The books on this list both inspire me and provide daily-use tools and insights. None is specifically about product management except Badass and Lean Startup, but they are all about product management.
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- Badass: Making Users Awesome
When people ask me about “books on how to be a good product manager” I always recommend Badass by Kathy Sierra. For an introduction, I recommend watching Kathy’s “Creating The Minimum Badass User talk from the 2013 Business of Software conference. Then, go buy the book. The video is one of the best spent hours you’ll have as a PM, in my opinion. The book is concrete guidance for how to make a product that customers want to share. There’s so much new (or at least different) thinking that’s coming together, you might need to hit it multiple times. (Check out my article about Badass for more.)
- Jump Start Your Business Brain
Jump Start Your Business Brain is a masterpiece on creativity and innovation. Doug Hall is the founder of Eureka Ranch and Innovation Engineering. He coaches Fortune 100 companies on how to keep innovating. In the book he shares the hard data and techniques he’s developed to get new products and services to market successfully. His “Three Laws of Marketing Physics” (which I wrote about here) are everyday topics as I do product planning.
Chip and Dan Heath give you the secrets of expert decision makers. As product managers, the quality of our decisions directly impacts our success. Understand how our psychology handicaps us when it comes to decisions. Then learn how to overcome those handicaps. Their simple WRAP methodology for improving your decision-making process will make your decisions much better.
- Flash Foresight
Daniel Burrus’ Flash Foresight was one of the highlights of my reading list when it came out. Want to know how to “predict the future?” Want to know what’s inevitable about the future and what isn’t? You’ll learn with this book. Highly recommended! I’ve returned to it over and over.
- Lean Startup
Eric Reis’ Lean Startup has fundamental ideas for how to build a startup successfully. The key concept is that startups operate in a world of complete uncertainty. You need business practices that recognize that uncertainty and continually reduce the level of uncertainty. You have have to discover a real market. You have to discover a real product that market wants. You have to discover a real way you can get that product to market profitably. You may think you know these things when you start. You don’t. At least you have to test your hypotheses. This book is about how to do that.