Best Innovation Books

Technology invention and adoption are accelerating. Tech is also becoming less expensive. The following books were carefully chosen for their proven principles, processes, and roadmaps anyone can use to innovate.  

Large companies' size and culture make disruptive innovation extremely difficult to execute. - Steve Blank  

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The Innovator's Dilemma book

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

The author, Clayton M. Christensen, is an innovation expert whose work was honored by great business minds, including Steve Jobs.  

The book has two sections, why great companies can fail, and managing disruptive technological change. Part one includes how great firms can fail, value networks and the force that drives change. Part two includes discovering new and emerging markets, how to appraise your organization's capabilities and disabilities, market demand and product life cycle, managing disruptive technological change, and the dilemmas of innovation.  

The principles the book is based on... 1. Companies depend on customers and investors for resources 2. Small markets don't solve the growth needs of large companies 3. Markets that don't exist can't be analyzed 4. An organization's capabilities define its disabilities 5. Technology supply may not equal market demand  

Large companies with lots of resources usually don't have the flexibility and processes that are necessary for serving disruptive innovation to niche markets. Their answer should be either acquire a company already serving the disruptive technology to the niche market, or start a new company with the flexibility and processes for the niche market.  

Get Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

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The Lean Startup book

The Lean Startup: How Todays Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation 

This book gave the startup movement a kickstart with its story of how the company IMVU reached annual revenues more than $50 million. It provides practical advice on the innovation systems they put in place to create a radically successful business, and how you can implement those same systems. The book gives credit to Steve Blank's Customer Development process.  

A few important messages of the book are; "Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught." "Entrepreneurship is management." Validated learning is critical and done by "running frequent experiments" with a build, measure and learn system. Innovation is also critical, "to improve entrepreneurial outcomes and hold innovators accountable, we need to focus on the boring stuff: how to measure progress, how to setup milestones, and how to prioritize work."  

The most important entrepreneurship questions are "Should this product be built?" and "Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?"  

Validated learning starts with developing assumptions to be tested, and running experiments to test the most important assumptions. When validating value of the minimum viable product you need to observe real customer behavior, not just ask them hypothetical questions.  

Innovation accounting involves focusing on important metrics that can go up or down, not vanity metrics that only stay level or go up (like total number of customers acquired to date). Then find the growth engine (paid, viral, or sticky) and move forward with milestones to decide whether to pivot or persevere.  

Get The Lean Startup by Eric Ries  

Driving Eureka book

Driving Eureka: Problem-Solving with Data-Driven Methods & the Innovation Engineering System

This book is born from Doug Hall's life work at his company Eureka Ranch. Doug studied the great Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  

This book is based on the vast experience of Eureka Ranch inventing and validating an innovation idea decision system and teaching system. The book provides a systematic approach to innovation including the three innovation principles and the innovation system.  

Three innovation principles: Explore stimulus, leverage diversity, and drive out fear.  

The innovation system of create, problem solve, and recreate, using different extensions of the three innovation principles.  

The book also includes a couple ways to search for unused or outdated patents that can be used as a starting point to recreate the idea into a more valuable invention.  

Get Driving Eureka by Doug Hall  


Startup Owner's Manual book

The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step by Step Guide for Building a Great Company 

This book is born from the decades of innovation experience of Steve Blank, who taught the principles in this book to Will Harvey and Eric Ries, founders of IMVU. Eric went on to build on what he learned from Steve and IMVU and wrote the wildly popular book, The Lean Startup.  

 The core of the book is the customer development model. "Products developed by founders who get out in front of customers early and often, win." "There are no facts inside your building, so get the heck outside."  

The customer development model... 1. Customer discovery, using a business model canvas to test assumptions about the customer perception of the problem and the need to solve it. 2. Customer validation is proving the customer discovery has a repeatable and scalable business model. 3. Customer creation is when the startup steps on the gas to scale. 4. Company building is when the startup builds structured departments.  

It offers a "get customers" strategy... 1. Determine who your customers are 2. Determine the content they like 3. Get the content in front of them 4. Participate in their communities 5. Create content they link to  

The book also has a practical chart with practical ways to get, keep, and grow customers in a physical and digital environment.  

Get The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank

Business Model Generation book

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

This is the book about the Business Model Canvas, which is being taught in university entrepreneurship courses. It is a type of lean plan, but more specifically, a one-page plan business model. It explains the nine areas that are most important to create a revenue generating business model...

Key Partners 

Key Activities 

Key Resources 

Value Proposition

Customer Segments 

Customer Relationships

Channels 

Revenue Streams 

Cost Structure

They graciously licensed the business model canvas as a Creative Commons ShareAlike product. This has allowed others to create business consulting and coaching uing this helpful product. They found enough value in the value proposition section that they created a follow up book, Value Proposition Design, with a one-page Value Proposition Canvas.  

Get Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Disciplined Entrepreneurship book

Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup

“More important than being charismatic, entrepreneurs need to be effective communicators, recruiters, and salespeople.” “These skills can be taught. They are not genetically gifted to a few lucky souls.”  

This book is written by the MIT Professor Bill Aulet. In the introduction of the book he submits there are two types of entrepreneurship, small and medium business enterprise (SME) and innovation driven enterprise (IDE) and this book focuses on IDE. He claims the reason Stanford and MIT are so successful at producing effective entrepreneurs is their entrepreneurial learning environment that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, provides proven processes to collaborate, create, compete, and overcome challenges. This is why MIT alumni start about 900 new companies each year.  

This is one of many books that reveal a proven innovation process. This book provides a pragmatic roadmap made of 24 practical steps on how to pursue the science and art of innovative entrepreneurship.  

The roadmap includes finding a beachhead market (niche), build profile persona, create a high level product specification, quantify the value proposition, chart your competitive position, map the customer acquisition process, design your business model, set pricing, calculate the cost of customer acquisition, test key assumptions, define the minimum viable business product, and develop a product plan.  

Get Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet  

The Startup Way book

The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management 

This is the follow up to the great book The Lean Startup. It explains how principles of entrepreneurial management can be applied in any industry, size of company, or sector of the economy. It walks you through transforming culture to drive long-term growth through innovation.  

The book provides the missing capabilities for organizations to thrive in the future. "To experiment rapidly with new products and new business models, the ability to empower their most creative people, and the ability to engage again and again in an innovation process - and manage it with rigor and accountability - so that they can unlock new sources of growth and productivity."  

The book highlights the successes of the Six Sigma and lean manufacturing systems that create better quality products and better systems. How the primary problem with companies innovating is being afraid of failure and not embracing learning. Every organization should have an entrepreneurial functions of  

1. Overseeing high-potential growth initiatives 2. Infusing everyday work across the organization with an entrepreneurial, experimental, iterative mindset  

Get The Startup Way by Eric Ries

Blue Ocean Shift book

Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing. Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth

This is the follow up to the great book Blue Ocean Strategy. It incorporates the Strategy Canvas way of innovating competitive factors (from Blue Ocean Strategy) with a big-picture business model.  

It builds a holistic model of market creating strategy that includes strategic blue ocean options and the growth consequences. "Creative destruction and disruptive innovation are only part of the picture." This book reveals the three ways their research showed to create a market.  

  Offer a breakthrough technology for an industry's existing problem Redefine an industry's existing problem and solve it Identify and solve a brand-new problem or seize a brand-new opportunity  

The book includes a link to a web page with many blue ocean shift exercise templates.  

Get Blue Ocean Shift by Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

Zero to One book

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

The co author Peter Thiel co founded PayPal, Palantir Technologies, and Founders Fund. He has many decades of experience with innovation along with the co author Blake Masters.  

This book is very forward thinking. It explains challenges of the future. A future of progress can take two forms horizontal or extensive, 1 to n. Or vertical or intensive, 0 to 1.  

The book explains every business is somewhere on a sliding scale between perfect competition and monopoly. Characteristics of monopolies are proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding. "If you can recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value, you're already more sane than most."  

The book also explains that disrupting an existing market can be dangerous and emphasizes creation of new markets. However, it also explains being first to create a new market is dangerous because of fast followers and recommends starting small and dominating a niche and scaling up from there.  

The book reveals a venture capital secret that the best investment in a fund equals or outperforms the rest of the fund combined. It also explains how people thrive solving hard problems or secrets and how society is undermining that desire with four beliefs. 1. Incremental progress. 2. Risk aversion. 3. Complacency. 4. Flatness.  

The book has much more good reading including Strong AI as a lottery ticket.  

Get Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters  


Innovation can be learned from books

There are a couple different approaches to innovation. The customer development approach which is explained in The Startup Manual, or the old school product development approach. Both have their place depending on how important a finished first product needs to be. The customer development approach with a minimum viable product might not be well accepted in the medical community for specific life supporting technologies. But the majority of new technologies would be better served with the customer development approach.

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