2020 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. So, every week for the last year, I’ve featured 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. You even got recommendations on envisioning the future: predicting, embracing, and surviving change.

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

Bahcall, a physicist, and entrepreneur, shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing new ideas to rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice.

Mountains of print have been written about culture. Loonshots identifies the small shifts in the structure that controls this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice.

Unsafe Thinking: How to be Nimble and Bold When You Need It Most

How can you challenge and change yourself when you need it most? We’re creatures of habit, programmed by evolution to favor the safe and familiar, especially when the stakes are high. This bias no longer serves us in a world of constant change. In fact, today, safe thinking has become extremely dangerous.

The Corporate Startup: How Established Companies Can Develop Successful Innovation Ecosystems

The Corporate Startup is a practical guide for established companies that aspire to develop and sustain their innovation capabilities. The world around us is changing rapidly. There is now more pressure on established companies to innovate. The challenge most companies face is how to develop new products for new markets, while managing their core business at the same time. The principles and practices outlined in this book provide companies with a blueprint of how to manage innovation while they execute on their core business.

Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates

From executives complaining that their teams don’t contribute ideas to employees throwing up their hands because their input isn’t sought–company culture is the culprit. Courageous Cultures provides a road map to build a high-performance, high-engagement culture around sharing ideas, solving problems, and rewarding contributions from all levels.

Wired for Disruption: The Five Shifts in Agility to Lead in the Future of Work

There are five big challenges of leading in disruptive times: First, our neurobiology sees disruptive change as a threat to survival. This evolutionary reaction slows down our adaptation by reducing cognition and increasing burnout. Second, our old mindsets and biases prevent us from seeing a new reality clearly. This prevents us from being creative. We need meta-learning to learn, unlearn and relearn. Third, our threat states and fluid teams of the future make collaboration harder, just when it is most needed to create opportunities. Fourth, while we recognize we’re more interdependent than ever, we are missing the skill sets to influence our wider eco-system. Fifth, upskilling and growth is urgently needed for millions to solve our collective challenges. This requires a step-change in our ability to grow ourselves and others.

Future Cities: Architecture and the Imagination

Though reaching ever further toward the skies, today’s cities are overshadowed by multiple threats: climate change, overpopulation, social division, and urban warfare all endanger our metropolitan way of life. The fundamental tool we use to make sense of these uncertain city futures is the imagination. Architects, artists, filmmakers, and fiction writers have long been inspired to imagine cities of the future. Still, their speculative visions tend to be seen very differently from scientific predictions: flights of fancy on the one hand versus practical reasoning on the other. In a digital age when the real and the fantastic coexist as near equals, it is especially important to know how these two forces are entangled and how together they may help us best conceive of cities yet to come.

The Forever Transaction: How to Build a Subscription Model So Compelling, Your Customers Will Never Want to Leave

More and more companies are concluding that the potential rewards of subscription-based products and services are worth the risk of radically changing their business models. They’re correct. The Membership Economy is here and it’s here to stay―and if you want to compete for the long run, you need to join it.

Ruthless Consistency:How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations That Win

According to the Harvard Business Review, “most studies still show a 60-70% failure rate for organizational change projects―a statistic that has stayed constant from the 1970s to the present.” Drawing on his 20+ years of experience as a strategy and execution consultant specializing in midsize companies, Michael Canic helps committed leaders drive the odds in their favor. In Ruthless Consistency, he identifies the three surprising reasons most strategic change initiatives fail:

  • Leaders unwittingly send mixed messages that demotivate their people and undermine those initiatives.
  • Leaders focus on what they do instead of what their people experience.
  • Leaders are not as committed as they think they are or need to be.

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

It’s on our televisions, newspapers, and the internet. Every day we’re bludgeoned by news of how bad everything is – pandemics, financial collapse, unemployment, poverty, environmental disasters, disease, hunger, and war. Indeed, our world now seems to be on the brink of collapse, and yet:

  • We’ve made more progress over the last 100 years than in the first 100,000
  • 285,000 more people gained access to safe water every day for the last 25 years
  • In the last 50 years, world poverty has fallen more than it did in the preceding 500

2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything

The world is changing drastically before our eyes―will you be prepared for what comes next? A groundbreaking analysis from one of the world’s foremost experts on global trends, including analysis on how COVID-19 will amplify and accelerate each of these changes.

Bionomics: Economy as Business Ecosystem

This theory uses biology and genetics as a template for the way that economic systems develop. He sees capitalism as the evolutionary result of organisms (businesses, corporations, markets, economies) that seek to preserve themselves through adaptation to the environment and “genetic” inheritance of successful characteristics. Bound to be controversial, this book is different from the spate of futurist tomes about the world of tomorrow in a dozen ways, not the least of which is that it is highly enjoyable and absorbing reading.

The Joy Of Not Thinking: A Radical Approach to Happiness

…And this was perfection, beyond any belief, rationalization, or label I could ever put on it. It made no sense, and it was perfect. It was before time itself. It transcended thought, was past my comprehension. Thought created all this suffering—and thought itself was not real. Without thought, all was grace—always. It was all blissfully and blatantly simple, yet totally illogical. I sat on that beach, thunderstruck. It was laughable. Whatever you thought, it didn’t matter. Thought had nothing to do with anything real. Everything was always perfect, no matter what you thought

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

Valuing people over process, emphasizing innovation over efficiency, and giving employees context, not controls. At Netflix, there are no vacation or expense policies. Adequate performance gets a generous severance, and hard work is irrel­evant. You don’t try to please your boss; you give candid feedback instead. Employees don’t need approval, and the company pays top of the market. When Hastings and his team first devised these unorthodox principles, the implications were unknown and untested. But in just a short period, their methods led to unparalleled speed and boldness, as Netflix quickly became one of the most loved brands in the world.

Creativity, Inc.:Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Creativity, Inc. is a manual for anyone who strives for originality and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about creativity—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the story developers at Pixar films, and the Army Chief of Strategic Plans all have in common?

All of them have achieved breakthrough results by methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas. Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan a whole project out in advance, trying to foresee the final outcome, they make a series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning from lots of little failures and from small but highly significant wins that allow them to happen upon unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes.

The 33 Strategies of War

Brilliant distillations of the strategies of war—and the subtle social game of everyday life—by the bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power and The Laws of Human Nature

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

The idea is simple: You don’t have to choose between being a pushover and a jerk. Using Radical Candor—avoiding the perils of Obnoxious Aggression, Manipulative Insincerity, and Ruinous Empathy—you can be kind and clear at the same time.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

So often in life, we get stuck in a cycle of response. We put out fires. We deal with emergencies. We stay downstream, handling one problem after another, but we never make our way upstream to fix the systems that caused the problems. Cops chase robbers, doctors treat patients with chronic illnesses, and call-center reps address customer complaints. But many crimes, chronic illnesses, and customer complaints are preventable. So why do our efforts skew so heavily toward reaction rather than prevention?

Craving The Future

This book offers imaginative ideas, methodical tools, and inspiring profiles of innovation luminaries—all mindfully crafted to help you shape what is coming next for yourself or your organization. The book also features a unique design that makes it delightful to experience, easy to digest, and fun to share.


Includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. The authors have identified tools and techniques from some of the world’s most innovative professionals, whose teams collaborate and make great things happen. This book is the result: a unique collection of games that encourage engagement and creativity while bringing more structure and clarity to the workplace

All You Have to Do Is Ask

A set of tools for mastering the one skill standing between us and success: the ability to ask for the things we need to succeed.

Digital Transformation:Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction

From visionary Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tom Siebel comes a penetrating examination of the new technologies that are disrupting business and government—and how organizations can harness them to transform into digital enterprises.

Design Thinking Quickstart

The Design Thinking Quick Start Guide is full of practical tools and activities, like the 6-3-5 method of brainstorming, helping you and your team get creative. For each of the six steps in the design thinking process, the authors offer two warm-ups that get teams ready to contribute and arrive at innovative solutions.

Think Outside The Building

Over a decade ago, renowned innovation expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter co-founded and then directed Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Her breakthrough work with hundreds of successful professionals and executives, as well as aspiring young entrepreneurs, identifies the leadership paradigm of the future: the ability to “think outside the building” to overcome establishment paralysis and produce significant innovation for a better world.

Evolve Or Die

Expand your creative and entrepreneurial mind and learn how to give the world everything you’ve got to offer.

Driven By Difference

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. Diverse teams are far more creative than homogenous teams–but only when they are managed effectively.

Competing Against Luck

How do companies know how to grow? How can they create products that they are sure customers want to buy? Can innovation be more than a game of hit and miss?

The Future of The Mind

The Future of the Mind is an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience. Dr. Kaku looks toward the day when we may achieve the ability to upload the human brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; project thoughts and emotions around the world on a brain-net; take a “smart pill” to enhance cognition; send our consciousness across the universe; and push the very limits of immortality.

You Can’t Know It All

Today’s organizations are packed full of experts in every area, from marketing to risk to sales to IT. Many of these people are also leaders, heading teams, or large departments. They are followed because they know more than the rest of their group. They are supported because of their credibility as experts. This book teaches you how to how to add value as a leader when you’re dealing with an ever-growing set of responsibilities over which you have little detailed knowledge

The Other “F” Word

Leverage the power of failure in your organization. Nobody wants to fail, but failure is a fact of life. Most of us treat it as a regrettable, even shameful event best overlooked. In truth, failure can be a game-changing strategic resource that can help you and your organization achieve the greater success you crave. The Other “F” Word shows how successful leaders and teams are putting failure to work every day – to re-engage employees, spark innovation, and accelerate growth.

Disruption OFF

Worried your company won’t survive in the fast-changing, high-tech world? Discover innovative strategies to future-proof your profits

The Power of Virtual Distance

The Power of Virtual Distance offers specific, proven, and predictable solutions that can turn Virtual Distance into a unification strategy to capture untapped competitive advantage.

Lead from the Future

We all know a visionary leader when we see one. They’re bold and prophetic and at the same time pragmatic. They don’t just promote change–they drive it while inspiring and mobilizing others to do the same. Visionaries like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos possess a host of innate qualities that make them extraordinary, but what truly sets them apart from the crowd is their ability to turn vision into action.

Think Like A Rocket Scientist

A former rocket scientist reveals the habits, ideas, and strategies that will empower you to turn the seemingly impossible into the possible.

Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism

Life improves under the economic system often called “entrepreneurial capitalism” or “creative destruction,” but more accurately called “innovative dynamism.” This book shows how innovation occurs through the efforts of inventors and innovative entrepreneurs, how workers on balance benefit, and how good policies can encourage innovation. The inventors and innovative entrepreneurs are often cognitively diverse outsiders with the courage and perseverance to see and pursue serendipitous discoveries or slow hunches.

Create The Future

In our era of chaos and disruption, there are so many great opportunities within your grasp; however, most smart and successful people miss out. It’s too easy to retreat from disorder and cling to the past.  Ultimately, your potential is limited by the seven traps of path dependency, which cause you to repeat past decisions. These traps can limit you from seeing the potential of what could be. If you could overcome these traps, what could you accomplish? How much more successful could you be?


It’s vital to grow strengths inside like grit, gratitude, and compassion—the key to resilience and lasting well-being in a changing world. True resilience is much more than enduring terrible conditions

Remote: Office Not Required

Does working from home—or anywhere else but the office—make sense? While providing a complete overview of remote work’s challenges, this book persuasively argue that, often, the advantages of working “off-site” far outweigh the drawbacks.

You’re It

An introduction to the pragmatic model and methods of Meta-Leadership, showing you how to understand what is happening during a moment of crisis and change, what to do about it, and how to hone these skills to lead high-performing teams.

The Black Swan

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable than it was.

Homo Deus

Focusing on humanity’s future and our quest to upgrade humans into gods. Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war.

Pivot to the Future: Discovering Value and Creating Growth in a Disrupted World

Disruption by digital technologies? That’s not a new story. But what is new is the “wise pivot,” a replicable strategy for harnessing disruption to survive, grow and be relevant to the future. It’s a strategy for perpetual reinvention across the old, now, and new elements of any business.

Build It: The Rebel Playbook For World-Class Employee Engagement

Companies with the best cultures generate stock market returns twice the general market and enjoy half the employee turnover of their competitors. Their staff innovate more, deliver better customer service and, hands-down, beat the competition. These companies outperform and disrupt their markets. They break the rules of traditional HR, they rebel against the status quo.

What Customers Crave:How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint

Think you know your customers? You better be more assured than just thinking you do, because your success depends on it! The best companies in the world first research exhaustively what their customers desire, and then they deliver it in memorable and deeply human experiences–resulting in success previously believed to be unachievable. So once again, how well do you know your customers? In a hyperconnected economy that is radically changing consumer expectations, this vital expectation for any successful business is not always easy.

The Laws Of Human Nature

We are social animals. Our very lives depend on our relationships with people. Knowing why people do what they do is the most important tool we can possess, without which our other talents can only take us so far. Drawing from the ideas and examples of Pericles, Queen Elizabeth I, Martin Luther King Jr, and many others, Greene teaches us how to detach ourselves from our own emotions and master self-control, how to develop the empathy that leads to insight, how to look behind people’s masks, and how to resist conformity to develop your singular sense of purpose. Whether at work, in relationships, or in shaping the world around you, The Laws of Human Nature offers brilliant tactics for success, self-improvement, and self-defense.

The Replaceable Founder

The Replaceable Founder explores the dynamics of entrepreneurship and explains how founders can capitalize on emerging trends to optimize, automate, outsource, and create truly sustainable businesses.

The Age of Intent: Using Artificial Intelligence to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience

Have you ever wished that every company you interacted with could know what you wanted and get it for you? That when you picked up the phone or opened a chat window that the company would use what it knew about you to anticipate your needs? We are on the verge of a future just like that.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

“Motivation” as we know it is a myth. Motivation isn’t the special sauce that we require at the beginning of any major change. In fact, motivation is a result of process, not a cause. Understanding this will change the way you approach any obstacle or big goal.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives

Technology is accelerating far more quickly than anyone could have imagined. During the next decade, we will experience more upheaval and create more wealth than we have in the past hundred years. What happens as AI, robotics, virtual reality, digital biology, and sensors crash into 3D printing, blockchain, and global gigabit networks? How will these convergences transform today’s legacy industries? What will happen to the way we raise our kids, govern our nations, and care for our planet?