2021 Book Recommendations

I love reading. As a fellow innovator, I’ll bet you do too. I’ve found that the right book can fundamentally change your understanding of things. Shape your mind in new ways. Every week, I feature a book I found interesting in my weekly newsletter. The topics ranged from innovation to creativity, to design thinking, to customer experience, to business modeling, to brainstorming, as well as recommendations on envisioning the future: predicting, embracing, and surviving change.

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness

What does it mean to “be you”—that is, to have a specific, conscious experience of the world around you and yourself within it? There may be no more elusive or fascinating question. Historically, humanity has considered the nature of consciousness to be a primarily spiritual or philosophical inquiry, but scientific research is now mapping out compelling biological theories and explanations for consciousness and selfhood.

The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics

All social relations are laden with power. Getting out from under dominant power relations and mastering power dynamics is perhaps the most essential skill for change agents across all sectors seeking to ignite positive change in the world.  This concise action manual explores major concepts of power, with a focus on the dynamics of domination and liberation, and presents methods for shifting power relations and enacting freedom.

Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life

Amid severe digital disruption, economic upheaval, and political flux, how can we make sense of the world? Leaders today typically look for answers in economic models, Big Data, or artificial intelligence platforms. Gillian Tett points to anthropology—the study of human culture. Anthropologists learn to get inside the minds of other people, helping them not only to understand other cultures but also to appraise their own environment with fresh perspective as an insider-outsider, gaining lateral vision.

Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective

Why does modern life revolve around objectives? From how science is funded, to improving how children are educated — and nearly everything in-between — our society has become obsessed with a seductive illusion: that greatness results from doggedly measuring improvement in the relentless pursuit of an ambitious goal.

Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets

Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game-defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time. You can’t build a legendary company without building a legendary category. If you think that having the best product is all it takes to win, you’re going to lose.

Future-Fluent: How Organizations Use Foresight to Thrive in Turbulent Times

Makes a compelling case for the modern discipline of foresight as the must-have institutional language in today’s increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous landscape.

Systems Thinking – And Other Dangerous Habits

The world is a complex system. Whatever part of it we inhabit or function in, everything within it is connected in some way to other components, both within and outside the part we occupy. Nearly all of the problems mankind experiences result from our inability to recognize intra- and inter-systemic connections… in other words, to THINK SYSTEMICALLY.

Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You

Leadership isn’t easy. It takes grit, courage, and vision, among other things, that can be hard to come by on your toughest days. When leaders and aspiring leaders seek out advice, they’re often told to try harder. Dig deeper. Look in the mirror and own your natural-born strengths and fix any real or perceived career-limiting deficiencies.

Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity

Today’s board rooms think tanks, and staff lounges are more diverse than ever before. But these cultural differences can either lead to gridlock among stubborn, single-minded thinkers or they can catalyze innovation and growth among an expansive team of creative, distinctive individuals.

Making Sense of the Future: How to Thrive on the Trends that Transform the World

Making Sense of the Future will prepare you for a coming of age defined by constant change – and massive opportunity. In a world on fire, you can make sense of the inevitable: the world in the future.

Start.: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters

There are only two paths in life: average and awesome. The average path is easy because all you have to do is nothing. The awesome path is more challenging because things like fear only bother you when you do work that matters. The good news is Start gives readers practical, honest and actionable insights to be more awesome, more often.

The Medici Effect, With a New Preface and Discussion Guide: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation

Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect shows how breakthrough ideas most often occur when we bring concepts from one field into new, unfamiliar territory and offers examples of how we can turn the ideas we discover into path-breaking innovations.

Masters of Scale: Surprising Truths from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs

What can you learn from a Silicon Valley legend and a pantheon of iconic leaders? The key to scaling a successful business isn’t talent, network, or strategy. It’s an entrepreneurial mindset—and that mindset can be cultivated.

The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

From the cofounder of Square, an inspiring and entertaining account of what it means to be a true entrepreneur and what it takes to build a resilient, world-changing company

The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness

Is happiness something you choose for yourself? Using the theories of Alfred Adler, one of the three giants of nineteenth-century psychology alongside Freud and Jung, this book follows an illuminating dialogue between a philosopher and a young man.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Brilliantly researched, impassioned, and accessible, Presence is filled with stories of individuals who learned how to flourish during the stressful moments that once terrified them.

Life Is a Squiggly Line: Start Embracing Imperfection and Stop Settling for Safe

We have been programmed to believe that the line of life is a perfect, straight trajectory up and to the right, but that’s simply not how life works. And now, we have a problem, because perfect is impossible and life isn’t a straight line—it’s a squiggly line.

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy

A stinging polemic that traces the destructive monopolization of the Internet by Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and that proposes a new future for musicians, journalists, authors, and filmmakers in the digital age.

The Systems Thinker: Essential Thinking Skills For Solving Problems, Managing Chaos, and Creating Lasting Solutions in a Complex World

Find the optimal solutions to your problems. Gain a deep understanding of the “what, why, how, when, how much” questions of your life.

Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Hailed as “a magisterial critique of top-down social planning” by the New York Times, this essential work analyzes disasters from Russia to Tanzania to uncover why states so often fail—sometimes catastrophically—in grand efforts to engineer their society or their environment, and uncovers the conditions common to all such planning disasters.

René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture)

A systematic introduction into the mimetic theory of the French-American literary theorist and philosophical anthropologist René Girard, this essential text explains its three main pillars (mimetic desire, the scapegoat mechanism, and the Biblical “difference”) with the help of examples from literature and philosophy.

The Disruption Game Plan: New Rules For Connected Thinking On Innovation And Risk

The Disruption Game Plan presents a tried and tested framework to help senior leaders think differently about disruptive trends and emergent risks, and to act differently when making decisions; joining up thinking on innovation, risk, sustainability, and strategy.

Smart Pricing: How Google, Priceline, and Leading Businesses Use Pricing Innovation for Profitability

Wharton professors and renowned pricing experts Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang draw on examples from high tech to low tech, from consumer markets to business markets, and from the U.S. to abroad, to tell the stories of how innovative pricing strategies can help companies create and capture value as well as customers.

Bob’s Guide to Operational Learning: How to Think Like a Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) Coach

This book is for all of you. For all of us. For the people working hard each day to apply HOP principles in our organizations and in our lives. We have spent 7+ years on our HOP journey and have struggled through the challenge of turning theory into action. We wrote this book to share what we have learned about Operational Learning, Learning Teams, and Industrial Empathy. We hope it is simple, practical, useful, real, raw, and inspiring.

The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company’s Future

We need imagination now more than ever—to find new opportunities, rethink our businesses, and discover paths to growth. Yet too many companies have lost their ability to imagine. What is this mysterious capacity? How does imagination work? And how can organizations keep it alive and harness it in a systematic way?

The Future Of Energy: The 2021 Guide To The Energy Transition

The ‘Future of Energy’ takes the reader through a future for energy generation, transportation, and utilization. covering climate change, hydrogen, heat, sustainability, and renewable energy.

Bending the Law of Unintended Consequences

Innovative methods for critical decision-making, using the Law of Unintended Consequences. Leveraging cognitive biases and bounded rationality, it introduces an innovative method for “test driving” decisions that address both causes by combining scenario planning and “what-if” simulations.

Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom

Will innovators be forced to seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy new devices and services, or will they be generally left free to experiment with new technologies and business models?

Invisible Work: The Future of the Office is in Your Head

Just as power has moved from boardrooms into the domain of dynamic individuals, Invisible Work maps the evolution of this new way of being and succeeding. It is a mindset of deeply focused, value-added thinking and sharing. It is a process of creativity that combines emotional intelligence and collaboration. It is the key to the success of a growing army of self-employed workers.

How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom

Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. Forget short-term symptoms like Donald Trump and Brexit, it is an innovation that will shape the twenty-first century. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policymakers and businessmen alike.

The Mom Test: How To Talk To Customers & Learn If Your Business Is A Good Idea When Everyone Is Lying To You

Talking to customers is one of the foundational skills of both Customer Development and Lean Startup. We all know we’re supposed to do it, but nobody seems willing to admit that it’s easy to screw up and hard to do right. This book is going to show you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves

From ticket-fixing in our police departments to test-score scandals in our schools, from our elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to the Ponzi schemes undermining our economy, cheating and dishonesty are ubiquitous parts of our national news cycle—and inescapable parts of the human condition.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Risk Forward: Embrace the Unknown and Unlock Your Hidden Genius

If you sense there’s something more but you’re not yet sure what it is…If you wish you had the courage to try something new…If you’re struggling to figure out your next steps on a project, plan or path…Risk Forward will help you find your way. In this brief, easy-to-read, full-color book “experience,” acclaimed keynote speaker and performance coach Victoria Labalme shares a series of strategies that are practical, reassuring, and radically freeing.

Why Startups Fail: A New Roadmap for Entrepreneurial Success

Drawing on fascinating stories of ventures that failed to fulfill their early promise—from a home-furnishings retailer to a concierge dog-walking service, from a dating app to the inventor of a sophisticated social robot, from a fashion brand to a startup deploying a vast network of charging stations for electric vehicles—Eisenmann offers frameworks for detecting when a venture is vulnerable to these patterns, along with a wealth of strategies and tactics for avoiding them.

The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World

The Click Moment is about two very simple but highly provocative ideas. The first is that success is random—far more random than we would like to believe. The second is that there are a number of specific actions that we, as individuals and organizations, can take to cap­ture this randomness and focus it in our favor.

Skip the Line: The 10,000 Experiments Rule and Other Surprising Advice for Reaching Your Goals

The entrepreneur, angel investor, and bestselling author of Choose Yourself busts the 10,000-hour rule of achieving mastery, offering a new mindset and dozens of techniques that will inspire any professional—no matter their age or managerial level—to pursue their passions and quickly acquire the skills they need to succeed and achieve their dreams.

Present Future: Business, Science, and the Deep Tech Revolution

Present Future is a fascinating, expert look at the history of the key technological advances affecting life today, and preparation for the exponential leaps yet to come

Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture that Can Adapt to Change

Rituals for Work shows us how creative rituals can make our personal and business lives more meaningful and rewarding.

The Disruption Mindset: Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail

Many companies make disruption their goal. They believe that if they develop the right innovation, they will disrupt their markets forever and drive the kind of growth worthy of a magazine cover story. Disruption doesn’t create growth; instead, growth creates disruption.

Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results

Unleash the Power of Storytelling offers a practical roadmap to crafting and delivering more powerful, persuasive stories that you can use to get more of what you want out of your career and your life.

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

A habit expert from Stanford University shares his breakthrough method for building habits quickly and easily. With Tiny Habits you’ll increase productivity by tapping into positive emotions to create a happier and healthier life.

A Mindful Approach to Team Creativity and Collaboration in Organizations: Creating a Culture of Innovation

This book examines how contemplative arts practice and a mindful approach to creativity, can be used to offer new possibilities for facilitating team creativity and collaboration in organizational settings. The author employs a qualitative, action research paradigm, using arts‐based and ethnographic methods, to explore the perceived effects of a contemplative arts workshop process on team creativity and collaboration within an organization

Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good

Despite enormous investments of time and money, are we making a dent on the social and environmental challenges of our time? What if we could exponentially increase our impact?

Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight

Contains 115 guidelines organized into six sequential categories that mirror the phases of a strategic foresight activity: Framing, Scanning, Forecasting, Visioning, Planning, and Acting.

The Social Singularity: How decentralization will allow us to transcend politics, create global prosperity, and avoid the robot apocalypse

In this decentralization manifesto, futurist Max Borders shows that humanity is already building systems that will “underthrow” great centers of power.

Exploring the promise of a decentralized world, Borders says we will:

– Reorganize to collaborate and compete with AI;
– Operate within networks of superior collective intelligence;
– Rediscover our humanity and embrace values for an age of connection.

The Design Thinking Playbook: Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses, and Ecosystems

The Design Thinking Playbook is an actionable guide to the future of business. By stepping back and questioning the current mindset, the status quo faults stand out in stark relief―and this guide gives you the tools and frameworks you need to kick off a digital transformation. Design Thinking is about approaching things differently with strong user orientation and fast iterations with multidisciplinary teams to solve wicked problems. It is equally applicable to (re-)design products, services, processes, business models, and ecosystems. It inspires radical innovation as a matter of course and ignites capabilities beyond mere potential. Unmatched as a competitive advantage source, Design Thinking is the driving force behind those who will lead industries through transformations and evolutions.

Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors

Competitive Strategy has filled a void in management thinking. It provides an enduring foundation and grounding point on which all subsequent work can be built. By bringing a disciplined structure to the question of how firms achieve superior profitability, Porter’s rich frameworks and deep insights comprise a sophisticated view of competition unsurpassed in the last quarter-century.

The Oxford Handbook of Social Networks

In The Oxford Handbook of Social Networks, Ryan Light and James Moody have gathered forty leading scholars in sociology, archaeology, economics, statistics, and information science, among others, to provide an overview of the theory, methods, and contributions in the field of social networks. Each of the thirty-three chapters in this Handbook moves through the basics of social network analysis aimed at those seeking an introduction to advanced and novel approaches to modeling social networks statistically.

BIG. Formgiving. An Architectural Future History

Formgiving. An Architectural Future History, the new book by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), is a visionary attempt to look at the horizon of time. The Danish word for “design” is “formgivning,” which literally means to give form to that which has not yet taken shape. In other words, to give form to the future. Using our power to give form, rather than allowing the future to take shape, is more important now than ever, as humankind’s impact on the planet continues to increase and pose ever greater challenges to all life forms. Architecture plays a special role by proposing spaces for our lives that are fragments of the future in the making. William Gibson’s words embody architecture’s role perfectly: “The future is already here―it’s just not evenly distributed.”