I know these books are good. I also know that they’re not a complete list of good books about innovation. I read a lot, but there’s no way I can read all the good books that come on the market.
What books would you add to this list?