Product thinking books: 5 essential reads we recommend

April 17, 2019

If you're not familiar, product thinking is when experience design, expert engineering and lean delivery are combined to iteratively create something, then make it better and better over time.   In a digital context, product thinking represents a move away from thinking about work in terms of ticking 'projects' off a list, and instead as entering a continuous cycle of building, learning and improving.  

We're always looking to evolve how we apply the practice in our everyday work here at Code, so we do A LOT of reading around the subject...  

It's still a relatively new field, so not all of the books we've picked out below talk specifically about product thinking‚ per se‚ but they're all fantastic sources of inspiration for running a better, more innovative product business, digital or otherwise.  

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Author: Clayton Christensen  

Even thought it was originally published 10 years ago, this bestseller ‚ which was named by The Economist as one of the six most important books about business ever written, remains essential reading for CEOs and managers.  

In 'The Innovator's Dilemma', Christensen discusses how the ideal relationship between value and innovation for any given product should form an S-Curve, with the product moving through many iterations to create a solid base for success, before reaching its full potential somewhere in the middle of its lifecycle.  

This is also the book that first introduced the concept of disruptive innovation‚ to the world. All in all, lots of value here.  

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen (image courtesy of Platon via The New Yorker

Building the Agile Business Through Digital Transformation

Author: Neil Perkin  

'Digital transformation' has become a bit of an overused and misinterpreted term in recent years, but this book helps bring its original ethos firmly back on track.

'Building the Agile Business Through Digital Transformation', which came out in April 2017, offers practical tips and real-life insights into how you can seamlessly lead your whole organisation through the process of digital change and ensure you're creating the right products for the right people.  

Building the agile business

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmull  

Ed Catmull is the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios‚ and as it covers everything you need to create a winning leadership model Inside Out, you'd be a WALL-E not to read it! (Sorry.)  

'Creativity Inc.' offers far more than just a glimpse inside how the legendary production company works‚ it's a comprehensive guide to building a company where innovate thinking is king.  

Catmull advises leaders of the essential importance of bringing together a skilled team that you trust to do the right thing, and, crucially, empowering this team with the capacity to enact ideas and genuine change themselves.  

He demonstrates how, by ensuring a barrier-free atmosphere where creative ideas can thrive, you can be both more productive and more profitable.  

Creativity Inc

Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products

Author: Laura Klein  

Personally recommended by Code's co-founder Louis, this book essentially forms a 'how to' manual that carefully talks you through each stage you need to follow to bring brilliant products to life.  

Read 'Build Better Products' if you want to find out how to combine analytics and strategy with user-centered design to create something people actually want to buy/use.  

Build Better Products

A diagram from 'Build Better Products' (Image courtesy of Rosenfeld Media

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Author: Patrick M. Lencioni  

'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable' is about as far away from a dry instructional manual as you can get.  

By weaving his observations and tips into an imagined 'fable' of a CEO who takes control of a struggling team, Lencioni‚ a bestselling business author who's written widely around the subject of leadership‚ makes learning more about management feel more engaging.  

He highlights and explores what he believes are the five most common reasons why teams fail to work together effectively (absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results), offering practical advice on how to overcome these boundaries and lead your team to success.  

Five Dysfunctions

 Any books or resources we've missed? Let us know on Twitter @Computerlovers.

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