Top 10 Must-Read Classics on Innovation Techniques

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Learn what works in innovation from these ten books.

Part of building a great innovation strategy is to learn about the history of innovation. Here are ten books every innovator should crack as they build a new innovation approach.

The Myths of Innovation, by Scott Berkun

We’re all told certain things about innovation that are just plain old wrong. Thomas Edison no more single-handedly invented the light bulb than he did the internet, and yet we have this taught to us constantly. Berkun clears the ground for more effective innovation by blowing up a few myths.

The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen

Christensen is the professor who turned “disruption” into a buzzword but, unfortunately, why he did so is lost in the noise. This book lays out how businesses can do everything right and still lose out on innovation. Reading it and digesting its message should be part of any innovation strategy.

Thinkertoys, by Michael Michalko

Creative thinking can be a struggle for some. Michalko’s book, designed to get you thinking and trying new approaches to problems, is one you’ll keep handy to jumpstart your innovative thinking processes.

Running Lean, by Ash Maurya

Innovation strategy starts with a plan. Maurya’s text is great for any plan, including an innovation strategy. This book delves into the best ways to achieve product/market fit, all while staying within your budgeting constraints. Building on methodologies such as Lean Startup, Customer Development, and bootstrapping, the book is a must-read for innovation leaders.

Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

A classic about opening new markets, this book offers excellent guidance on how to analyze the potential of markets, whether they’re “blue oceans” (totally new markets), or “blue oceans within red oceans” (new markets in heavily competitive spaces).

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Learning is part of innovation, and it never stops.

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

Collins’ research explodes the myth of the lone innovator on a hill, changing the future of entire companies. Instead he lays out how companies go from solid performers to market dominators due to a long uphill push that leads to a breakthrough.

Creative Construction, by Gary P. Pisano

Pisano looks at how established organizations can draw lessons and ideas from start-ups, allowing them to become more creative and nimble as they move forward.

Cascades, by Greg Satell

Part of any innovation strategy is working on “buy-in,” getting different groups of stakeholders to commit to the plan and its results. Satell’s book is a fascinating take on how this happens. It argues that small groups tied together with a common purpose are what drive any idea, from an internal innovation to a global social movement.

The March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman

Why are we including a book of military history on a list of innovation texts? It’s because Tuchman tackles what happens when organizations (in this case governments) stick to “what’s always worked” and don’t question their assumptions. Tuchman explains why these decisions were made and the cultural factors that drove them, and more importantly, offers perspective on how we can avoid them, whether we’re a general in the field or just trying to build a better product.

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