Books I’ve summarized into a series of short write-ups
If you’ve never heard of Blinkist, they are a company that provides book summaries via multiple short blurbs (‘blinks’ as they call them). That’s the idea here…books summarized via short posts.
Books only partially summarized so far (work-in-progress)
The Lean Product Playbook
The Coaching Habit
Important Books, organized by topic
Marketing / Strategy
Marketing Management (amazon)
Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller
Keywords: Marketing, Strategy
Summary: One of the definitive textbooks on the full subject of Marketing. Start here to get the fundamentals. This book is commonly used in MBA programs.
Executing Your Strategy: How to Break it Down and Get it Done (my notes) (amazon)
Mark Morgan, Raymond E. Levitt, William A. Malek
Keywords: Strategy, Execution
Summary: Stanford teaches a professional course on Project Management using this book as the backbone text. Lays out a framework for all the various connected elements which affect a company’s operations (culture, strategy, projects, etc.). Most useful for those with some control over corporate operations, but still a very good read for anyone looking to understand how strategy lies at the heart of nearly all corporate activity — product development especially.
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (amazon)
Michael E. Porter
Summary: Porter is the grand-daddy of Strategy and this is the definitive text. I actually don’t find a ton of use for this in day-to-day product development, but if you want to understand the mechanics of industrial competition, this is the place to start. I’d recommend reading a few articles or a summary (getabstract.com, blinkist.com) first if you’re looking for a general understanding.
Third Generation R&D: Managing the Link to Corporate Strategy (my notes) (amazon)
Philip A. Roussel
Keywords: R&D, Strategy, Alignment
Summary: This book is most useful for people in management roles in R&D and Marketing. A little dated but still important discussion of aligning R&D activities with strategic goals.
The Principles of Product Development Flow (amazon)
Donald G. Reinertsen
Keywords: Product Development, Lean
Summary: Product development should resemble manufacturing. Both are a process which require various coordinated inputs, quality control, queue management, and rapid decision-making. One of the more technical books — jumps from anecdotes to technical equations frequently. Reinertsen is at the forefront of the lean product development movement.
The Product Manager’s Desk Reference (amazon)
Keywords: Product Development, Product Management
Summary: Title is self-explanatory. A fantastic resource to keep handy. If you are involved with product development, there are practical tools in this book which will serve you well. Will end up dog-eared and bookmarked and referenced for years to come.
Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want (my notes) (amazon)
Curtis R. Carlson and William W. Wilmot
Keywords: Innovation, Customer Value Proposition
Summary: Written by managers of extremely well-accomplished innovation firm SRI International (created technology behind the computer mouse, Siri, HDTV, etc.). For all the talk of “innovation” everywhere you look, these guys actually present a thoughtful approach to the concept, as well as some practical tools you can apply in your own work.
The Lean Startup (amazon)
Keywords: Product Development, Lean, MVP, Customer Value
Summary: Almost ubiquitous in tech. Describes the famous Minimum Viable Product, which is the least advanced version of your product necessary to get real consumer feedback on functionality. Advocates rapid iterations and validated learning from a guy who’s done it.
Developing Products in Half the Time (amazon)
Preston Smith and Don Reinertsen
Keywords: Product Development, Lean
Summary: Actually a good first read. A lot of practical info and a good mix of broad/high-level mixed with actual everyday tools.
Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love (amazon)
Keywords: Product Development
Summary: A little more focused on software than hardware; has some great comments on building a kick-ass product spec.
Winning at New Products: Creating Value Through Innovation (amazon)
Keywords: Product Development, Stage-Gate
Summary: Grand-daddy of stage-gate development, this book has it all, but not the easiest read.
Management / Culture
The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work (amazon)
Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
Keywords: Management, Engagement
Summary: Really simple premise — more than anything else, a sense of progress is critical to people feeling content and engaged in their work.
The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action (amazon)
Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton
Summary: A classic and I think one of the best reads for anyone in a management position, but still pretty relevant for anyone who works for a company.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (amazon)
Robert D. Cialdini, PH.D.
Summary: A classic. This book steps through the most common techniques used to influence behavior (for example, the principle of reciprocity, wherein people are more likely to comply if they’ve been given something first). Slightly old-school in tone but human behavior doesn’t change from generation to generation.
The One-Minute Manager (amazon)
Keywords: Management, Communication
Summary: A very short read with some very key insights to management. A great book to give to a manager on day 1.
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (amazon)
Summary: A great read to explore the positive, human-side to business, product creation, and really any communication where you hope to connect through ideas. Kawasaki was Apple’s former chief evangelist, so he has a little bit of experience. Kawasaki’s writing is just fun to read, and there are some great take-aways to improve the “art” of product development.
Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us (amazon)
Keywords: Motivation, Management
Summary: Thoughtful and fun look at what factors actually motivate us in life and at work.
Thinking, Fast and Slow (amazon)
Keywords: Psychology, Motivation
Summary: Something of a weird pick for this list since it’s pretty academic and not oriented to product development, but it’s an interesting read and helpful for managers.
Innovation / Design
Change By Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (my notes) (amazon)
Keywords: Innovation, Design Thinking
Summary: Design Thinking primer by the top boss at product development firm IDEO. A great place to start to understand how to see the world through the eyes of your consumer. Useful stories and advice for managers and employees alike. Fairly light-weight and non-technical.
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (my notes) (amazon)
Keywords: Innovation, Ideas
Summary: Drawing parallels from evolution and the natural world, Johnson discusses how innovation (new value through new features and function) can emerge, as well as how to stack the deck in your favor to achieve the same. Not technical, but densely packed with good content, so you’re not going to fly through it. Also see Steven Johnson’s blog for more good stuff.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business (amazon)
Clayton M. Christensen
Keywords: Innovation, Strategy
Summary: Another classic and definitive text that’s ubiquitous at this point. Popularized the term “disrupt.” Explains the mechanisms by which leaders in an industry are often overtaken by disruptive innovation. It’s a must-read, but like a few other classics, I don’t find much day-to-day use for this in product development.
Creativity Inc. (amazon)
Ed Catmull and Amy Wallac
Keywords: Creativity, Management
Summary: Not a 5-star pick, but some good sections on management of creative enterprises.
HBR’s 10 Must Reads: The Essentials (amazon)
Harvard Business Review
Keywords: Classics, Essentials
Summary: 10 classic articles spanning a variety of topics, from innovation to strategy to personal development. A great place to start because you’re introduced to these topics in a quick and high-level format.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (amazon)
Summary: Start here. Being more productive and organized is useful for anyone. If you don’t have a system or philosophy for being productive, then I just feel bad for you. GTD dude.
Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd (amazon)
Keywords: Brand, Differentiation
Summary: Really enjoyable read with some key insights on how to be different as a brand. Not a lot of actionable info for the typical product development professional, but if you want to understand the bigger picture, this books presents some great insights.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (amazon)
Peter Theil, Blake Masters
Keywords: Startups, Strategy, Competition
Summary: Theil is always good for some unique and insightful comments on business and innovation
Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entreprenuer (my notes) (amazon)
Keywords: Startups, Strategy
Summary: Very quick read and a perspective you won’t get elsewhere. Sivers is a true original and great thinker.
The Art of Innovation – Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman
Managing Product Management – Steven Haines
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
The Toyota Way – Jeffrey Liker
Strategic Project Management Made Simple – Terry Schmidt
Good Products, Bad Products – James Adams