What We’re Reading: 6 Recommended Innovation and Entrepreneurship Books

entrepreneurship books

Throughout the year, we asked faculty members and VentureWell thought leaders: what are you reading? From their responses, we curated a list of must-read innovation and entrepreneurship books, covering a broad range of topics from team dynamics to contextual inquiry. Here are six books worth adding to your library.

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy by Amy C. Edmondson
Recommended by: Sophi Martin, Innovation Director at University of California-Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies

About the book: Continuous improvement, understanding complex systems, and promoting innovation are all part of the landscape of learning challenges today’s companies face. Edmondson shows that organizations thrive, or fail to thrive, based on how well the small groups within those organizations work. Teaming shows that organizations learn when the flexible, fluid collaborations they encompass are able to learn.

“This book has dramatically changed my approach to teaching innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s a series of case studies on what makes for effective teams, and the role effective teams play in innovation.” – Sophi Martin

Contextual Inquiry for Medical Device Design by Mary Beth Privitera
Recommended by: Raja Schaar, Assistant Professor of Product Design at Drexel University

About the book: Contextual Inquiry for Medical Device Design explains the everyday use of medical devices and the way their usage supports the development of better products and increased market acceptance. Case studies provide a frame of reference on how contextual inquiry is successfully used during product design, ultimately producing safer, improved medical devices.

“Contextual inquiry is a methodology that helps innovators and entrepreneurs establish a well-grounded problem statement. I’ve become more concerned with what we’re producing and why. I find myself asking, ‘Do we really need another ________? Are we solving the right problems – in the right way?’” – Raja Schaar

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins
Recommended by: Jeremy Faludi, Assistant Professor of Engineering at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College

About the book: The book reveals how today’s global businesses can be both environmentally responsible and highly profitable.

“This book is valuable for its explanation of how design and engineering for environmental benefit can also drive profit and other business goals. It also offers countless real-life examples of radical improvements that show these things are possible.” – Jeremy Faludi

Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup by Bill Aulet 
Recommended by: Robbie Nock, Manager of the Entrepreneurship and Professional Practice at ArtCenter College of Design

About the book: The book explains how entrepreneurs can create a successful startup through developing an innovative product. It breaks down the necessary processes into an integrated, comprehensive, and proven 24-step framework.

“It contains useful tools and practical exercises for startups and established businesses at almost any stage.” – Robbie Nock

[Editor’s note: Read an excerpt of Aulet’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship Workbook on our blog.] 

The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman
Recommended by:Janine Elliott, Senior Program Officer, VentureWell

About the book: Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman reveals the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. He explains how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes that can splinter a founding team, strip founders of control, and leave founders without a financial payoff for their hard work and innovative ideas.

“This book boils down a lot of academic rigor to produce an accessible guide about various decisions and trade-offs that every entrepreneur makes. It is indispensable for a founder who wants to avoid common pitfalls. A lot of people, myself included, read it and see so many of the mistakes they made just jump off the page!” – Janine Elliott

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr
Recommended by: Dorn Carranza, Director, Innovation & Industrial Partnerships

About the book: This book shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies to demonstrate the focus, agility, and explosive growth that Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) have spurred at so many great organizations.

“Goal-setting systems have helped founders and leaders of great companies focus on the right objectives for lasting impact. This book shows us what, how, and most importantly, why we should set and execute on audacious goals. If we think of the world-changing goals of great organizations, they are powered by OKRs, which help measure what really matters.”  – Dorn Carranza

Read last year’s round-up of must-read innovation and entrepreneurship books here

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