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What’s Your Favorite Innovation Book?

Happy new year my readers and friends.

While I once wrote that everything written about innovation is useless (including my own writing), we continue to write about it because writing is thinking, and there’s a lot of problems to think through. The result is some writing that is truly insightful and/or based on hard-won experience, and other writing that is boastful noise. In the spirit of avoiding easy answers and helping us think through tough problems, I’d like to know…

What’s your favorite innovation book (a book that helps you be innovative)?

I’ll start with mine…

  1. My favorite is still Artful Making. The combination of two different authors and topics (business + theater) is itself unique, it provides practical and sound business practice, and it inspires by illustrating what we’re all capable of given the right environment.

    The book is not about innovation directly, and that makes it all the more appealing.

  2. I still have a stack of books to work through, but last year, I really enjoyed Marty Neumeier’s Zag.

    Also, not about innovation directly, but about finding and executing on the blue ocean.

  3. I’m still wildly enamored of Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations. Anyone who has only ever read “Crossing the Chasm” or the “Tipping Point” is only getting part of the story. All innovations succeed or don’t based on adoption, and Roger nailed how and why people choose to adopt. Most of the answers are within.

    Great topic, Victor, and good to hear from you already this year!

  4. I’ve found Peter Drucker’s classic “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” excellent, because it discusses the shared ‘spirit’ between the two, beyond all business- or engineering-centric viewpoints. The additional historical background of some innovative companies was very enlightening.

  5. The book that completely blew my mind (whose very printing represents innovation) is William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle. It surprises me that I see McDonough’s ideas referred to so infrequently beyond the architecture/manufacturing/sustainability place from which they start. I find his ideas completely radical, far reaching in their implications and vital to thinking about innovation. His call to rethink design completely: instead of designing things to be less bad (or more better/”new and improved”), why not take up the assignment of designing things to be 100% good from the start. This is, I think, the most serious and important challenge to design thinking. If you’ve not read Cradle to Cradle, please put it on your must-read list.

  6. Happy New Year Victor!

    Tools for Thought, C.H. Waddington

    This was the first book I know of that was aimed at explaining complex systems to regular folks…Waddington literally provides tools for thinking about such systems (and it’s in the heart of complex systems where innovation is needed most). Given that the book was published in the mid 70s, some things seem a bit quaint. But still lots and lots of gold….

    It’s now out of print, but can be picked up on or Amazon’s used marketplace.

  7. I’ve been reading “The Nature of Insight” over the last few months. It’s a collection of perspectives on what makes insightful thinking happen. It can be heady going at points due to the academic tone, but it’s well worth reading, especially if you’re into the concept of reframing as a key part of innovative problem solving.

    The Nature of Insight: Sternberg and Davidson, MIT Press, 1995.

  8. I’m in the middle of “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley. It’s a collection of case studies of projects at IDEO (with the requisite bit of “we’re all that!” tone to it), but it has some great insights about prototyping and problem solving. One of the key ideas that I have pulled out of it so far is that it’s easy (and usually a mistake) to settle on the first solution you come up with rather than coming up with a pool of them and selecting the best one or combining them into a better solution.

  9. One of the most thorough accounts of innovation, and one that makes clear that there is no apolitical innovation – or to put it the other way around, that all innovation is social innovation, listening out for the concerns people have but cannot yet articulate – is Spinosa, Flores and Dreyfus’ wide-ranging ‘Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity’ [Cambridge: MIT, 1997].

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