Top 10 must-read books on Innovation

Being innovative or creative looks like an inherent trait to most of us, doesn’t it? However, if you’ve been one of those lucky ones who had “creativity” as an academic discipline at school, you’d know that it can at least be nurtured. So what happened along the way then? Perhaps, like renowned educationalist, Sir Ken Robinson says, “We got educated out of creativity.” And now, we are back to finding ways to use our creative energies to build something of value. How ironical…

For those who steered away from the path of innovation and tried to fit into the neatly defined boxes of the world, it’s time to get a real sense of what your talents are and dig deep. Your businesses have created circumstances for you to bring these to the surface. To help innovation officers and wannabe innovators in their task, we’ve put together the best books to inspire you and help your company and workforce stay relevant.

  1. Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker

    Top 10 must-read books in innovation-Innovation and Entreprenuership by Perter DruckerIn this classic book published in 1985, Peter F. Drucker “presents innovation and entrepreneurship as a practice and a discipline.” Called the inventor of modern management, Austrian-born American Dr. Drucker’s insights are still highly relevant and many of his predictions did come true. He focuses on the Practice of innovation, Practice of entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurial strategies. Drucker uses examples to outline systematic innovation and sources of innovative opportunities within and outside of the enterprises. This seminal work, which is a must-read for a budding entrepreneur, includes the dos and don’ts of innovation, measurement of innovation performance, entrepreneurial policies, structures, and strategies.

  2. The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us about Innovation by Frans Johansson

    Top 10 must-read books in innovation- The Medici EffectThe book hopes to makes you realize that true innovation comes from beyond your realm of expertise. Frans Johansson, a Swedish-American entrepreneur, introduces the concept of “intersection of ideas,” which results in path-breaking innovations. This is the key takeaway from this book published by Harvard Business School Press in 2004. He believes diverse teams with an array of perspectives should collaborate to bring ideas from various fields to create the Medici Effect. Johansson has driven home the point with a lot of success stories to make the narrative quite interesting. This is what The Washington Post said about this well-received book: Johansson has "written a book dozens of business school professors meant to write, but couldn't.” High praise indeed.

  3. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works by Ash Maurya

    LeanStack Founder and creator of the Lean Canvas, Ash Maurya, tells you how startups can find the product/market fit by following a systematic process based on innovative approaches based on innovative approaches such as Lean Startup and Bootstrapping. Some of the principles in the book include a plan for systematic learning, listening to customers, testing to learn, de-risking your business model, and canvassing your plan. Although he doesn’t directly talk about innovation, he talks about raising the odds of success for entrepreneurial ventures by scrutinizing product ideas. Running Lean is undoubtedly an inspiring book for anyone looking to start a business project or company.

  4. The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

    Top 10 must-read books in innovation-The Myths of InnovationWith this book, American author and speaker Scott Berkun “methodically and entertainingly dismantles the clichés that surround the process of innovation” as the author of Dreaming in Code, Scott Rosenberg, says. He talks about where ideas come from, the true history of history, why most people don't like ideas, how great managers make ideas thrive, and the importance of problem finding. Obviously, the books is rife with exciting anecdotes and case studies. He tells you breakthroughs and epiphanies don’t happen overnight; Berkun also tells you how to overcome resistance to ideas, how problems are likely more important than answers, and why the best ideas don’t always win. (Here is a video that might interest you.) He tells you about how ideas can truly change the world, that is, how motivation and initiative with respect to innovation take the world forward.

  5. The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Jonathan LittmanTop 10 must-read books in innovation-The Ten Faces of Innovation

    Authors Kelley and Littman discuss IDEO's Strategies for beating the devil's advocate and driving creativity throughout your organization. This 2005 book is an excellent read to understand how corporations can tap into their potential and foster an innovation culture. An easy and enjoyable read, the book describes 10 temporary personas—storyteller, hurdler, experimenter, cross-pollinator, anthropologist, caregiver, set designer, experience architect, director, and collaborator—you can assume to drive 360-degree innovation. Engaging stories and tips on how to deal with damning cynics by donning “suitable” hats make this book an absolute gem.

  6. The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen Top 10 must-read books in innovation-The Innovator's Dilemma

    Renowned Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation has been called “the most influential business idea of recent years.” In this 1997 book, Christensen studies innovation patterns of big firms to explain why new technologies caused some firms to fail—why great companies seem to be doing everything right but still go wrong. He talks about management being torn between sticking to traditional business practices for sustainable growth in the short-term and capitalizing on disruptive technological changes for long-term growth; it is a battle between entrants and incumbents, between technological progress and market progress. This is a definitive guide for every innovator who needs to understand the ability to innovate and the organizational culture to support it. Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor followed up by publishing “The Innovator's Solution,” where they tell companies how to become disruptors themselves using carefully researched and formulated guidelines.

  7. The Invisible Advantage: How to Create a Culture of Innovation by Soren Kaplan Top 10 must-read books in innovation-The Invisible Advantage

    As the Winner of Best Business Book, International Book Awards, this book tells you how to create a lasting culture of innovation (the invisible advantage) that emphasizes entrepreneurial spirit and free thinking to create sustainable value. Soren Kaplan, a celebrated author, professor, and speaker in the sphere of innovation and business strategy, creates an attractively designed pithy book that’s chock-full of practical tips, real-world examples, apt quotes, and highly relevant information. What’s even better is that it comes with a toolkit (video, questionnaire, interview guide, PDF poster, PPT template) to help you get started. So if you are looking to turn great ideas into practical strategies and can’t chew your way through lengthy case studies and philosophical discussions, this is the book for you.

  8. Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates by Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson

     Top 10 must-read books in innovation-Innovation to the corePeter Skarzynski, Strategos co-founder, and Rowan Gibson, a business strategist, tells you how as a front-line innovator can turn innovation into a core competence. After reading this book, you will know how to “make innovation an enterprise-wide capability that involves the whole organization, rapidly enlarge and enhance your innovation pipeline with breakthrough ideas, systematically innovate across all the components of your business model, dramatically improve the efficiency of your innovation spending, use the power of IT to enable and manage innovation across the enterprise, and put systems and processes in place that make innovation self-sustaining.” So many reasons why managers at every level across industries must read this comprehensive guide, don’t you agree?

  9. The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric RiesTop 10 must-read books in innovation-The Lean Startup

    This bestselling book published in 2011 continues to be an invaluable read for aspiring entrepreneurs battling uncertainty every step of the way. Ries, a serial entrepreneur, and author, cites “working forward from the technology instead of working backward from the business results you're trying to achieve” as the reason for the failure of two startups he worked for. He talks about more learnings from his journey with IMVU. The book is divided into three parts: vision, steer and accelerate. (Here is a quick video summary of the book.)

  10. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

    Top 10 must-read books in innovation-Making Ideas HappenKnown for Behance (acquired by Adobe), Scott Belsky is an American entrepreneur, investor, and author. In this book published by Penguin in 2012, Belsky talks about techniques and principles to “systematically approach creative organization and productivity.” He has compiled stories and experiences of visionaries, such as Seth Godin and John Maeda, who tell you how you go from generating an idea to its implementation by breaking down each project into its components: Action Steps, References, and Backburner items. It is a fantastic buy for creative people who need help sorting tasks, figuring out whether they are dreamers, doers, or incrementalists, and deciding how much energy to invest to execute their ideas.

Let’s call them more-than-honorable mentions in this list. Our other must-reads include:

  • Thinkertoys

    Top 10 must-read books in innovation-Thinkertoys

  • A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko is a fun book on how to come up with unique ideas and channelize them in your business and personal lives. Michalko tell you how to amp up creativity intuitively and indulge in some practical brainstorming through interesting exercises, analogies, and stories.
  • Open Innovation: Researching a New ParadigmTop 10 must-read books in innovation-Open InnovationHenry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke, and Joe West examine the theory, applicability, implications, potential, and IP issues of open innovation.

  • A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing: Advice From Leading ExpertsTop 10 must-read books in innovation-A Guide to Open Innovation and crowdsourcing

    Paul Sloane’s book “explains how to use the power of ideas and people outside your organization to turbocharge your innovation.” Practitioners and thought leaders in the innovation space tell you how to co-create with customers, manage virtual teams, and deal with IP issues.

  • Brain Rules

     Top 10 must-read books in innovation-Brain RulesDr. John Medina writes about the 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. The sections in this wonderful book are survival, exercise, sleep, wiring, stress, attention, memory, sensory integration, vision, music, gender, and exploration.


While running scared from bots that will take over the world, creativity is something that seems to be hard to automate, right? As now of now, we are still going with “innovate or die.” Convinced of the fact that creativity and innovation are paramount to sustainability, we’ve tried to interest you in popular books that stay away from superficial hype but touch various key aspects of innovation.

There are plenty of other superior works on innovation as well which haven’t been included in our list. Do tell us what you think ought to be there in the Top 10!

About the Author

Dhanya Menon
Dhanya Menon is an editor and academic writer. This is her first stint in content marketing, having spent over 5 years in e-learning. Her interests are varied. She likes to lose track of time reading anything from chemistry to Allende, from statistics to Thurber cartoons, from Ruth Rendell to listening to her son's unique take on life.