9 Books Every Future Business Innovator Needs on the Bookshelf

9 Books on Innovation

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As leaders progress further into the future, they will face a complex and unpredictable world. They will need to adapt to constantly evolving technology while keeping their businesses stable. They will work in an environment that uses both human and machine labor fueled by artificial intelligence. Businesses will need to make smart decisions about their team’s time and energy in a globally competitive world that runs 24/7.

In short, future small business owners will all need to be master innovators. But where can they find the insights to make this happen? The list of books below is an excellent start.

Books on Innovation

This list is designed to bring out the innovative leader in you, the kind that will be able to create and test ideas quickly so their business can keep up with rapidly accelerating change. Drawing inspiration from various fields (including yoga, math, and art), this list of 10 books help build the knowledge base you will need to tap into as a leader of the future.

9 Books on Innovation - The InevitableThe Inevitable

by Kevin Kelly

You might be wondering what kind of future you are actually preparing for. The Inevitable doesn’t give leaders a crystal ball, but it does give a sneak peek behind the curtain. The Inevitable looks at today’s trends that are shaping the world of tomorrow.

Unlike other books, this book about the future doesn’t focus on making predictions about which app or which bot a business needs to create a competitive advantage.

Instead, it takes a more comprehensive approach, focusing on the trends that people are engaging in now and how they could look in the future.

The book’s  unique focus on the trends shaping the future ensures that leaders take a look at the “big picture”.

Innovative leaders shouldn’t focus solely on their competition. They need to focus on the larger economic and cultural trends that will shape their customers’ world. Author Kevin Kelly does an incredible job of detailing the future world along with demonstrating why the trends he selected will have an impact on the future.

For leaders trying to predict how to stay ahead of their customers, this book is as close to a crystal ball as you will get.

9 Books on Innovation - Yoga for Leaders: How to Manage Self-Disruption in a World of Self-DestructionYoga for Leaders: How to Manage Self-Disruption in a World of Self-Destruction

by Stefan Hyttfors

With artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and social media, business leaders are facing a future of unprecedented complexity. To deal with this complexity, futurist Stefan Hyttfors believes leaders need to draw wisdom from the past.

Specifically, leaders need to draw insight from the ancient Indian tradition of yoga. The philosophy behind yoga offers timeless principles for dealing with every kind of change, Hyttfors says.


One of the central cornerstones of yogic philosophy is the need to move with change.

We experience suffering when we cling to the illusion that things should stay the same. Likewise, leaders who cling too tightly to old strategies or technology will not survive in the fast-paced world of the future.

Yoga for Leaders helps leaders see the potential in adopting a flexible mind for dealing with an unpredictable world.

9 Books on Innovation - Time, Talent, and EnergyTime, Talent, and Energy

by Michael C. Mankins and Eric Garton

While many business owners view the unpredictable world of the future as a threat, you don’t have to.

You just need to manage the three core principles behind every business: time, talent, energy.

Businesses without a strong foundation in the three principles will not survive. Building that foundation around these three principles is the focus of Time, Talent, Energy.

The book helps readers understand how crucial the three resources of time, talent and energy are to a business.

Most businesses get caught up in details that are important but not essential. That’s where the book comes in. It helps leaders optimize their businesses at the most fundamental level.

Readers will learn which of their current processes are preventing their business from reaching a higher level. In doing so, a “virtuous cycle” of success in that business can begin.

9 Books on Innovation - The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing OrganizationThe Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization

by Adele Sweetwood

Whether you do your own marketing or have someone handle it for you, marketing in the future will be a lot different from the past.

In earlier generations, marketing focused on scale. In the future, marketing will focus on personalization and insight gained from the smart use of data.

Businesses are already moving in that direction with the use of Big Data, artificial intelligence, and the use of tools like Google Analytics.

Technology is only part of the equation. The other half is knowing how to use that technology effectively.

Helping marketers bridge that gap between today’s knowledge and the future is the goal of The Analytical Marketer.

It covers the strategies and responsibilities your marketing staff needs to embrace to take full advantage of the huge amount of data that will be available to them in the next few years.

9 Books on Innovation - Small DataSmall Data

by Martin Lindstrom

Big Data is all the rage now, but it might miss the point.

No matter what kind of data sets you collect, it is still (and always will be) the individual customer that matters.

Small Data brings this home by helping readers see the potential in the unique identifiers and elements of your customers.

In Small Data, author Martin Lindstrom takes readers on a journey around the world as he explores the stories that reveal the motivations that drive customer purchases.

Lindstrom connects these stories and observations to the bigger picture, providing a framework to help business owners tap into small data for better marketing results.

When businesses connect with the numbers (big data) and the stories (little data) associated with their customers, they offer a better value for everyone.

9 Books on Innovation - Jobs to Be DoneJobs to Be Done

by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber

You know that your business needs to innovate.

You know that your business needs to keep your current customers while reaching out to new ones.

Many businesses fail to combine these two goals adequately. They focus either on the technical side of innovation or they focus too much on marketing to the status quo.

They don’t innovate in a way that meets the needs of their current and future customers.

Jobs to Be Done hopes to help businesses bridge that obvious gap.

While it might seem paradoxical, most businesses actually see the customer as an obstacle! Jobs to be Done helps businesses orient their focus back to the customer.

Without this shift back to customer focus, many businesses will lose out on a chance to have a future.

9 Books on Innovation - The Digital Transformation PlaybookThe Digital Transformation Playbook

by David Rogers

The first book on this list, The Inevitable, discussed current trends that will impact the future.

Your next question might be “How am I supposed to improve my business with that information?” That’s the job of The Digital Transformation Playbook.

The goal of this book is to show you how to turn knowledge about the future into innovative action that will thrive in the future.

The Digital Transformation Playbook does this by focusing on the key areas (called the “five domains of digital transformation” in the book) that business leaders need to focus on in order to prepare for the future.

It guides readers through case studies of current innovative companies, including GE and Apple, to show how these businesses are preparing to solve the challenges of the future.

It also helps business leaders create a plan for transforming their current resources into future assets in a way that works for their overall goals.

9 Books on Innovation - MatchmakersMatchmakers

by David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee

The platform business model behind Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb is not new. Platform businesses connect two or more groups of people who want to exchange goods or services.

In the past, if you were a craft person wanting to sell to consumers, you might rent a flea market booth. If you wanted to sell a car, you could place a classified ad in the newspaper.

Technology has changed that. Platform businesses now allow consumers to interact globally, grow quickly, and evolve faster than ever before in human history.

Matchmakers explores this rapid development of platform businesses. It explores the core principles that allow a business like Facebook to play “matchmaker” with so many groups of people: consumers, businesses, developers, non-profits and advertisers.

Matchmakers also explores the disruptive future caused by these platform businesses fueled by technology. Because of technology, platform businesses are destroying industries and creating new ones in the process.

If you ever wanted to make your own “Facebook” or “Uber”-style company, this book will show you the principles and struggles of businesses that are changing the world at an astonishing rate.

9 Books on Innovation - The Mathematical CorporationThe Mathematical Corporation

by Angela Zutavern and Josh Sullivan

The Mathematical Corporation is a look at the future of humans and machines. Many books focus on the potential negative impact of automation on human labor (not to mention the fear that robots could take over the world).

This book takes a more positive view.

Machines (artificial intelligence, in particular), the authors say, should definitely play a role in the future of humanity. They can complete many tasks that humans find impossible or boring to do.

The book argues that leaders can shift these tasks to robots while emphasizing the kind of work that humans are best at including creativity, imagining and reasoning.

The kind of business that can tap into the power of human and machine labor is the “mathematical corporation” and helping organizations reach that level is the goal of this book. Leaders can start on the path to becoming a mathematical corporation today using the strategies recommended within.

The Key to Leadership in the Future is Learning

As the above nine books show, the leadership of the future will be radically different. It will be fast-paced. No matter what happens, you can thrive in that world. All you have to do is staying committed to continuous learning from your customers, from your competition and from the world around you. You can start that commitment by reading just one of the books on the list. You might be surprised by where it leads you.

Pencil in Book Photo via Shutterstock

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.