Recommended Reading

Here is a select list of my favorite books for innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders seeking to drive growth and positive change in their organizations and industries.

There are books on innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, communication, business models and value creation, checklists, change management, product design and good design in general, marketing and branding, and creating a great customer experience.

Of course, when you try to make all this great change happen, you will always encounter a few failures along the way. So be sure to have a copy of my book, “The Other ‘F’ Word,” to help you navigate and thrive in this exciting and fast changing business landscape.

I know you will find these titles to be good additions to your library – whether it is analog or digital.

Me, as you’d likely expect, I love having the real paper book on my shelf, in addition to a digital copy in the cloud.

cheers, and good reading ~


Three Essential Books for Entrepreneurs

I assign these three books as required reading in my entrepreneurship classes at UC Berkeley, and with executives around the world. These are three books that need to be on the bookshelf of every serious entrepreneur and innovator (and not just those of the startup variety—corporate innovators and entrepreneurs take note as well).

The Art of the Start 2.0

Guy Kawasaki, 2015

When it comes to providing a comprehensive overview of the entrepreneurial mindset and the process that an entrepreneur goes through in moving from idea to startup to real company, I highly recommend the classic startup manual by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of the Start 2.0. Guy did a major rewrite and updating of this excellent guide in 2015; and just in time, as he first published this book more than 10 years ago. There have been major changes over the past decade in the way we think about, launch and grow startup ventures, and those changes and updates are well reflected in this new edition. This is a practical, easy to read guide with topics that include launching, bootstrapping, fundraising, pitching, and even “being a mensch.” Be sure to check out the several “bonus sections” at the back of the book, which are easy to miss. They are a bit like those outtake clips that you find at the end of some movies after the credits roll.

Full disclosure: Guy is a longtime friend and was an investor and board member in one of my early startups (that venture is now a part of Google). I had the pleasure of reviewing some of the early drafts, and you’ll also find insights from me in Chapter 1 of the new edition.

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries, 2011

This book, along with the work and writings of my UC Berkeley colleague Steve Blank (The Startup Owner’s Manual, 2012), helped codify and define the concept and process of customer discovery, transforming the way the new products are built and launched. The book is particularly useful as a resource to understand early prototyping and the development of a minimum viable product, attaining product/market fit, and developing effective business models. This is the book that really popularized the lean startup movement.  Eric’s presentation and examples are straightforward.

The back story is interesting. As told by Steve Blank, Steve was in investor in one of Eric’s companies and insisted that Eric attend one of Steve’s entrepreneurship courses at Berkeley-Haas. In this course, Steve required his student teams to work through an early version of the customer discovery process. That process turned out to be quite successful, both for the venture that Eric was working on (and many others) as well as providing inspiration for The Lean Startup. There are many examples from that entire process throughout the book, which is divided into three sections of Vision, Steer, and Accelerate.

The Other “F” Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work

John Danner and Mark Coopersmith, 2015

As any angel or VC investor will tell you, far more startups fail than succeed. And even for those that do succeed, almost all of them have many small setbacks and typically also a few large/near-existential failures along the way. So how do successful entrepreneurs engage productively with failure? That is the premise of our book, which I co-authored with my UC Berkeley colleague John Danner.

As entrepreneurs and executives ourselves, and also as long time innovation and entrepreneurship teachers at UC Berkeley, we understand the importance of dealing effectively and productively with failure. In fact, we coined a term for that ability: “failure-savvy” leadership.

This book investigates how effective entrepreneurs and leaders turn failure from a regret into a strategic resource. It looks at failure through the lens of startups, midsize businesses, and global enterprises alike. In researching this book we interviewed hundreds of executives and leaders of all types, and looked at hundreds of organizations, which contribute to the many original examples and case studies contained in the book. One of the key outcomes of our work was the development of a seven stage Failure Value Cycle which breaks failure down into discrete stages, and also provides insights and suggestions for each of these stages. Want to be more successful? The take our advice and put failure to work!

Keep scrolling for more book recommendations:

Books about Entrepreneurship

The Other “F” Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work

By John Danner and Mark Coopersmith

As many as 8 out of 10 startup ventures fail. If you want to be an entrepreneur or innovator – especially one that drives substantial change and innovation in products, services, and business models – you need to develop a more productive relationship with failure. This book shows you how. (Also refer to the more extensive description elsewhere on this page).

Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win

By Chris Kuenne and John Danner

Are You a Driver, an Explorer, a Crusader, or a Captain? Many factors shape the success or failure of a new business, whether it’s a stand-alone startup or a venture inside a larger corporation. But the most important and least understood of these factors is the personality of the entrepreneur, the particular combination of beliefs and preferences that drives his or her motivation, decision making, and leadership style..

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations

By John Kotter and Dan Cohen

I really appreciate John Kotter’s pragmatic, straightforward and insightful approach towards driving change. In this book the authors address culture, operations, execution, and implementation of his recommendations.

Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model

By John Mullins and Randy Komisar

When “Plan A” doesn’t work, what do you do? My friend and colleague Randy Komisar has been both an operating executive and a VC at Kleiner Perkins. He and Dan Mullins provide insights on navigating fast changing environments, including early insights on learning from failure. After all – that is what most Plan B’s represent. Also check out the section on analogs and antilogs – really interesting.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

By Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

The “business model canvas” is one of the most popular tools to help identify and document new or evolving business models, along with interactions with key stakeholders that are part of the relevant business landscape. Alexander Osterwalder developed this tool, and this book shows you how to put it to work.

The Business Model Navigator: 55 Models That Will Revolutionise Your Business

By Oliver Gassmann, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik

Are there really 55 distinct business models?! Actually there are more than that, as I’ve identified at least 10 on top of the ones that Gassman et al has laid out in this book. It doesn’t matter. The real value of this book is how it provides insights and examples into so many different types of business models across many types of businesses. Use this as a starting place – almost a cookbook, if you will – to challenge you and your team as you work to create your own valuable and durable models.

Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

By Seth Godin

First in 2003 and updated in 2009, in this book Godin shares insights on creating truly remarkable products, and then how to do a better job making them stand out and marketing them.  Lots of great examples, from Starbucks to Jet Blue to Apple.

Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win

By Chris Kuenne and John Danner

What’s YOUR personal style in leading innovative or entrepreneurial organizations?  Who you are shapes how you build for growth. Identify and learn about your distinct style, and the particular combination of beliefs and preferences that drives your motivations, decision making, and leadership.  Co-authored by John Danner, my colleague and friend at UC Berkeley, and my co-author on The Other “F” Word.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

By Ben Horowitz

Launching and growing a startup venture is hard.  Ben Horowitz, a successful entrepreneur and now a top VC at Andreessen Horowitz, shares his experiences on navigating growth in fast changing sectors and fast growing companies.

All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is on the Line

By Diana Kander

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

By Eric Ries

Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How To Be One of Them

By Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff

Books about Innovation

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

By Henry William Chesbrough

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

By Clayton M. Christensen

The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth

By Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

By Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization

By Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman


By Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

By Jonathan  Gottschall

Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition (Management of Innovation and Change)

By Adrian J. Slywotzky

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

By Jim Collins

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

By Geoffrey A. Moore