10 books we’re reading in 2019

There's no need for books to take a back seat to news feeds, articles, or podcasts. Books are how to dive in deep...and discover big.

Our informal library at Board of Innovation is a growing stack of books arranged in no particular order. We’re a busy bunch, so reading takes a back seat to work, but books change hands quite a bit here. Many dog-eared copies are sitting on one desk or another, or travelling from backpack to lunch table and back again. Several of us spent our recent vacations with these books in our luggage. Whether you’re an innovation manager who’s been in the innovation game for a while and want a fresh look at the field, or you’re new to the party and want to dive in deep, these must-reads should be on your shelves, coffee tables, bedside tables, or tablets.

8 books every innovation pro should read

Want more? We've compiled a list of the best books on innovation and entrepreneurship around. You'll find practical guides, innovation foundation reads, and handy workshop recipes.

Reinventing Organizations: An Illustrated Invitation to Join the Conversation on Next-Stage Organizations

Written by Frederic Laloux, illustrated by Étienne Appert

Interested in self-governing organizations? This is a great guidebook. The author gives a breakdown on the companies putting this approach into practice. Using examples, he shows the impact of self-steering methodology on performance, employees, customers, partners and the wider communities they operate in. Some of the companies mentioned have employees that number among the thousands. Others are decades old. Definitely not examples that can be easily dismissed.

Why this book: It is essentially the underpinning argument for how and why Board of Innovation works this way. The book takes an in-depth look at self-organizing companies as the next paradigm in organizational structure, workplace culture, and society as a whole. It also looks at how self-steering differentiates from hierarchical, flat or other types of organizations.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Written by Adam M. Grant

This inspiring read is about individual rebellion against the status quo. The author addresses how to improve the world as an "original": choosing to defend novel ideas and values that go against the grain, and fight against conformity. Citing stories that span business, politics, sports, and the entertainment industry, Grant explains how to recognize a bright idea, speak up and be heard, build a network, strike while the iron is hot, and manage fear and doubt in the face of adversity. It also looks at how parents and teachers can celebrate originality in children, and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent.

Why this book: An organizational psychologist, Adam Grant has researched originality for several years and puts together decades of research into this book that demonstrate concepts and tactics that are essential for change makers.

High Growth Handbook

Written by Elad Gil

This book provides a practical look at the things startups encounter once they start growing exponentially. The interviews with experienced managers from other companies offer some helpful ideas, especially Marc Andreessen’s comments on the key tasks for startups after product/market fit.

Why this book: Our work is a lot about launching new ventures and products. However, what happens when they scale? We have scaled at Board of Innovation, and this book is a good resource for the changes in management that happen and how to deal with them.

Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion

Written by Pavithra K. Mehta, Suchitra Shenoy

This groundbreaking story is about how an 11-bed hospital became the largest provider of eye care in the world by defying conventional business logic. Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and his family implemented a staggered fee system, charging market rates to those who were able to pay and a heavily subsidized rate to those with limited means, but worked free of charge to those who could pay nothing — allowing every patient to pay what they can. Aravind was not only profitable, surplus funds allowed Dr. Venkataswamy to build four new hospitals, and fund a manufacturing plant for intraocular lenses and a world-class opthalmological research center.

Why this book: With our new social initiative, we are trying to have a positive impact in the world. However, it's often hard to make good intentions financially sustainable. This story is an inspiration for those looking for innovative business models, showing how it’s possible to provide affordable healthcare to millions of people.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Written by Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Change might be easy to embrace when it comes to Saturday night plans, but not when it comes to traditions, systems, or ideologies. This easy read looks at what makes change so difficult and frightening. Readers will see great examples of how to create change when there are few resources available and no authority backing you up. The authors talk about how slow it can be to bring about change in our companies, careers, or lives, and show how to overcome our resistance to it so as to make big things happen.

Why this book: Trying to change a company from within by convincing it to use Design Thinking to scale can be hard. Often we get asked by clients how to spread change within the other departments. This book is recognized as one of the best for doing just that.

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

Written by Kevin Ashton

How to Fly a Horse is an interesting exploration of how “new” comes to be. Ashton shows how creators apply everyday, ordinary thinking, taking many small steps and working in an endless cycle of problem and solution. He examines why innovators meet resistance and how they overcome it, why most organizations stifle creative people, and the inner workings of creative organizations.

Why this book: Clients often think that creativity is a mystery, something that few selected people have and the others don't. Here the author goes into all kinds of examples to disprove a lot of the beliefs we often have around what is creativity.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Written by Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman takes readers on a tour of the mind and explains the two systems that govern the way we think. The first system is fast, intuitive, and emotional while system 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the strong hold that intuitive impressions have on our thoughts and behavior. Kahneman's work in behavioral economics won him a Nobel Prize in 2002.

Why this book: Design has everything to do with the deep truth of how people act. Emotions are the drivers of how we act. The better we understand them, the better we can design solutions for our users.

WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us

Written by Tim O'Reilly

O'Reilly is a leading Silicon Valley intellectual and the founder of his own media company. In WTF?, he explores the upsides and downsides of today's emerging technologies. In this combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action, he puts the world we live in under a microscope, identifies some of the root causes of why we live the way we do, and offers some prescriptions for how to change the way we go about things as we head towards a future that is very different from the way we currently live.

Why this book: When an ever-growing number of jobs can be carried out by smarty-pants machines, business and society-at-large are facing a big change ahead. The previous people power ecosystem will no longer govern the way the world is run. There are a number of consequences that comes with this, and O'Reilly's foresight helps in proactively planning ahead, adapting, and framing up-and-coming technology so that it works for us the way we want it to work.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Written by Kate Raworth

Mainstream economics has led us astray, according to Oxford academic Kate Raworth in Doughnut Economics. She identifies seven ways this has happened and sets out a roadmap for meeting the needs of all with the available resources on Earth. She deconstructs the character of ‘rational economic man’ and reveals how an obsession with balance has left economists helpless in the face of the highs and lows of the real-world economy. She creates a new, cutting-edge economic model that doesn't leave the planet behind. Her model is a perfect fit for the 21st century – one in which a doughnut-shaped compass points the way to human progress.

Why this book: As climate change is becoming a serious issue and the circular economy is ramping up, the traditional logic within economic thinking are starting to crumble. However, nothing is there yet to replace them. In this book, Raworth looks at possible alternatives to replace GDP and the exhausted paradigm of "continuous growth".

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order

Written by Kai-Fu Lee

This book is an eye opener for those who are unfamiliar with the wide-ranging capabilities and imminent impact of AI. Lee goes into the development, design and future of AI and its associated technology. He contrasts Chinese work in AI with that of the US, and their cultural approach to the field. Lee makes the case that AI will have huge consequences for society and determine the relative economic power of nations.

Why this book: Technologies are not unbiased, but they are shaped by the values of the societies that build them. This book takes a good look at the differences between China and the US and how they are developing two potentially very different types of AI.