The following is a collection of non-fiction books that has greatly shaped my thinking as a business enthusiast. Encountered a lot of these books through sheer serendipity. Have to thank the Internet for that!
1. The Innovator’s Dilemma
The first business book that interested me and greatly impacted my thinking. Stumbled unexpectedly onto Christensen’s work after reading his kinda unrelated HBR article ‘How to measure your life’. Have since been on a quest to find out all I can about tech businesses and Innovation.
The book absolutely blew my mind. Taleb breezes through multiple and unrelated fields on ‘Antifragility’ with aplomb. Will answer many questions and raise many questions.
3. The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the great age of American Innovation
Was thinking about how it would be to create an ‘Idea Factory’ where a single entity multiple businesses. Googled the same keywords to check if something like that existed and voila – stumbled on this gem of a book. A thoroughly researched book that chronicles the source of the modern age – Bell Labs. Must read for any student of innovation.
4. Where Good Ideas come from
Dived into this book with skepticism and mainly because it had won a book award. I consider a book great if it gives me new mental models to think about and if there are lots of excellent examples. This book is rich in both. Will challenge the perception of the lonely-innovator-having-his-Eureka-moment perception of innovation. Glad I got to read this book and read Steven Johnson’s other books as well. Another of his book was a highly entertaining and enriching experience. That is next on this list.
5. How we got to now
I liked the premise of the book. Six seemingly ordinary inventions led to other inventions which in turn led to other inventions and so on. What led to advances in medical sciences and the cure of various diseases? The printing press played a big part in it!
6. Seeing What Next
Another fantastic book from Clayton Christensen. Talks about very important concepts like Modularization. A great addition to the Innovator’s Dilemma.
7. Creativity Inc.
How to hit the bulls eye every time. Probably Pixar is the only company with the moral right to answer that question (hope someone from HBO writes a book in the future). Ed Catmull gives the behind the scenes view of Pixar – the passion, the autonomy, the respect and the responsibility that goes into letting a team create blockbuster pieces of art.
8. Zero to One
Became a big fan of Peter Thiel after I stumbled on his startup class at Stanford notes by his student Blakemasters (the serendipity that the Internet offers is such a blessing). Bought it immediately when it became available. A compelling case for new breakthrough technology (o to 1) rather than incremental copying (1 to n). Thiel has put his money where his mouth is as one of the most contrarian investors betting on breakthrough companies that other investors will find ‘unsafe’.
9. The Innovator’s Prescription
Third book of Christensen in this list. Read this purely because it is one brilliant gigantic case study on innovation. Staying with one entire book on a single industry is great learning for a business enthusiast.
10. The Wright Brothers – Biography
Did not receive formal education. Middle class. No knowledge in Aerodynamics. No financial backers. And the experts of the day tell human flight is not possible. What do you do? Keep working day and night for four years in isolation and achieve your dreams. A terrific and inspiring read.
11. The Halo Effect
A must read for anyone in business who has a FOMO – Fear of Missing out and gobbles up countless news items, new business theories etc. If you are reading a ‘How-to’ manual about how to build a great business, it is very likely that it is useless. Read this excellent book to find out why.
12. Poor Economics
If you are a student of innovation or business, in my opinion it is important to consider the challenges of the poor and how to solve them. Because there are so many constraints in place, it forces you to come up with creative solutions. But do we really know about the poor? Those of us who grew up in the middle class, all we have are a bunch of assumptions about the poor. Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee share their lessons from the field and will break many of your assumptions.