The Book is the Thing

A professional toolkit for those who aspire to make better.

I offer this specific bibliography to students, professionals and organizations in the pursuit of differential growth through differentiated value. Please offer your critique and additions.

For my students and alumni of the School of Visual Arts Masters program in Interaction Design, I hope you will stand on the shoulders of these visionaries, scientists, designers, academics, entrepreneurs and thoughtful observers. Stand taller. See farther. Make better.

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.”

~ W. Somerset Maugham

bargray-light10 Rules for Strategic Innovators

Govindarajan, Vijay and Chris Trimble , 2006


“VG”, as he is thankfully known, has served as a Tuck business school professor and innovation professor in residence at GE, one of the great corporate innovation laboratories. VG and Trimble explain the issues that arise when building breakthroughs in existing businesses. The rules themselves are less memorable.

Like many books, this serves as a guide to help senior executives push past the present, relinquish past assumptions, and open their eyes to new possibilities. It prods us to allow for a different future.

bargray-light101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization

Kumar, Vijay , 2013


IIT Institute of Design professor Kumar teaches design planning and methods programs to the students of this remarkable program, founded by the late Jay Doblin (still the only institution offering a doctorate in design).

We employ this book as a field guide and reference to specific tools and methods for the major elements of the profession – turning “design thinking” (a disconcertingly flaccid label) into designed action.

bargray-lightThe Age of Insight

Eric R. Kandel, 2012


Neuroscientist Dr. Kandel won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work on long-term memory, how our brain chemistry allows our recollections to persist. Before studying memory in sea slugs, he was a Freudian psychotherapist. Here he returns to Vienna, the city of his birth, to discover why it served as the fount of so many ground-breaking ideas in the 19th-century. Vienna engaged in a rare intellectual dialogue among artists and scientists inspired by each others’ works.

Mandel’s review of five leading minds (including Sigmund Freud and Gustave Klimt) show how their critical breakthroughs in science, medicine and art laid the groundwork for present-day discoveries in brain science.

bargray-lightAmpersand: Growth by Design

Roger C. Mader, 2011

It may appear self-serving to offer the website for my own consultancy, but it represents the compilation of experiences from a wide and accomplished array of practicing innovation and design professionals, including Ampersand partners, clients, affiliated universities, students and organizations. It remains the only source to depict the push/pull model for balanced growth—adding the demand-driven “pull” methods of innovation strategy to the conventional “push” approach of business strategy. It simplifies a more comprehensive approach to innovation design using the 4D method. It offers many other tools, lessons and examples.

And it is does not attempt to sell you anything.

bargray-lightArt of Digital Marketing: Definitive Guide to Strategic, Targeted, Measurable, online campaigns

Ian Dodson, 2020


Dodson promotes this as a  comprehensive guide to digital marketing (it’s not, but there’s no such thing). IT does a good job of describing how to use the multiple tiers of digital tech to reach and serve consumers. The book uses the profession’s leading certification from the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI).

It presents a reasoned inverse methodology for digital marketing: start with the customer and work backwards. Couldn’t agree more.

bargray-lightArt of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm

Kelly, Tom with Jonathan Littman, 2001


The IDEO method, now projected through Stanford’s Hasso Plattner d school program, is described by co-founder Tom Kelly.

He makes sense of surprisingly simple techniques like “build your greenhouse” (a workplace that fosters ideas) and “live in the future.”

bargray-lightThe Art of the Long View

Schwartz, Peter 1991/96


Adopting the scenario planning method first devised by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s, Schwartz revolutionized the way the world pursues the future. From the White House to Proctor & Gamble, scenario planning is used to plan for multiple possibilities — convergent planning for divergent futures.

As one example, envision a simple 2×2 grid plotting two axes against one another. Imagine a future that is richer or poorer on one axis, and on the other, openly global vs. protectively parochial. If all 4 are possible, then a strategy that contemplates only one puts all others at risk.

bargray-lightThe Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

Roam, Dan 2008


Consider just two clear principles: A picture is worth a thousand words, and keep it simple. Clarify a problem or sell an idea using a simple set of tools.

We all have some talent for visual thinking. Thinking with pictures can help discover ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and improve ability to share your insights.

bargray-lightBlue Ocean Strategy

Kim, W. Chan with Renée Mauborgne, 2005 and now living through


These professors at a premiere European business school, INSEAD, describe the logic behind choosing innovation strategies that get you to “uncontested market space”. They refer to this open “blue ocean” to distinguish it from a crowded “red ocean” where you are swarming among other sharks.  See “Different” for a less academic interpretation. See their original HBR article Creating New Market Space for the shorter origin thesis for this book.


Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

Brooks, John, 2014 edition

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by [John Brooks]

I confess that I picked this up because it was cited by both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates as among the most influential business books of their long and fruitful careers and subsequent philanthropy. It’s really a compilation of essays from the financial journalist and novelist most frequently associated with his writing in the latter half of the 20th century for the New Yorker. And he reads like the New Yorker, breathlessly erudite. I was particularly inspired by the monumental failure of the Ford Edsel, thoroughly researched and boldly led with more money and marketing than any prior consumer product. And it missed its moment. Badly. Sometimes it really is as simple as squandering the moment.

So many painful lessons, too obvious after the fact, that could hopefully save us both from repeating them.


Business Model Generation

Ostwalder, Alexander with Yves Pigneur, 2009


Practical innovation techniques crowd-sourced from 470 strategy practitioners from 45 countries. An exercise in collaborative, curated visuals, frameworks, business models and several illustrative case studies.


Catalyst Code: The Strategies Behind the World’s Most Dynamic Companies

Evans, David & Richard Schmalensee, 2007 and blog:


Some of today’s most valuable businesses (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook) act as platforms and learn from customers.

The authors dig into the ultimate user observation research question: what is the customer actually trying to do? Bob Moesta refers to it by the clumsy lingo Clayton Christenson confabulated as “jobs to be done“. (Don’t get me wrong; Christenson was a giant in the field of observed behavior and translating it into breakthrough strategies. It just entertains me when new disciplines such as a business strategist attempt to reinvent the established design method for innovation because they didn’t realize it was already machined into professions from architecture to UX design). So what are the jobs that customers are trying to accomplish, particularly when they hack their own uses for products that aren’t quite right, but right enough right now.


Change by Design

Brown, Tim 2009


IDEO method arrives updated by CEO Tim Brown. He describes design thinking as a collaborative process where design methods match people’s needs with solutions that are technically feasible and a viable business strategy.


Conscientious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

Mackey, John with Raj Sisodia 2014

Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

You’ve got to love the journey of a 70s hippie, dedicated to his collective community organic grocery he set up with his girlfriend, only to go out of business when a flood swamped the stacked crates of produce at their simple non-profit. But then, like the final  scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, the neighbors started streaming in, salvaging what they could, pumping, draining, mopping and saving a dream. The future CEO of Whole Foods realized that profit wasn’t the enemy. Profit was the only way he could ensure a sustainable source of healthy food in the communities that relied on him.

His purposeful model, which includes a number of breakthrough management practices, serve as an early and leading lesson in the transition to more thoughtful and sustainable businesses in concert with the interests of their communities, not just their stakeholders. The battle to pry his jewel from the greedy fists of private equity investors by selling to his “white knight” Jeff Bezos has yet to play out fully.  So many lessons, and now also accompanied by a Field Guide.

As with many of these texts you can also scan youtube and other repositories for video presentations, commencement addresses and TED talks from either of the authors.


Core 77


This design magazine and resource serves the industrial design community since 1995. Among its many contributors are SVA’s chair for the Products of Design MFA, Allan Chochinov.


Democratizing Innovation

von Hippel, Eric 2005


A professor of technology innovation at MIT, von Hippel specializes in the nature and economics of distributed and open innovation. Like Lessig, he promotes open access to intellectual property, and protections that balance the promotion and reward for new ideas with the democratization of their impact.

This work reminds me that Benjamin Franklin suffered a huge outcry against public libraries when he first proposed them for the formative United States, on the understandable grounds that they would deprive authors of fair compensation if an entire community could share a single edition. The debate over the commons continues.


Design Observer



Join Michael Bierut’s community of, for lack of a better term, observed design. Tactical genius. Download the app.



The Design of Everyday Things

Norman, Donald 1990


Deconstruct the inherent design, both good and bad, of the stuff we all use without questioning.

Warning for your inner obsessive compulsive disorder: now you are REALLY going to hate that crappy seal on your fridge, squeaky hinge, and clogged drain.


Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple

Thomke, Stefan with Barbara Feinberg, Jan 2009 Harvard Business Review


A short , instructive case study on Apple’s design leadership.


Designing Interactions

Bill Moggridge, 2007


A personal narrative and design philosophy from a much missed founding father and leading voice in Interaction Design. Moggridge was a co-founder of Ideo, having made his mark in the early design of personal computer platforms, notably the breakthrough Grid laptop, and later concluded his career as the chairman the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in Manhattan.


Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd

Moon, Youngme 2010


Enjoy a witty thesis on the futility of competing head-to-head in a death spiral to commoditization. Moon—a leading Harvard MBA researcher, professor, and innovator—urges us to be different to be better. See Blue Ocean Strategy for the method.


Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing

McCullough, Malcolm 2005


This architecture professor at UMichigan attempts to update building design to accommodate new modes of dislocated interaction spawned by electronic media since the telegraph.


The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

Boorstin, Daniel J. 1983


The first in a trilogy of master works by the former US Librarian of Congress, described accurately as “perhaps the greatest book by one of our greatest historians, The Discoverers is a volume of sweeping range and majestic interpretation. To call it a history of science is an understatement; this is the story of how humankind has come to know the world, however incompletely (“the eternal mystery of the world,” Einstein once said, “is its comprehensibility”).

The book proceeds through sections based on momentous discoveries. Boorstin first describes the liberating concept of time—”the first grand discovery”—and continues through the age of exploration and the advent of the natural and social sciences.


Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things

Norman, Donald 2005


An update on his 1990 work; the joys and frustrations of your can opener. It’s nice to know why.


Evolution of Design

Doblin, Jay 1974, ID Archive:


The evolution of design first formally appeared in Jay Doblin’s presentation on “Chicago Bauhaus: Past, Present and Future” at the 1974 symposium for the IIT merger with his Institute of Design.

The great industrial design leader of mid-century Manhattan, founding director of Chicago’s Institute of Design, and AIGA champion, Doblin makes the case for the “university of visual education”. He tours us through the history of visual experimentation from the Renaissance to the Bauhaus.

Many years after his passing, Doblin’s dream—to recast industrial design as a mechanism to solve society’s greatest challenges—grows even more resonant today.


Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy

Reverby, Susan M. 2009


A cautionary tale of best of human intentions executed inhumanely. In the design of research, ethics misaligned becomes history maligned.


Fast Company


The dotcom bible of Silicon Valley innovation survived the dotbomb thanks to a rich compendium of the next new thing. Hardcore valley entrepreneurs, like my co-author Dave Hersh, may dismiss the magazine as popular mass media. I have found though that beyond the rarified fog of the bay, aspiring innovators are introduced to compelling ideas and welcomed into a growing fraternity of practice through this publication. You may particularly benefit from the works of Kevin Kelly and the late  and much missed Linda Tischler.


Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Csikszentmihaly, Mihaly 1991


This long-observed psychology study reveals the common factors that allow some people to achieve a super-performance “zone” (think Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods). This work resulted in new design forms for playgrounds, for example, to induce “flow”.

For a primer, see MC’s TED presentation circa 2004.


Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas 2005 updated edition


A treatise from a Wall Street debunker on how even professional investors delude themselves by misunderstanding causality. Fight past Taleb’s smug self-congratulation. It’s worth it.


The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Prahalad, CK 2010 (5th anniversary edition)


From the prolific strategist and professor who first conceived (and later abandoned) “core competencies” of the organization to inform strategy. Here he lays out the logic, some key methods, and cases to show how to radically reinvent business models for the billions of customers who cannot yet afford but nonetheless aspire to a Western standard of living.


Foundations of Strategic Management

Harrison, Jeffrey S. 2007


The Fred G. Peelen Professor of Global Hospitality Strategy at Cornell University presents a concise textbook on the important theories and views of his field. Readers learn the most critical topics in strategy today and study examples from cutting-edge firms.


Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Gardner, Howard 1983; 1993


McArthur grant recipient and Harvard professor Howard Gardner viewed intelligence as ‘the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting’. He reviewed the literature using eight criteria or ‘signs’ of an intelligence. His idea of a range of human capacities, from musical intelligence to the intelligence of self-understanding, now informs everything from early education to the formation of high-performance teams.



Levitt, Steven D. with Stephen J. Dubner, 2005


Finding the real rather than presumed variables that drive change, from a celebrated young economist who was apparently galled by the marketing schtick of the publishers title. The conclusions about why US crime rates plummeted in the 1990s put the lie to many municipal law enforcement claims, particularly here in New York.

Also check out the ongoing podcast series, by the same name.


From Production to Connection: A New Model for Market Organization

Mader, Roger C. and Jeffrey P. Semenchuk, 2000


My visionary co-author Jeff Semenchuk first proposed this concept in the late 1990s. He observed the tectonic shift taking place under the first wave of the commercial internet. Initially he proposed the death of industry segmentation as the organizing feature of commerce. Although provocative, it wasn’t quite right, or at least not quite yet. Months of study and debate morphed into a recognition that companies must inevitably shift from an industrial-era model organized around the assets of production, to a more customer-centric digital-era construct, organized around the connection to that customer. Jeff Bezos was already acting on this premise. We were simply observing the impact on our clients.

Navigating the shift from production to connection became the central thesis for the second act in our careers.  Jeff became one of the first strategic “Chief Innovation Officers”, moving beyond the traditional boundaries of R&D to craft new businesses, offerings and partnerships across multiple industries. I took a parallel path as advisor to him and many other corporate leaders and entrepreneurs on the subject of innovation strategy; and as a professor on the topic at SVA.

This work, first published by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is memorialized here: from-production-to-connection. It later appeared in the UK Journal of Strategy.


Future Interaction Design

Pirhonnen, Antti 2005


The Finnish author, though academic, pursues several intriguing human factors to anticipate how human/computer interaction will fundamentally shift. bargray-light

The Future of Ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world

Lessig, Lawrence 2001


The author, a professor at Stanford Law School, continues his critique of Intellectual Property (IP) copyright laws restricting freedom of ideas for too long (in the US system), destroying the potential for innovation.

Lessig convincingly argues that works should enter the public domain faster, as intended by the framers of the US Constitution.


The Game Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation

Laffley, AG with Ram Charan, 2008


The real game changer was Laffley, who single-handedly created the strategy market for design-led innovation through his transformation of P&G, the worlds largest consumer product company. A first hand lesson in the tough decisions and big risks to do it right.


Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

Rumelt, Richard, 2011


Sometimes the best way to understand a complex topic is to compare good and bad. From Hannibal’s original “Father of Strategy” to the slaughterhouse of World War I’s trench warfare, Rumelt ruminates on what makes for good versus bad strategy.

The four elements of a successful strategy outlined in Chapter 5 earn your attention. They can also be gleaned from this lecture at IMD.


Great Inventions

Dyson, James and Robert Uhlig, 2001

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 1.45.46 PM

This highly visual compendium depicts and describes the history of over 700 inventions, and their inventors (where known). These are the ideas made real that transformed civilization, from flint-head tools of 350,000BC, to the international space station. The contributors are wide-ranging but it does show a British bias.



Harold and the Purple Crayon

Johnson, Crockett 1955


Even in its 50th+ edition, this childhood classic reminds us to think with a child’s imaginative sense of possibility. Pick up your crayon and start a journey.


Harvard Business Review on Innovation

HBS Press


A compilation of popular articles on innovation from the Harvard Business Review.


How David Beats Goliath

Gladwell, Malcolm May 11, 2009

New Yorker Archive


This New Yorker article saves you reading Outliers, with a pithy story of a renegade girls’ basketball team upending the league by playing an uncommon game – effectively soccer on a basketball court.

With historical precursors, such as George Washington’s thorough early thumpings at the hands of the British by trying to compete head-to-head by fighting the formal imperial fashion. Only when he adopted the Native American tactics of hit-and-run ambush did he turn the tide for his colonies’ independence (a lesson that established militaries, particularly America’s, seem doomed to constantly relearn).



Since 1954 the magazine has been a US beacon for the culture of design. Worth a print subscription.


The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Jon Gertner, 2012


All the answers are out there. We just have to find the precedents, and Bell Labs was arguably the most productive corporate research center in history.

Bell Labs housed 1,200 scientists across a spectrum of scientific disciplines. Gertner introduces the people and reveals the processes behind inventions including the transistor, radio telescope, communications satellite, digital camera, laser and the UNIX operating system, producing seven Nobel Prizes.


The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Kelly, Kevin 2016


From the man who observed technology as destiny, a compelling argument that barring the death of the human species, these technology trends (like AI, or the shift from stores to flows), must inevitably happen. How they manifest? That’s for us to help determine.


Innovation Algorithm: TRIZ, Systematic Innovation And Technical Creativity

Altschuller, Genrich 1999


The USSR sentenced the author to a 25 year gulag-getaway for the daring of his theory of invention. He used his insights to survive Stalin, and became renowned for his Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ is the Russian acronym).

Refined over decades, his magnum opus, published posthumously, presents tools to practice creativity as an exact science. You can find archival footage of the great man on Youtube.


Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It

Jaffe, Adam with Josh Lerner, 2004


Another impassioned plea to reform US patent law for the good of the many, at the cost to the originators. One well-informed side of an age-old dilemma.


The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Isaacson, Walter 2014


The author of the Steve Jobs hagiography provides a more useful analysis here in the lives (and oddly, the sex lives) of the founders of the modern computer era, starting with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter and a proto-coder. Useful as lessons in history – innovation as evolution vs revolution.


The Innovator’s Dilemma

Christensen, Clayton 1997


This classic explains why well-run companies, constantly trying to improve their offerings for their most demanding customers, so frequently miss the real revolutions that upend their businesses. Ironically, the error comes in a narrow focus on serving today’s lucrative customers with ever better products, while upstarts instead focus below the radar on non-customers.

Christensen continues to teach, while his business partners, including InnoSight and the estimable Bob Moesta at ReWired, advise clients on their “jobs to be done.”

Christensen followed this work witih The Innovator’s Solution and The Innovator’s Prescription (a thesis on revitalizing US healthcare, based on his own time as a patient). A remarkable observer and teacher, Christensen’s ongoing publishing on the topic is among the most thoughtful and well-articulated in business.


Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Criado-Perez, Caroline, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 2.21.38 PM

Invisible Women was recommended by Ritu Parekh as a thought-provoking book. The alumna of Design for America notes that it “highlights why using data to make design decisions isn’t good enough.”

The book argues, “we really need to scrutinize the data itself—otherwise you risk unintentionally harming a whole subset of the human population.



Learning From Nature: The Innovative Invader

King, Clivedon Henry



The math theorist, sculptor, amateur evolutionary biologist and professor of design for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, King observes that many lessons of innovation can be derived from the successes of invasive species.

You can discover Henry’s mind and explore this and other analyses at his Man of String blog.

And you really should see his art.



“New Economy” commentator Kevin Kelly’s thoughtful community of contributors. One section includes such “cool tools” as a running list of the best magazine articles ever, by category, according to a recommendations algorithm. Cool.


The Last of the Metrozoids

Gopnik, Adam – New Yorker Magazine, July 10, 2004


This article recounts the life lessons of a great little league football coach, who also happened to be a revered professor at Princeton and curator of sculpture at MoMA. Gopnik describes a method of coaching that models the best practices of instructional design application. It’s a short, breathtaking article of a life well-led, that by his example, shows the value of design synthesis.



Kemp, Martin – Oxford University Press, 2004


From the leading authority on all things Leonardo:

“Governing everything..the principle of ‘Necessity’…dictates that form always perfectly fits function in nature…it compels every force to expend itself in the most direct way available to it; it prescribes that the simplest design to achieve a given end will be followed; and it must be respected by any human contriver of artificial things (ie – you and me). Necessity is the mistress and the teacher of nature; necessity is the theme and inventor of nature, the curb, the rule and the theme. 

The universal architecture of Necessity is geometry.”


The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity & Economic Progress 

Mokyr, Joel – Oxford University Press, 1992

A young and vital Professor Mokyr changed my life by translating the arcane numeracy of microeconomics into the transactions that drove the Dutch and then English to dominate global shipping trade and opening of international markets. Every breakthrough technology, from the printing press to the steam engine, served as a leapfrog event not just in the riches of inventors or the wealth of nations, but in the elevation of ideas and aspirations.


A Little History of the World

Gombrich, Ernst H. 2005 (English translation)

&little history

Read this aloud to children and give them the gift of world history from your wisest grandfather.

Written on a challenge in 1935 and updated in his dotage, Gombrich’s polymath narrative begins with “once upon a time” and takes you from the original big bang through what might still prove to be the last – the atomic bomb, yet ends by counting the blessings of science and human knowledge. I sneak it in under the auspices if Chapter 2: The Greatest Inventors of All Time – the wheel, fire, lever and the accomplishments of early civilization through the Bronze Age.

Of all the books cited here, this one can change the early trajectory of a life.


Making Innovation Work: How to Manage It, Measure It, and Profit from It

Davila, Tony with Marc J. Epstein, and Robert Shelton, 2005


Designing the organization to enable innovation — Innovation as discipline, not an exercise in creativity. Pragmatic advice to skirt common barriers.


Mavericks at Work, Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win

Taylor, William C. with Polly LaBarre, 2006


Taylor and LaBarre, a founder and a top editor of FastCompany, assemble a useful, engaging narrative around hot companies on how to rethink industries, companies, brands, partnerships with other firms, and customer experiences. Briskly practical.


MCC’s Human Interface Laboratory – The Promise and Perils of Long-Term Research

Curtis, Bill – Dec 2010 Interactions Magazine:


Curtis describes the 80s history of the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation in this article. An institute of early HCI researchers in Austin during the “first golden age” of human/computer interaction design, MCC is now remembered as a cautionary tale, ironically in the archives of Jon Kolko’s Interaction Magazine, which terminated publication with this final issue of 2010.


Metropolis magazine


Metropolis examines contemporary life through design—architecture, interior design, product design, graphic design, crafts, planning, and preservation. A source of inspiration from former creative editor and my fellow SVA faculty, Criswell Lappin.


Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Lewis, Michael M. 2003


Measuring the right indicators, rather than the conventional ones, transformed the Oakland A’s from a 3rd tier ball club into pennant contenders, at a fraction of the cost incurred by traditional champions using traditional methods like Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees.



Myths of Innovation

Berkun, Scott 2007


An attempt to dispel 10 common myths about the process of innovation, such as the “eureka moment” – the misconception that an idea arrives fully formed seemingly out of nowhere. See Steven Johnson’s “Where Ideas Come From” for a similar approach more thoughtfully told.


The Naked Ape

Morris, Desmond 1973


A modern Darwinian assessment of human behavior from an anthropologist’s dispassionate perspective: humans observed objectively as just another idiosyncratic primate. Demonstrates the importance of anthropology as a central thesis of research to reveal latent user needs through demonstrated behaviors, rather than speculative assertion (interviews), group think (focus groups) or other false assumption.



Lukic, Branco with Barry M. Katz, 2010


In an “objective” world of facts, the authors present the “nonobject” world of perception, experience, and possibility. In this vivid visual work, Lukic (award-winning designer) and Katz (design historian) imagine what would happen if design started not from the object but from the space between people and the objects they use.


Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape

Chesbrough, Henry 2006


The next stage of openness according to the originator. See his Open Innovation, below.


Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology

Chesbrough, Henry 2003


From the Haas professor who coined the term, open innovation is among the most important recent strategies for innovation, to enable a network of loosely coordinated participants, usually with asymmetries of power.


Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Mackenzie. Gordon 1998


Take an eccentric innovation journey with a light-hearted practitioner.


Organizational Ambidexterity

Tushman, Harreld and O’Reilly, California Management Review, Summer 2009


Managing with both practical acumen of planning and the inverse attributes of creativity, ambiguity and flexibility.


Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics

Beinhocker, Erik 2007


This McKinsey Fellow proposes a new model to investigate the source of economic generation. He seeks to replace a static model based on Newtonian physics (change comes as an external shock) to an organic model ­– an adaptive network that increases value as it best adapts to human needs and desires.


Out of Crisis

Deming, W. Edwards, 1986


The classic analysis of opportunity lost and painstakingly regained, as told by the father of quality management. The genius behind “that which is measured gets done” includes, among other imperatives, the requirement for sample design to ensure effective change. I would submit that the latter half of the 20th century was dominated by the total quality movement he engendered, a revolution in making the present offering better. We stand at the forefront of the next shift: revolutionizing the applied science of commercial innovation.



50 years of articles and begrudging wisdom from the artist who credentialized all design through his iconic, intentional corporate logos.


Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

Zuckoff, Mitchell 2006


A biography of the original get-rich-quick scheming charmer, this sociopathic hubris recurs generationally and undermines faith in ethical conduct. What actions can we each take to ensure we reinforce our professional practices? How might an enterprise be purpose built for ethical compliance?


Profiting from Intellectual Capital, Extracting Value from Innovation

Sullivan, Patrick H. 2001


A survey of ways to integrate IP strategies and business model to build breakthrough businesses. Leaders fail to demand bold ideas. Or lawyers, paid to avert risk, forbid them.  This book how some companies broke out of these traps.


Rethinking Users: The Design Guide to User Ecosystem Thinking

Youngblood, Michael and Benjamin Chesluk 2020

Anthropologist design researchers can teach us not just to rethink users, but they demonstrate it by rethinking the book for their readers. This thoughtful compendium actually arrives as a box with a matching book inside, accompanied by a set of cards to provide an interactive toolkit for user research in the field and on the fly. Very clever, and illustrated by Nadeem Haidary with the elegance of simplicity.

See a short trailer here.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Hurari, Yuval Noah 2011, 2014 English edition


Few books have taught me a blinding lesson in virtually every chapter. As Jared Diamond says, it “tackles the biggest questions of history and the modern world, and is written in unforgettably vivid language.”

Harari offers the perspective of a very rare and erudite polymath, with a confidence that may undo some of his assertions over time. Despite that, if like me you are curious and often conflicted about the habits of human social behavior, I offer this as maybe the most important book so far this century.


Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design

Buxton, Bill 2007


A celebrated musician/designer’s take on “sketching” as design method for prototyping, particularly for adaptive technologies. See its terrific design bibliography, which saves me from incorporating it here.


The Sources of Innovation

von Hippel, Eric 1994


Von Hippel is best known for his work on the diffusion of innovation, how ideas spread. Here he serves as an early advocate to employ users, partners and participants in a business network as the best source of insight.


The Story of English

MacNeil, Robert with Robert McCrum, William Cran, 1993 updated edition


A friendly visual text to accompany the famous 8-part 1986 PBS video series. Maps and other engaging visuals trace this history of this anachronistic, cobbled together from neighboring tribes and invading conquest, and then shipped around the world in the era of discovery, to take up new roots, meanings and accents around the world. Language serves as a proxy for the evolution of society and ideas.

Follow the intertwined branches as this contemporary world language spreads like a virus. I found many of the lessons of evolution you might expect from the most important element of human interaction: the vernacular in which we frame and foster ideas.


The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

Jonathan Gottschall, 2012


Storytelling is an essential tool of innovation – allowing audiences to share in the perception of need and the possibility of breakthrough solutions. Gottschall shows why this is essential, describing the human mind is a narrative machine, organizing experience into stories. He describes stories as gravity for our thoughts — an invisible force that grounds our perceptions, beliefs and behaviors.

He uses absorbing narratives and deconstruction of dream sequences to convey his investigation of storytelling.


Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization, Concepts and Cases

Hitt, Michael A. with R. Duane Ireland and Robert E. Hoskisson, 2010 (10th edition)


More international in scope than most US texts, this standard contains a detailed investigation of strategic management in the context of globalization and competitiveness. First section is devoted to theory and the second is dedicated to case studies.


Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases

David, Fred 2008 (12th edition)


With constantly updated cases, David’s practitioners’ guide stands the test of time in it’s 12th edition.


The Strategy Process: Concepts, Context, Cases

Mintzberg, Henry with James Brian Quinn, 2002 (4th edition)


Compiled by sometimes controversial Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, Mintzberg uses Quinn’s Harvard Business Review material and case studies, as well as unedited contributions from other authors. He combines theory and practice in coverage of strategy and organization.


Strategy Safari : The Complete Guide Through the Wilds of Strategic Management 

Mintzberg, Henry with  Professor Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph B. Lampel, 1998


The authors review four decades of academic literature to catalog ten schools of strategy. I find it clarifying to map the strategy landscape, distinguishing Porter’s school of competitive strategy from the field of design strategy that gave birth to my field of innovation.


Strategy: Winning in the Marketplace: Core Concepts, Analytical Tools, Cases

Thompson, Arthur A. Jr. with John E Gamble, A. J. Strickland III, 2003


This team of strategy professors have published several well-known strategy texts; this one is most concise with provocative cases for group discussion.


Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers is the New Way to be Smart

Ayres, Ian 2007


With the emergence of epic data volumes and our ability to tap into them, data mining and number crunching can reveal insights never available to us before. The Yale econometrician makes the science of algorithmic insight accessible.


Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Kearns Goodwin, Doris 2009


The Pulitzer Prize winner describes the unlikely rise of an underdog to the uncommon ability to build a multi-faceted, multi-talented and vastly more powerful team of collaborators despite bitter prior rivalries. In a profession and world that increasingly demands our close collaboration, Lincoln’s example shines.


TED: Ideas Worth Spreading


The life-hobby of Richard Saul Wurman, architect turned conference host and now cranky curmudgeon, his curated site of 18 minute video clips of the most interesting people on the planet could serve as a fascinating post-graduate education.


Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs

Keeley, Larry, with Ryan Pikkel, Helen Walters, Brian Quinn et. al., 2013


Nearly 20 years ago a brilliant staffer at Chicago’s storied Doblin Group latched on to the insight that innovations stratify across the value chain, from supplier relationships and financial models on one end, to brands and customer experiences at the other. Research using this simple framework revealed that the most common but least productive innovation investments focus exclusively on producing new products. The bigger wins come from crafting new ways to capture revenue and captivate customers, often in a combination of innovations that make it hard for competitors to decipher. Fantastic cases from one of the world’s most pithy polymaths, Larry Keeley – a personal mentor and friend. See the handy card set by Ryan Pikkel. Mix and match to concoct your own breakthroughs, kids!


Thoughts on Interaction Design

Kolko, Jon 2009, 2nd edition Feb 2011


Elegant translation of theory into practice, as taught at Carnegie Mellon.


The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Gladwell, Malcolm 2002


Is there really causality from Soho skater kids favoring Keds to their explosive and totally unexpected reappearance in the sudden brand relevance of teenagers at the end of the 20th century? How does that happen?

Gladwell makes a great case for this and other anecdotes. Now if he could just explain that hair style…


Understanding Industrial Design: Principles for UX and Interaction Design

King, Simon and Chang, Kuen, 2016


The coauthors of the “beetle book”are an industrial designer, and a UX designer, both former Ideo staffers. King and Cheng reconnect industrial and interaction design, the physical and digital.

The duo remind us of the integral nature of design, intertwined as they once were. Consider data as just another industrial material, with lessons that apply universally.

See the fastcompany review for the short course.


We Are Smarter than Me: How to Unleash the Power of Crowds in Your Business

Libert, Barry and Spector, Larry, 2007


For lessons in “looking outside for inspiration”, xx compiles stories of early practitioners of crowd-sourcing for content as well as innovation. To make the point, the authors crowd-sourced the book itself from the wikisphere, first soliciting examples, then inviting the crowd to vote for the best examples, which ended up in the book. Innocentive arises as one of the more famous examples, but lesser-knowns provide useful models.


Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Johnson, Steven 2010


This prolific and captivating cultural explorer and serial author of Interface Culture, Mind Wide Open, Everything Bad is Good for You, Ghost Map and the Invention of Air finds incredible insights on innovation, although that was not his central topic until this book. Through historical examples, Johnson overturns common myths of discovery and invention. He deconstructs what it means to have a hunch. He illustrates the value of networks, and posits the annoyingly meaningful role of serendipity to invention. I also recommend his Ghost Map and Invention of Air for what are, in essence, detailed case studies of design strategies that changed the world. This TED synopsis will serve as a proxy but the book is worth it for the case examples:


Where the Wild Things Are

Sendak, Maurice 1963


The not-very-good illustrator (he had to use monsters because he couldn’t draw horses), Sendak won the 1964 Caldecott Award and my perpetual thanks for this classic of all ages.

Sendak reminds us that sometimes, to find the wilds of our imaginations, we must be sent to our rooms without supper.


Wisdom of Crowds

Surowiecki, James 2005


The author of the business page every other week in The New Yorker offers an engaging series of stories to illustrate that all of us are smarter than any of us. An insight that propels us every day.




From hybrid garbage trucks to kitchen alchemy. Did you know that adolescent female chimps role play with dolls they fashion from sticks? How does that inform your world view? What else don’t we know we don’t know?


Zero to One

Thiel, Peter 2014


From the cofounder of PayPal and Palantir, and prescient early investor in facebook, LinkedIn and SpaceX, (and notably before he somehow justified a decision to represent the Silicon Valley elite to the Trump administration) – Thiel outlines the formula for true commercial innovation. He differentiates between making “more”, the horizontal progression from one to “n”, and making “new”, the vertical progress of going from zero (never previously existed) to one.

Thiel makes a compelling argument that, following a burst of innovation from the steam engine through the mid 20th century, the US flourished in an era of vertical progress, with breakthroughs in multiple domains of new “technology”. The last 50 years has witnessed the expansion of the world economy through globalization, lateral progress across geographies to make more of the same, better, faster, cheaper. He urges us to recognize the difference and reinvest our attention and assets in returning to a golden era of innovation. His actions speak volumes, as Thiel puts his considerable money where his mouth is.bargray-light

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