Here is a list of resources that I would suggest for those interested in these topics.
Business Strategy (top)
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. This is the all-time classic on military strategy. If you want more, read von Clausewitz’ On War and Principles of War
Business Sense: Exercising Management’s Five Freedoms by Dan Thomas. You know the author, so if you found the seminar interesting, you might find this earlier work of interest as well.
The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. This is an interesting review of 50 models that relate to Strategic Thinking. Worth a look.
The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey. Based on work done at Bain & Co. on the role of customer recommendations on success. It illustrates with data what most of us know—customer recommendations are one of, if not the best way, to grow.
Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman. This is a large book (629 pages) that is a tour de force of strategy through the ages. It is for serious students only. I haven’t finished it yet, but have enjoyed what I have read.
Positioning and Influence (top)
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Al and Jack created the concept of “positioning.” This is their classic work on that topic and a must read for all marketers. I recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition. It contains their thoughts on how well the original concepts have held up over time. (Individually and together, Al and Jack have written another dozen books. All are worth reading, but this one should be required reading for every marketer.)
Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini. This is another classic in the field. You will recognize many of the strategies Cialdini talks about because they have been used repeatedly on all of us.
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo. Although the title says this book is about making presentations, it is really about how to communicate with customers. Your mindset is very important.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This is a bit more scientific work on the art of “positioning.” It has a number of ideas that should intrigue any marketer.
How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo O. Frank. I’ve given more copies of this book to high level executives than any other, except for my own, Business Sense. I re-read it at least once a year. If the essence of marketing is effective communication, then we all need to make the lessons in this book a central part of what we do.
You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard: Reach the First Brain to Communicate in Business and in Life by Bert Decker. This is one of several books that makes distinctions between the functions of the “first brain” or “primal brain” and the “thinking brain” and how they each influence our thoughts and actions. Decker makes a strong case for the role of emotion in marketing.
Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet. This is a book about “meta-programs” and how they influence the way people sort information and communicate. If you want to understand how mis-communication occurs in everyday life, in your business, and/or in the marketplace, this book can help you.
Understanding Customer Needs (top)
How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market by Gerald Zaltman. This book is a good compendium of neuroscience applied to marketing. The discussions of archetypes and metaphors alone are worth the price of the book.
Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. This is a popular and interesting book on the neuroscience of modern marketing.
7 Secrets of Marketing in a Multi-cultural World by G. Clotaire Rapaille. This book explains Dr. Rapaille’s approach to uncovering archetypes. The writing could be better organized. If you want a good, quick summary, go to the website.
The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do by Clotaire Rapaille. This book contains more of Dr. Rapaille’s approach to archetypes in marketing.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The definitive work on “The Hero’s Journey.”
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock. While written from the standpoint of “managing yourself,” this book has some good tips on ways to improve your strategic thinking skills.
Neuromarketing: Understanding the “Buy Buttons” in Your Customer’s Brain by Patrick Renvoisé and Christophe Morin. A very simple, straightforward application of neuroscience to marketing. A good place to start.
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky with Karl Weber. This book has some excellent examples. At times, I found I wanted more in-depth understanding, but it is well-worth your time.
The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind by A. K. Pradeep. More and more work is being published on the role of the unconscious.
Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers by Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman. Probably the most extensive work on the role of metaphors in customer decision making and behavior. A very important topic.
What Customers Want: Using Outcome Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony W. Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn, Inc. Strategyn is one of the leading practitioners of “The Job to Be Done” school of customer needs discovery. This book is a description of Strategyn’s process.
Problem Solving (top)
As managers, we are all problem solvers. Two authors have contributed the most to this field over the last twenty years.
The Back of the Napkin: Solving and Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. This is the best book on problem solving in the last 20 years—since Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline. This is definitely a must read for all managers.
Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures by Dan Roam. This is the companion workbook to The Back of the Napkin. If the book appeals to you at all, this workbook will help you to use the techniques even more effectively. People I have recommended it to have given it very high marks for how much it has impacted their problem solving skills.
Blah, Blah, Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam. In the book, Dan shows the reader how to use the concept of “Vivid” or Visual + Verbal (Interdependent) thinking.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge. This book is really about the use of systems thinking to solve complex problems. The biggest challenge in using the Classic Six Step Problem Solving Method is getting the definition of the problem right. A systems approach to problems can alleviate that shortcoming.
Solving Difficult and Wicked Problems (top)
Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward by Henry Cloud. In my experience, one of the most difficult decisions for any management team to make is the decision to exit a business, or dramatically change it. That decision is a major topic in this book.
The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking by Roger Martin. The opening quote in this book is from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still be able to function.” With an opening like that, how can you resist this book?
“Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” by Horst W. J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, Policy Sciences 4, 1973, Pages 155 – 169. This is one of the early articles by Rittel that describes the challenges of dealing with “wicked” problems.
“Strategy as a Wicked Problem” by John C Camillus, Harvard Business Review, May 2008, pages 1 – 9. This is another review of “wicked” problems, with some specific business examples.
Business Models (top)
As best I can determine, there are at least seven different, fundamental business models that we need to understand. No single model is sufficient. However, here are some interesting books on the topic.
Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur. This book is quite innovative in both its design and content. It is the product of a collaboration among some “…470 practitioners from 45 countries.” There are several tools and techniques in this book for creating new business models that you may want to explore with your team.
Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal by Mark W. Johnson. This is a newer book and I have only had a chance to skim it. It looks interesting on the topic of business models.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen. Clayton Christensen has done some of the most innovative work that has come out of the Harvard Business School in recent memory. This is his classic and a must read for all strategists. His follow-on books are also well worth reading, but I would recommend you read this one first.
Eco-System Analysis (top)
“Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition” by James F. Moore, Harvard Business Review, May-June 1993, pages 75 – 86. “Strategy as Ecology” by Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien, Harvard Business Review, March 2004, pages 1 – 11.
The Wide Lens: a New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner. This is the best book on eco-systems and their analysis published to date. I highly recommend it.
Design Thinking (top)
Design thinking has been a hot topic at leading business schools for the last few years. I keep asking people to tell me what “design thinking” is as it applies to business and I have yet to get a coherent answer. If you are having the same challenge, these books may be useful.
Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business by Luke Williams. This is the best book I’ve found so far on the practical application of Design Thinking to business strategy. It is a quick read and a very usable process.
The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin. Martin does a good job of relating design thinking to business at more than a product level (which is where most authors on the topic get stuck).
Glimmer: How design can transform your life, and maybe even the world—featuring the ideas and wisdom of design visionary Bruce Mau by Warren Berger. Can you guess from the “hyped up” title that this book was written by a reporter? If you can get past the title, the content contains the best “survey” of design thinking I have seen so far.
Problem Solving With Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett. This is a good, practical tour of design thinking as it is applied to real business problems. “Design thinking” is a complex term that becomes more practical with these examples.
Lean Thinking (top)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. An interesting application of “six sigma” or “lean” manufacturing processes to the process of creating and growing a new business. (Not really design thinking, but close.)
Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz. This book is an advanced approach to measuring what is important in your business. I know the title focuses the book on startups, but more mature businesses in a state of change can benefit from the book. It contains some very interesting information on different business models and what to measure in each. It should only be read after you’ve read Eric Ries book, The Lean Startup
Story Telling (top)
Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact by Annette Simmons. The author suggests six types of specific stories that you invest your time in learning how to tell. This is a practical, business oriented approach to storytelling.
The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Business and in Life by Jim Loehr. Although this book is written mostly for individuals, the same principles can be applied to businesses.
Objective Setting (top)
Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson. This book covers the latest research on what does and does not work in objective setting.
Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Mark Murphy. This book is one of the proponents of setting “hard-to-reach” goals. That technique should be among the ways you use objectives to create alternative strategies. It is not, however, a good standard practice in your final strategy choice.