Recently, I announced to my email friends that I was making a shift from working with business experts to working with medium sized companies to grow their business through innovation.
And, as my attention has shifted to innovation over the past few months I’ve taken on a mini-personal PhD. And, the starting point for a PhD is to review the literature. So, I’ve set myself the task of reading the top ten books on innovation. I heard it said a long time ago that if you read ten books on any one topic then this would put you in the top 1% in your field because so few people read ten books in one topic. (These days it appears that so few people read any books…)
This has now lead me to the task of identifying which books are the best ones to read. Here are my thoughts so far on how to identify the ten best books in your chosen area of expertise. (These are some of the steps I take to select books for Book Rapper).
1 Best Sellers
If you want to read the mainstream best books then best sellers is probably a pretty useful measure for you to find books. This could range from the best sellers in your local bookstore (if you still have one) or perhaps one of the most popular best sellers lists: The New York Times.
The downside of best sellers lists is that this may be reflection of how well a book has been promoted rather than the quality of the book itself. In particular, on Amazon a number of people have gamed the system by giving away free copies to boost sales.
2 Most Popular
Essentially, a best sellers list is a way to also show the most popular books. This was really important in the world of mainstream mass-market publishing. However, in the world of niche subjects such as innovation, a more strategic approach may be to find out what is popular in your community. This could be as simple as finding out what your colleagues are reading or surveying a professional association you belong to.
ACTION: Do a Google search for the ‘Top Ten Books in (your industry)‘. The search results will be from a bunch of bloggers and if you scan a few of these lists you’ll quickly compile a list of recommendations. Be warned, a recommendation from a blogger may not mean they have read the book.
ACTION: Another sources of popular books is Good Reads. Simply type in your area of interest and a great list of solid books will appear. Here’s the Good Reads list for ‘innovation’.
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3 Most Important
As a general rule, the most popular book is not usually the most important. This is a classic collision of quality versus quality. In some cases books are important to me because they have a single powerful idea, and in others they have a bunch of them. Some books can be important because they showcase the whole field whilst others are at the bleeding edge of current thinking.
ACTION: One of the best sources of most important books is to find a book list from an academic course. Typically, these will be books that have actually been read by the person recommending them.
4 Most Referenced
In the world of science, one way to rank the importance of an idea is to measure how often it has been referred to in other research papers. For example, the website Highly Cited ranks the top 1% of researchers in the world based on the number of mentions in their subject field. The more you are mentioned the more influential you are.
ACTION: To source good books either scan the bibliography of a book or as you read a few books start to notice the books/ideas that keep popping up.