Last updated: 2021-09-11
Following are links to the books, blogs, and articles written by others that I highly recommend.
Table of Contents
- Product Management
- Product Design
- Data / Analytics
- Learning & Development
- Company Insights
If I had to recommend one thing on this page, it’s Inspired hands down. Cagan elegantly frames with rare simplicity and plain language. He provides clarity on the right roles to deliver great product and in particular emphasizes the power of product discovery. Even though 95% of the concepts in Inspired were known to me based on experience, the book was well worth reading. This book tends to focus on the what, not the how, and the latter is addressed in his next book, Empowered.
Empowered dives into great detail on how to create and operate empowered product teams. Cagan shares his insights on coaching, staffing, product vision, team topology, product strategy, team objectives, and collaboration between empowered product teams and business leaders. The book can be a bit repetitive at times, but the concepts are gold. The case study of a jobs marketplace company provides a clear, detailed example for applying his concepts.
Working Backwards is a gold mine for PMs in terms of practices to leverage. It’s an immensely insightful book that sheds light on practices that Amazon pioneered that enabled the in-house development of innovative products such as Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon Video.
I’ve been applying some of Amazon’s practices at the fintech I joined in the 2nd quarter of 2021. I authored a written narrative describing our new financial health product (with tweaks to Amazon’s format), and it was well-received by my boss, a Co-CEO, and other senior leaders given the depth of information that is concisely conveyed in a 6-pager. I’m synthesizing input & output metrics for our company to adopt across 0->1 digital product development initiatives.
While input & output metrics are not a new idea (outside Amazon, they’ve been known for years as leading & lagging indicators), many of Amazon’s practices — including the written narrative, Press Release/FAQ, and single-threaded leadership — are innovative and worth adopting.
In Continuous Discovery Habits (May 2021), Torres presents a powerful framework called the Opportunity Solution Tree. I’ve found it to be extraordinarily effective for mapping outcomes, opportunities, solutions, and assumption tests (hypotheses). While companies tend to over-focus on product delivery, Torres explains how product discovery enables us to prioritize opportunities and to test solutions before we invest in delivering them. Torres and Cagan share an aligned view on the criticality of product discovery, and I agree with them wholeheartedly.
Eyal provides a framework — “The Hooked Model” — that describes how companies can create highly-engaging products with self-reinforcing cycles of habitual usage. Eyal does an excellent job unpacking the power of variable rewards for unpredictable stimulation and how to encourage users to invest in and contribute to the product, which raises their barrier to exit. I appreciate that Eyal talks about how such products can create unhealthy addictions and that companies should seek to create products that meaningfully benefit their users.
In Productize (May 2021), Armstrong introduces a clear framework for transitioning services from Customized Services to Productized Services to Products to Products as a Service. She offers insights that are broadly relevant to any PM on driving innovation, culture changes, testing of hypotheses, and go-to-market strategy. My only critique is that she talks about bringing in Engineering and Product Design after things are moving versus from the get-go, so my impression is she’s more experienced with strategy than delivery.
Pichler does a fantastic job comparing and contrasting different Agile methodologies for companies of various sizes, ranging from startups to behemoths. He’s refreshingly candid.
Teresa Torres runs this blog, and she provides actionable frameworks, particularly on continuous product discovery.
Marty Cagan’s articles are super insightful. The formatting of their blog and articles needs work, but the content itself is superb.
Gibson Biddle engages with PM readers by answering popular questions. He provides lots of useful real world PM advice.
Norman’s book is an all-time classic. It was written before the digital age, but the concepts and thinking are applicable today.
These 3 books made Tufte famous. He has been heralded as a genius when it comes to data visualization. Many regard Envisioning Information as the best of the series. Tufte provides several famous examples in his books, including:
- John Snow’s problem solving a cholera outbreak in London (no, not the GoT hero 🤣)
- The tragic failure in framing the risk of launching Space Shuttle Challenger in freezing weather
I have borrowed heavily from his concepts, in particular small multiples, in countless experiences, decks, and narratives. Between 1998–2008, many designers I knew stated that Tufte didn’t get web design. Since then, technology has developed in leaps and bounds, especially with rich data visualization (e.g. Google Maps) and mobile phones, so his concepts are quite relevant.
I loved Design-Driven Innovation. It gets panned by others for two reasons: 1. Verganti disses UCD to an extreme, and 2. he provide examples of disruptive innovation without a clear blueprint. Its premise is to innovate not with improvements along traditional vectors (e.g. faster CPU, more memory, bigger screen, etc) but rather by discovering “new meaning” enabled by technology breakthroughs. Verganti stresses that we can’t rely on customers for disruptive ideas, because some are so out there that customers couldn’t give feedback that leads to them (e.g. iTunes, iPhone, etc).
Luke is an OG on mobile design. Luke shares writeups from various events, but I find his own articles to be the most insightful. While he has tailed off writing since the pandemic started, many of his writings — even those from a decade ago — are still relevant and worth reading.
This creative site provides compelling growth & UX case studies in a comic book format. Each case study includes rich commentary on each page / screen of the experience, along with suggested improvements and callouts of applicable design principles.
User Story Mapping is a fantastic book for learning how to organize and prioritize user stories, which crucial for building great experiences for customers. This is the one methodology book every PM should read if they’re new to or still learning Agile.
Data & Analytics
The reference guides includes links to handy charts for different types of data visualization (e.g. scatterplots, heatmaps, sparklines, etc).
I was going to write up an article on APIs but found this existing article which does an excellent job explaining them.
Learning & Development
The Leadership Challenge had a profound impact on my growth as a leader. The authors posit that leadership skills are learnable, and they discuss 5 behaviors that make leaders great: inspiring a shared vision, modeling the way, enabling others to act, challenging the process, and encouraging the heart. Take it from someone who never expected he’d be comfortable boldly leading — this book is very actionable and inspiring.
I’ve taken a ton of personality tests, and I found StrengthsFinder to be the most real-world useful and flexible. If management theory back in the 80s & 90s was to shore up one’s weaknesses, StrengthsFinder turns that on its head by helping you see where you shine in terms of aptitude and affinity. My 5 strengths resonated with me. That was true for others as well.
I’ve listed these 3 books in the order Collins authored them. Every employee at Sapient was given a copy of Built to Last as part of their onboarding, and it’s one of my all-time favorites. That said, if you’re time-starved, Good to Great is where you should start (and Harper pushes it as the 1st book in the series), as it explained how to elevate a company’s performance by mastering the flywheel. I felt like I lived a chapter in How the Mighty Fall when I led a management consulting engagement at Nokia back in 2009.
I’ll continue to add more recommended reading to this page, as I’m a voracious reader.
Before you go…
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