If you want to learn about innovation, a continuously trending topic in business, you might have a hard time knowing where to start. On Amazon, almost 82,000 books come up when you search “innovation” in the book section.
I myself made the mistake of googling the term “list of best innovation books” over 14 million hits. Talk about falling down the rabbit hole.
I decided to look at the first couple of pages of search results to see what books people were mentioning. I found 17 lists with a total of 147 different books. I removed three lists that focused on innovation books from a particular year. Next, I removed a list compiled by Bill Gates. It was a very interesting list, and I would love to dive into it at some point, but it mainly consisted of technical science books, focusing more on enriching one’s knowledge base than the act of innovating itself, which was not what I was looking for at the moment.
I have now narrowed the compilation down to 107 books on 13 lists. That is still a lot of books to read and not easy for one person to get through.
It makes sense why there exists so much material on the subject though. Innovation itself is a broad field that covers almost every discipline. For example, it includes creativity, idea generation/selection, marketing, strategy, leadership, change management, politics, project management, organization theory and portfolio management. It also has multiple varying disciplines including lean startup, design thinking, business model, blue ocean, disruption, frugal and open innovation. On top of that, there are academic systematic reviews and case study analyses, historical archives, and bibliographies, as well as experiential books from consultants and practical how-to books.
How can someone stay on top of this subject or find their next read, when there are so many differing opinions on what are the best books and so many perspectives?
Use these shortcuts before deciding if you want to commit to reading the whole book.
Slideshare is a great website to find summaries of different innovation books, in slide format. An example is “Innovator’s Solution” by Clayton Christensen. Through 42 slides, the main arguments are explained and discussed.
Side facts #1: Christian Clayton’s book Innovator’s Dilemma featured on five of the lists, which is more than any other book. Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From and Peter Drucker’s classic “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” were the only two books to feature four times each.
Often you can find an article from the authors that is a brief argument behind the book. One time I used this shortcut was reading an HBR article “The Power of Small Wins” before I decided to read The Progress Principle By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer (This book also appeared on one of the lists).
There are some great innovation podcasts out there that focus on interviews. One I try to listen to regularly is The Innovation Engine and for longer conversations, which are close to an hour, I sometimes listen to Unmistakable Creative or Innovation Navigation.
Side facts #2: Idea generation and creativity were the two most popular subjects of the books followed by Strategy and Organisation Theory.
Sometimes finding the time to sit down and read a book can be a little daunting. Why not use the time where you are doing other tasks such as cooking, driving or cleaning to listen to the books you don’t have the time to read.
Blinkist is a subscription service that for $49.99 annually you can browse detailed breakdowns of 1000’s of books. If you want to get through a lot of books quickly, this may be an alternative solution for you.
Side facts #3: Although Clayton Christensen appeared a total of nine times with his three books, Gary Hamel had four different innovation books throughout the lists. These titles were Leading the Revolution, Competing for the Future, What Matters Now, and Future of Management. However, Gary Hamel only appeared five times in total.
Innovation books keep coming up and it can be hard to keep up. Hopefully, these little tricks help.
If this has peaked your interest in innovation, you might be interested in our post “The Ideanote School of Innovation: Design Thinking“. Or perhaps you would be more interested in “Elon Musk’s 5 Great Ideas“.