A Reading List That (Actually) Gets Read

Books can be like New Years’ Resolutions. You have great ambitions to get to them or through them, but eventually what gets read are the ones that were super enjoyable or really, really important for you to read.

When I teach a workshop or give a talk, I often get asked for a reading list or for a suggestion on topics I tend to focus on: business strategy, UX, CX, and change. I’ve gotten to the point of recommending the things that I think turn people on, either because they make the point quickly or because they convey what they have to say in such a compelling way that you can make it through.

So I’ve composed this reading list for experience, design, and strategy based on what’s most readable and reference-able. Many of these are short, fast, and compelling reads that are more fun and fascinating than burdensome to plod through. My hope is that these are the right speed and shape so that you’ll get them into your brain.

Fast & fun: A designer’s intro to strategy

Brand Gap and Zag, by Marty Neumeier
These are the oldest books on the list, but oh-so-useful still. I refer to these two books as “gateway books” for designers who are curious about strategy. Both are fast and compelling reads and they get you thinking about strategic business questions that design can have an impact on. Zag, specifically, nails competitive differentiation and Purple Cow by Seth Godin is a good deeper read on the same subject from a marketer’s point-of-view.

Fast & light: Customer-centric strategy

What Do You Want Your Customers to Become?, Michael Schrage
It’s not enough to simply satisfy a customer need. The really important brands will ask themselves, “What will we help our customers become?” Answer it right and you create something great for customers and great for your business. This is one of my favorite framings for customer-centric business strategy. This e-book is a very fast read.

Fast & fun: A first step in customer-centric service design

Adaptive Path’s Guide to Experience Mapping
Yup, I’m biased, but this is a great simple read on why and how to understand the end-to-end customer experience and start benefiting from seeing this view of your business. It’s a free download and super-fast read.

Useful tools: How humans tick

The new Behavior Change Strategy Cards by Artefact Group outline numerous concepts of how to design for how humans are wired. They did a great job of capturing a couple of my favorites. Or if you want to go deeper on this topic, I’d check out Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

Fun & browsable: Great references for designers

101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar and UX Team of One by Leah Buley
Two of my favorite folks published these books in the last year, both of which will be great reference books for me. Vijay’s is a toolkit of a wide array of design methods along with the thinking of how to know when to use which. Leah’s is the toolkit and thinking to make User Experience a force within any organization.

A browsable primer: So just how do you practice UX, design thinking, and innovation?

Getting to Thank You, Chris Finley
An upcoming self-published release from Chris Finley of United Health, this book will become a favorite recommendation of mine for anyone trying to piece together the worlds of user experience, design thinking, and innovation. Chris removes some of the voodoo mystery and breaks down a wide set of concepts from these worlds into clear examples and practical practices, all with the intent of having customers say, “thank you.”

A great story: Innovation as a disciplined business practice

Brick by Brick, by David Robertson
This is a case study of the LEGO Group, focused most strongly on a all-in focus on innovation that almost sunk the company in 2003. LEGO pursued all the essential so-called “truths of innovation,” from disruption to wisdom-of-crowds to investment in an innovative culture. They did it all, but the result was that everything was NOT awesome at LEGO. They didn’t practice innovation with discipline, which is the central truth of this book: to run a good business [or unit, or group, or team], you have to be disciplined. If you like LEGO even just a bit, this is a detailed but easy read.

A browsable primer: Innovation as a disciplined business practice

Ten Types of Innovation, by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn
A good pairing with Brick by Brick, this toolkit covers methods and cases of innovation far wider than just “design thinking” and lots of sticky notes. It’s a good reminder that there are many types of breakthroughs, and it’s not always and certainly not solely about the experience.

Fun & browsable: How to get the word out

Communicating the New, by Kim Erwin
Yea. You’ve got insights or solutions, but you’ve got to share them in a powerful way so that the organization can understand and act on them. It’s time someone focused exclusively on this matter, and Kim Erwin’s put together a great set of lessons.

Practical & digestible: Get beyond the hype of Lean

Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
Lean Startup and Lean UX have and will continue to be on the rise. It’s a compelling idea to more quickly and confidently get to the right customer-focused solution. (And, I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard “MVP” uttered in the past 24 months.) This is probably the most dense read in this set, but this is a very solid introduction to the subject, and just like the “truths of innovation” covered in Brick by Brick, Lean is an approach you need to understand well enough to practice it with discipline.

I’m sure you have your favorites too. What am I missing that’s still easily consumable because it’s short, fun, super-interesting, or all three?

[photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/93452909@N00/984644152/]

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