Kaleidoscope Innovation - Top Innovation Books

Top Innovation Books Every Designer Must Read

Now could be an excellent time to crack open a good book and do a deeper dive into a topic of interest. As an end-to-end product design and development firm, we want to share a few of our experts’ top picks for anyone interested in innovation:

1. The Little Black Book of Innovation: How It Works, How to Do It, by Scott D. Anthony

One particularly helpful aspect of this book is that the author has highlighted a lot of the thought leadership of innovation.

But The Little Black Book of Innovation is not just a historical synopsis. It reveals what we have learned from these individuals. For example, one of the influential people mentioned in the book is AG Lafely, former Chairman of the Board,  President and CEO of Procter & Gamble. Anthony points out that Lafely’s big push when he first became the CEO for P&G was that “the consumer is king; the consumer is our boss.” Though he was not the first person to say that, he brought that thinking to the forefront in the innovation space.

The Little Black Book of Innovation is structured to address the disconnect that many people talk about innovation but do a poor job of defining it. It seems Anthony’s argument is that the current state of innovation is defined by those who have come before, what they have done and how we’ve arrived where we are today.

As it is not a how-to book, it may or may not provide much meaning for the non-practitioner. But for someone who is in the innovation space, we recommend this as a great book to understand where those thoughts and principles come from.

Once you understand the rules, then you can start to break them.


2. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries

There are a number of ties in The Lean Startup to design thinking in general, which is not the “end-all” for all innovation, but it is certainly a key theme or key methodology.

One major conflict addressed in the book is: What is that minimum viable product (MVP)?

On the software side, the book includes the topic of how people are selling a product that has not even been made yet. (This goes back to the “consumer is king” approach.)

In The Lean Startup, there is also a lot of talk about the “pivot.” This happens in innovation when you build a product and then find out that people are using it for a different reason than you intended. Rather than fighting it, you just accept it and then really embrace those needs and better cater to those customers.

Being able to pivot is crucial to an industry utilizing methods such as user-centered design.


3. 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization, by Vijay Kumar

​Vijay Kumar, the author of this book, is a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, and he leads the Strategic Design Planning and the Design Methods programs.

The book’s website provides insights into what he describes as seven modes of the design innovation process.

If for no other reason, we recommend 101 Design Methods for the examples and the case studies.

We would describe 101 Design Methods as very much a how-to book. We feel that for a practitioner, especially a younger practitioner who is new to the space, it is important to be comfortable with experimentation. So you may read about a technique and try it out, and then it may work or it may not work.

4. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

In Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors examine white space—which they refer to as the “blue ocean.”

According to the Amazon Editorial Review for the audio book, “W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne assert that tomorrow’s leading companies will succeed, not by battling their rivals for market share in the bloody ‘red ocean’ of a shrinking profit pool, but by creating ‘blue oceans’ of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.”

This book is less about product innovation and more looking at other domains and areas of innovation, whether that is on the service side, distribution, etc.