10 Great Books to Power Up Your Product Design and Service Growth
A great holiday gift go-to is always a book — and we’ve put together a list of recommendations if you happen to be looking for a present for someone in the product design and innovation world. (They’re also great to treat yourself — any time of the year!) From titles about identifying areas prime for business development to creating greater impact by connecting with consumers through emotion-driven design, these ten books, when put together, ultimately create a blueprint for how to design growth.
Ah, the holiday season. The temperatures cool, the city starts to glow with lights lining the streetways, chestnuts are roasting on an open fire, visions of sugarplums dancing in your head…
And you’re racking your brain trying to figure out what to get everyone on your list. This holiday season has some gift-givers in a bigger time crunch than usual, considering Thanksgiving came so late in the year (Christmas is on the calendar a mere 27 days later — the shortest gap possible; last year, for comparison’s sake, Christmas came 33 days after Thanksgiving).
Regardless, a great holiday go-to gift is a book — and we’ve put together a list of A-plus recommendations if you happen to be looking for a present for someone in the design and innovation world. (They’re also great to treat yourself — any time of the year!)
While each of them is a great read individually, these ten books, when put together, ultimately create a blueprint for how to design growth:
By Simon Sinek
Great brands have one thing in common, they have a vision, and purpose is at the heart of that vision. As Sinek puts it “Before we can stand out, we must first get clear on what we stand for.” At THRIVE, however, we often see clients without a clear vision. Most are focused on the “what”s or maybe the “how”s; it’s a little like putting the cart before the horse. But once you find your vision, you can create connections with customers that are so much stronger and more meaningful than any product feature or service benefit. So, if you want to achieve big things, and find long-term success and fulfillment for both you and your colleagues, this book is a great place to start. It’s hard work to find that intangible thing called purpose, but when you do its rocket fuel for your brand, and everything after can feel a lot easier.
By Jim Collins
The best-selling “Built to Last” from the 1990s, outlines research meant to give insight about the qualities of exceptional – aka “great” — companies; in this follow-up book, a new study illuminates how a company might grow to become counted among those exceptional ones they examined the first time around. It hits on everything from leadership to culture, but the most pertinent finding, if your company is designing new products and services, is the “Hedgehog Concept.” A simple model consisting of three circles, it asks you to answer: What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? and What drives your economic engine? Jim Collins writes: “Every company wants to be the best at something, but few actually understand – with piercing insight and egoless clarity — what they actually have the potential to be the best at and, just as important, what they cannot be the best at.” Completing the Hedgehog exercise can really reframe your product and service development efforts. It’s harsh, but an honest lens to apply to yourself, but if done well will help you become both authentic and relevant.
By Bernadette Jiwa
Bernadette Jiwa’s books are always informative, quick reads with at least one compelling framework you can take away and apply right away to your business. This book is no different. It outlines a story-driven structure that works through vision, strategy, and tactics as a holistic way driven by intention, so you clearly articulate what you are here to do as a business.
When your business or organization is story-driven in this way, its inspirations and strategy are underpinned by a clear philosophy that creates momentum and drives innovation and customer loyalty. But building a story-driven company is about more than simply articulating your purpose; it’s about staying true to that purpose as you work to realize your vision.
Jiwa provides a whole host of case studies around the story-driven framework throughout the text, preparing you to write your own story and start leading and living by it.
By Jim Stengel
Building on the two previous books on the list, “Grow” reaffirms the idea that its businesses that infuse meaning into their strategies, products, and services who outperform the competition, but Stengel’s research also reveals that, “Those who center their business on improving people’s lives have a growth rate triple that of competitors and outperform the market by a huge margin.” The central premise is about having a “brand ideal” that connects with the human emotions and values of the people who buy your brand, and how you can use it to create competitive advantage and sustainable growth. Stengel’s Ideal Tree framework can help get you moving in the right direction, providing a path to growth that starts with discovering your ideal and arriving at a set of shared values with the people you serve.
5. The Granularity of Growth: How to Identify the Sources of Growth and Drive Enduring Company Performance
By Patrick Viguerie, Sven Smit, and Mehrdad Baghai
Every company wants to grow. That’s a given. But people tend to talk about — and in turn, strategize — growth in sweeping terms, such as “growth industry,” which, while catchy and convenient, is loaded, imprecise and a downright wrong way to approach business development.
This book sets out to bust some of those myths about growth, challenging the broad perspective from which many companies consider growth opportunities, and illustrating instead how they should base their growth strategies on granular views of their markets. A company formulating its growth strategy needs to develop insights into trends, future growth rates, and market structures at a much greater depth than the aggregate industry level.
Divided into three parts, the book will help you apply the idea of granularity to your own company and markets so you can determine the level at which most valuable and actionable insights can be found.
By Mark W. Johnson
The “white space” is one of those business growth terms that represent the right way to approach business development; it’s filled by all those product and service opportunities made by unmet customer needs that lie outside of your current core business — opportunities for growth! Mark W. Johnson teaches you how to find that white space, and then lays out a 4-block business model for venturing into it: profit formula; key resources and processes; core metrics, rules and norms; and customer value proposition. It provides a blueprint for how you can enter that space and turn a profit. Once you find your niche and create your business plan for it, get started on exploiting it with the next book.
By Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff and Darrel Rhea
In case you have yet to gather it from the previous titles in the list, this book reiterates the lesson that meaning underlies every successful business — but here it extends that insight to emphasize the importance of meaning to the innovation process, and by the result, the customer experience. We know that customers increasingly make their purchase decisions based on the deeply valued meanings companies evoke through their products and services. “Making Meaning” outlines how to create a more meaning-centric innovation team so you can create richer experiences, and garner customer loyalty and long-term success.
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Continuing on the customer experience topic, this book supports the idea that if you want to design great experiences, you need to think in moments. Why? Well as Vicki Corona said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” The Heath brothers provide some deeper insight into that notion in “The Power of Moments,” a practical, entertaining read solidly grounded in peer-reviewed science. For example, science is clear that relationships are central to our well-being. Humans are social creatures; we need each other in order to thrive at work and in life. One of four elements explored in the book (alongside elevation, insight, and pride), the Heath brothers evaluate how brief experiences can have big impacts, like how certain moments of connection have the power to strengthen relationships. It all becomes a guide for how to create richer experiences.
By Robert Brunner and Stuart Emery with Russ Hall
“Do You Matter?” makes it plain that great product design offers the key competitive advantage for companies, but it’s not talking purely about physical product design — it’s about the entirety of the design experience from how something sounds and feels to how you buy the product and what the box looks like. Delivering great design then is about paying attention to every customer touchpoint, and seeking ways to create emotional connections and deepen relationships throughout the entire experience chain. The best designers know that that experience is why the customer buys something in the first place. This book will show you how to build a truly design-driven business — extending design values into marketing, manufacturing, etc. — and create products, services, and experiences that create value in your customer’s lives, and ultimately drive business growth.
By Peter Boatright and Jonathan Cagan
There are two dimensions for success: functionality and emotion. That’s the underlying notion of “Built to Love,” which demonstrates that leading companies don’t just make things that do what they’re supposed to do, they make things that make their customers feel better, and they’re able to do that because delivering on emotion is built in from the start. That’s the key here: it can’t be an afterthought. The value of the product or service — what makes it generate deep emotion and loyalty from customers — comes when you begin with an authentic purpose to fulfill a customer need and desire. Using different data-driven examples to support this point, authors Peter Boatright and Jonathan Cagan go on to outline a 3-step process for creating high-emotion products: identifying emotional opportunity, developing a product strategy, and transferring that strategy into product features. As Boatright and Cagan explain, “Emotion is fundamental to all that is human, including the products we enjoy.”