On Christmas Day last year, I posted a list of ten great free e-books for innovators. Today isn’t as festive, but I have another ten great free e-books that can help you become more innovative. Connecting ideas is the fundamental creative act in innovation, and one of the ways to do this is to read widely in order to gain exposure to a wide variety of ideas. This is a list of great resources that will help you do precisely that.
Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy by Steve Daniels – We’re starting to hear more and more about highly innovative people in developing countries – when the innovations they develop migrate to developed countries, some call it reverse innovation, a phrase I’m not too fond of. This book tells the story of many interesting innovations in Kenya, including looking at the knowledge networks that facilitate collaboration within communities. No matter what you call it, innovation takes place everywhere. For other great stories, check out the Afrigadget blog, or do some research on Jugaad in India.
The Bootcamp Bootleg from the Stanford D School: Design thinking is a hot topic these days, and this is a nice, practical guide to applying design thinking principles to innovation projects. It’s all hands-on tips for implementing design techniques. Very worthwhile.
The Engagement Economy by Jane McGonigal: We all know Jane McGonigal as the incredibly engaging designer of collaborative games like Evoke that are designed to help solve real-world problems. This is her report on the engagement economy, where she argues that it is no longer enough to compete for attention, now firms have to compete for engagement. She’s got some good ideas on how to do this. Short, but engaging.
The Sources of Innovation and Democratizing Innovation by Eric von Hippel: One way to encourage engagement is to get your customers innovating. Eric von Hippel wrote the book on customer-led innovation, and now you can read it for free. That’s The Sources of Innovation. In that book he shows that customer-led innovation is important – in the follow-up he discusses how to engage in customer-led innovation.
The Bootstrapper’s Bible by Seth Godin: Change This! offers a series of nearly always great free manifestos every month. This early one by Seth Godin is one of the most popular they’ve ever had, and it’s easy to see why. As usual with Godin, there are plenty of inspirational stories, and lots of great tips designed to help you get a company up and going with minimal resources.
Invisible Engines: How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries by David S. Evans, Andrei Hagiu and Richard Schmalensee: This is the most academic book on the list, but it’s an interesting one. Evans, Hagiu and Schmalensee investigate how software platforms generate innovation in two-sided markets. They look at detailed case studies of the gaming, software, and mobile phone industries. If you want to understand what is driving growth in many of the most important markets in today’s economy, this book is important to read.
The Shift Index by John Hagl, John Seeley Brown and Lang Davison: Invisible Engines explains the mechanics of these markets, and The Shift Index explains the macro-economic drivers of the current economy. This includes much of the data that also underpins the authors’ great book The Power of Pull, one of my favourite business books of the year so far. If you feel like the environment you’re competing in is changing rapidly, this report will help you understand exactly why this is so.
Believe Me: A Story-Telling Manifesto for Change-Makers and Innovators by Michael Margolis: One of the key steps in innovating is getting your great idea to spread. In part, this depends on the story that you’re telling. In this book, Margolis gives a number of useful tips on how to tell your story more effectively. The idea is never enough – we also have to get ideas to spread. This will help you do this.
Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own by David Bollier: This is another interesting book about the value of openness and sharing. Given that, it would be funny if there weren’t a free download for it. Bollier does a good job of documenting what is going on with open source software, creative commons and other open copyright initiatives, and collaborative efforts like wikipedia and remixes.
So there’s your list. Start downloading now, and have fun!