Looking for a book to help get your IT shop better aligned with the business? Or maybe you want to brush up on your management skills? Here's a list of books that can help.
The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth
By Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor
Harvard Business School Press, September 2003
320 pages, $29.95
In his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School, argued that by doing what they were supposed to do satisfying the needs of their best customers companies made themselves vulnerable to rapid changes in the marketplace. Here, aided by Raynor, a director at Deloitte Research, he tries to solve that dilemma. The trick? Reshaping how you develop new products and services so that they have more impact, making your company one of the firms that reshapes the marketplace. The authors then lay out a nine-step approach designed to do just that.
Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small
By Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayers
Harvard Business School Press, September 2003
256 pages, $27.50
The words "fun" and "business book" rarely go together. But this book, by two Yale University professors—Nalebuff teaches economics and Ayers teaches law—is the exception. The avowed purpose is to present ways, à la Edward de Bono (Lateral Thinking), to think more creatively. And they succeed by suggesting you ask yourself a series of questions: How would the richest man in the world solve the problem you face? Would turning an existing idea on its head help? What new product can be paired with an existing one? But the fun part is the products they create as examples: an insurance policy that protects your house from dropping in value; making telemarketers pay you to listen to their pitches; and having every ATM machine accept deposits for any financial institution.
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
By Seth Godin
Portfolio/Penguin Putnam, May 2003
160 pages, $19.95
The metaphor is as straightforward as the rest of this book. You've seen one cow, you've seen them all. But a purple cow? That's memorable. It's distinctive and it breaks through the clutter. You want your products to be purple cows. To his credit, self-described "agent of change" Godin outlines strategies and tactics you can use to make sure that happens: Think about the marketing as you create your product, not after, and target your marketing efforts only to early adopters likely to spread the word about your innovation. The overall message: Playing it safe is risky.
The Slow Pace of Fast Change: Bringing Innovations to Market in a Connected World
By Bhaskar Chakravorti
Harvard Business School Press, May 2003
240 pages, $29.95
It won't make you feel better, but this work by Monitor Group consultant Chakravorti will at least help explain why every truly innovative product or service you come up with takes so long to catch on. The problem, he argues, is that new ideas must vault two hurdles before they're accepted: First, the product must convince people (or companies) to change the way they currently do things. Second, having tried the product or service, they must continue to use it. Knowing the hurdles you are up against allows you to plan your strategy accordingly.
Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology
By Henry Chesbrough
Harvard Business School Press, March 2003
272 pages, $35
You won't get much argument at a corporate meeting when you say, "We must innovate or will die." But getting everyone to agree on how to innovate is another matter. Harvard Business School Professor Chesbrough, a former executive at Quantum Corp., the knowledge management software company, begins at the beginning and argues that the very way most companies think about technology innovation needs to be innovated. Focusing on internal sources for ideas and funding&$8212is too limiting. He contends your innovation efforts have a better chance of success if you look outside the organization as well to universities and venture capitalists, for instance and try numerous ideas all at once.
Innovation by Design: What It Takes to Keep Your Company on the Cutting Edge
By Gerard H. Gaynor
Amacom, May 2002
320 pages, $27.95
"Innovation is a management discipline. It does not come about through a random hit-or-miss approach, it requires design." So argues Gaynor, a former 3M executive and now a consultant. Gaynor outlines the four keys to systematizing innovation in any organization: competent people, managers devoted to innovation, an environment that supports experimentation and the ability to exploit the results. Then he walks readers through different ways to create the necessary variables and shows how they can work together. The book takes a step-by-step approach to implementing the four steps, and the role of personal creativity is deliberately downplayed.
Making Six Sigma Last: Managing Cultural and Technical Change
By George Eckes
John Wiley & Sons, 2001
304 pages, $29.95
Eckes helped implement the Six Sigma methodology at GE, which Jack Welch calls the "most important initiative we have ever undertaken." Building on his earlier book, The Six Sigma Revolution, Eckes addresses how to implement Six Sigma while overcoming resistance. In particular, the book focuses on tactics and tools to discern the relationship between product defects and yields, reliability, costs, cycle time and schedules.
Now or Never: How Companies Must Change Today to Win the Battle for Internet Consumers
By Mary Modahl
272 pages, $16
A vice president of research at Forrester Research, Modahl describes how companies can create Internet strategies that make sense for them. The book also features insights from interviews with thousands of Americans on their attitudes toward the Internet.
The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation & Change
By Jeanie Daniel Duck
Crown Business, 2001
320 pages, $27.50
A senior vice president of Boston Consulting Group, as well as a psychologist, Duck focuses on the reactions of people involved in corporate change, including mergers, reorganizations and executive turnovers. The book describes the five stages of change (stagnation, anticipation, implementation, determination and fruition) and how to manage them.
The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution is Changing Our Lives
By Frances Cairncross
Harvard Business School Press, 2001
320 pages, $16.95
A substantially revised edition of Cairncross' 1997 best-seller, this book underscores the fact that communications technologies are rapidly obliterating distance as a relevant factor in how we conduct business.
The Deviant's Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets
By Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker
Crown, September 2002
336 pages, $25.95
Robert Frost should have been a management consultant. In "The Road Not Taken," he wrote: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference." Futurists Mathews and Wacker of consulting firm FirstMatter argue, in essence, that you should do the same thing when it comes to innovation. Incremental improvements are not a sustainable course of competitive advantage, they contend. If you truly want to stay ahead, look for the "deviant," which they use in the traditional sense of the word: "something or someone operating in a defined measure away from the norm." Back in 1984, it was easy to reject sci-fi writer William Gibson's notion of "cyberspace." But suppose you had considered how to make money from the idea? Frost would be proud.
The Strategy Machine: Building Your Business One Idea at a Time
By Larry Downes
HarperBusiness, June 2002
256 pages, $26.96
In his follow up to Unleashing the Killer App, Downes spends relatively little time on technology per se. He starts with the premise that pervasive computing—having a computer in virtually everything—will soon become commonplace. When that happens, he argues, better computing power won't matter. Instead, business success will be predicated on how well you handle financing, government regulations, and conflicts inside and outside your organization. "Change, even beneficial change, is hard," he writes. "It is human nature to resist it, and there is only one technology that can overcome human nature; that technology is called leadership." This is where he devotes his time.