An Innovator's Reading List For 2014

Centric’s Board of Directors recently put its collective minds together to build a list of top (and favorite) books on innovation.

Some are classics well-known to the Innovation Excellence community. Others may be currently flying under the radar. All are excellent choices to add to your 2014 Wish List. Happy reading!

In no particular order:

  • The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. A classic, must read for innovators everywhere. First published in 1997, Christensen suggests that successful companies can put too much emphasis on customer’ current needs and fail to adopt to new technology or business models that will meet customers’ unstated or future needs. He calls this “disruptive innovation” and gives examples as diverse as the personal computer industry, milkshakes and steel mills.
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. This book is frequently described as a must read for all business students. Companies, it claims, spend too mush time fighting for the same customers in the same markets, the so called red, ‘bloodied’ oceans. If they really want to succeed they should look for new blue oceans. They should offer new products and services or find new customers.
  • The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen. In the worldwide bestseller The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen exposed a crushing paradox behind the failure of many industry leaders: ignoring “disruptive technologies” – new cheaper innovations that evolve to displace the reigning product. His follow up book reveals that innovation is not as unpredictable as most managers have come to believe. While the outcomes of past innovations seem random, the process by which innovations are packaged within companies is very predictable.
  • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes readers from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web. You should also check out Steven’s TED talk of the same title, one of the most popular TED talks ever.
  • The Little Black Book of Innovation by Scott Anthony. Drawing on decades of research and thinking, as well as Innosight fieldwork with companies like Procter & Gamble, Anthony illuminates innovation’s vital role in organizational success and professional growth and delivers tools and concepts to make you and your team more innovation savvy. “Innovation is a human-driven, social activity. Good innovators realize this and seek to make as many connections as they possibly can.” Scott Anthony
  • Red Thread Thinking by Debra Kaye. Make innovation a way of life, rather than an event. Innovation demands looking at the world differently, and finding connections between seemingly disconnected things. The book describes five red threads that we can use to create smart and practical innovations for everyday living. Kaye argues that anyone can develop a knack for this five-thread approach. “By weaving together unexpected threads, we become better at tapping into our own broad capacity to get past fixed ideas and assumptions in order to truly think outside of predetermined boxes—and that’s the ultimate business weapon.”
  • Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Since its release in 2007, Made to Stick has become popular with managers, marketers, teachers, ministers, entrepreneurs, and others who want to make their ideas stick. Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers tackle head-on these vexing questions. They reveal the anatomy of ideas that “stick” and explain sure-fire methods for making ideas stickier, such as violating schemas, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating “curiosity gaps.”
  • Change By Design by Tim Brown. The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realized as new offerings and capabilities. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, introduces the idea of design thinking‚ the collaborative process by which the designer′s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people′s needs not only with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy.
  • Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art. Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. They may not be famous but they’re indispensable.
  • The Idea Hunter by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer. This myth-busting book reveals that great business ideas do not spring from innate creativity, or necessarily from the brilliant minds of people. Rather, great ideas come to those who are in the habit of looking for great ideas — all around them, all the time. Too often, people fall into the trap of thinking that the only worthwhile idea is a thoroughly original one. Idea Hunters know better. They understand that valuable ideas are already out there, waiting to be found — and not just in the usual places.
  • The Wide Lens: What Successful Innovators See That Others Miss by Ron Adner. Invention used to be 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. These days, it’s probably 50 percent collaboration. Companies trying to commercialize innovations won’t succeed unless suppliers, distributors, and other partners can and will do their parts. Adner explains how to map relationships among all constituents who touch your brilliant idea and evaluate their ability and willingness to deliver. Even if an innovation benefits your customers, it could flop if it negatively affects a partner.
  • The Necessity of Strangers by Alan Gregerman. To stay competitive, you and your business need access to more new ideas, insights, and perspectives than ever before. Most of us assume our success relies on a network of friends and close contacts. But innovative thinking requires a steady stream of fresh ideas and new possibilities, which strangers are more likely to introduce. Our survival instincts naturally cause us to look upon strangers with suspicion and distrust, but Gregerman offers the provocative idea that engaging with strangers is an opportunity, not a threat, and that engaging with the right strangers is essential to unlocking our real potential.
  • Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self by Don Hahn. Creativity plays a crucial role in achieving satisfaction and excellence. But, for many of us, accessing our creative core is difficult, if not impossible. Pixar’s Don Hahn offers his own unorthodox, yet highly effective methods for reawakening the creative spirit. Blending personal and often hilarious anecdotes with presciptive advice for rediscovering your creative self, Hahn explores the emotions that accompany creativity and discusses the important of constructing a creative environment.

Is your favorite title missing? If there are other books on innovation you would recommend, please add them in the comments below.

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Jason is a corporate Marketing Director and the Communications Director for Centric: Indy’s Innovation Network. Centric strives to elevate Indianapolis as a globally recognized center of innovation. You can connect with Jason on Twitter: @jawbrain.

Jason Williams

Innovator. Marketer. Connector. Jason Williams is a curious explorer whose purpose is to drive innovation through capacity-building connections. With nearly 20 years in corporate marketing and innovation community leadership positions, he has had a front row seat to the common challenges and popular solutions shared by leaders and organizations across many different industries and sectors.




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  1. Sharon Brown-Peters on January 16, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Books that have been influential in our Research and Development teams here at the American School of Bombay also include: Creative Intelligence by Bruce Nussbaum and The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen.

  2. Mark Fortier on January 16, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Big Bang Disruption by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, research fellows at the Accenture Institute for High-Performance, is a great book that is the next chapter in our understanding of disruption in our new era.

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