15 books every corporate entrepreneur should read in 2021

The “must-read” list for entrepreneurs with some of the most recent, practical and inspiring guides published in the last few years.

Today’s corporate ecosystem is all about speed, growth and staying ahead of disruption. Fundamental shifts in customer behaviour, digital technologies and globalisation have made it more critical than ever to constantly innovate and challenge the status quo.

And...you just never know where you’ll find that next big idea with the potential to revolutionise the way you do business.

We’ve updated our previous “must-read” list for entrepreneurs with some of the most recent, practical and inspiring guides published in the last few years. Each one of our picks contains valuable insights to help innovation professionals like you take their business to the next level.

1. The Phoenix and the Unicorn: The Why, What and How of Corporate Innovation

Image attribution: Peter Hinssen

By Peter Hinssen

Published: 2020


We’re all familiar with the term startup “unicorn” and the inspiring stories behind them. In this book, author Peter Hinssen points out how a corporation’s ability to cyclically reinvent itself makes it just as inspirational. 

Similar to the mythical “phoenix”, companies like Walmart, Volvo, Disney, Apple and Microsoft are constantly working to adapt, innovate and stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape. This is the story told from the phoenix’ point of view.

Why read it?

It provides a detailed view of the rapid changes happening in today’s corporate landscape and highlights the importance of innovation as an “antidote to a radically changing environment”. 

You’ll also gain valuable insights into the different types of innovation and how they can affect your company’s culture, growth, organisational structure and customer experience. The inspiring real-world cases in the book are highly entertaining and demonstrate what you need to do to innovate and how you can make your vision a reality.

2. The Acorn Method: How Companies Get Growing Again

Image attribution: Henrik Werdelin

By Henrik Werdelin

Published: 2020


In today’s fast-moving corporate landscape, many companies are struggling to achieve their growth goals at the accelerated pace required by the environment. According to author Henrik Werdelin, even companies that invest ten times more than VC’s find themselves with slower growth rates than before. 

If you’re a founder, innovation executive, intra- or entrepreneur interested in accelerating your organisation’s growth, this book is for you. 

So why read it?

The Acorn Method leverages insights from both the startup world and nature to speed up growth and create real change in organisations. It advocates a view in which new ventures or “acorns” can be used to ensure long-term growth and keep “other trees from growing faster and stealing your sunlight”. 

You’ll get the practical, step-by-step information you need to build, manage and scale new ventures within your organisation. The ultimate goal is to future-proof your business by moving past just becoming a bigger tree to creating your own forest.

3. The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization with Inspiration From the World's Best Business Models

Image attribution: original authors

By Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith and Frederic Etiemble

Published: 2020


“The Invincible Company” provides a behind the scenes look into how companies like IKEA, Amazon and Microsoft build success not only by launching superior offerings but through groundbreaking business models. The authors have synthesised years of research and experience to create a practical guide that will help you boost growth using some of the same tools and strategies. 

Each real-world example provides valuable insights highlighting the importance of consistently improving current business models while experimenting with new ones. 

So why read it?

You’ll gain access to practical tools and techniques to help you build, validate and scale new business models. You’ll also learn how to create a dynamic growth funnel, streamline internal processes, reduce risk and maximise profits. Some of the most notable tools included are: 

  • The Business Model Portfolio Map 
  • The Innovation Strategy Framework
  • The Culture Map

Each designed to help further your innovation strategy and provide a competitive advantage.

4. Pirates In The Navy: How Innovators Lead Transformation

Image attribution: Tendayi Viki

By Tendayi Viki

Published: 2020


Intrapreneurs, charged with accelerating growth through innovation, are often faced with internal opposition and political hurdles that slow the process and keep them from attaining their goals. “Pirates In the Navy” addresses some of those challenges and provides guidance to help innovation professionals overcome the barriers that get in the way of real change. 

So why read it?

It’s an excellent guide for any dedicated intrapreneur who wants to: 

  • Build an internal innovation ecosystem
  • Change the company culture
  • Influence corporate leadership

The tools and insights provided are designed to help innovators drive change from within, paving the way for real transformations.

5. The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture

Image attribution: Scott Belsky

by Scott Belsky

Published: 2018


There’s plenty of great information out there providing guidance on how to start or scale a venture, but few authors address the challenges that come up midway through. “The Messy Middle” provides some much-needed insights to help intra- and entrepreneurs in this particular phase of venture development.

So why read it?

Aside from his own experience working with companies like Airbnb, Uber and Pinterest, author Scott Belsky provides insights from interviews with top entrepreneurs, writers and executives to:

  • Help you hire the right team, improve operations and meet customer needs
  • Strengthen your resolve, manage your expectations and prepare you for the long-term
  • Enable you to avoid some of the common mistakes entrepreneurs make and prepare you for the exit phase. 

It’s a great read for any serial entrepreneur looking to up their game and learn from some of the top minds in the business. 

6. The Future of Design: Global Product Innovation for a Complex World

Image attribution: Lorraine Justice

By Lorraine Justice

Published: 2019


Design expert Lorraine Justice takes you beyond the typical western view of creativity and innovation using actual case studies and interviews with key opinion leaders from all over the world. 

It’s a pretty unique and detailed guide for those looking to successfully steer their business in today’s ever-changing global ecosystem. 

So why read it?

 This is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to take their business from “local” to “global”.

You’ll learn all about:

  • What makes your product attractive to clients
  • How to re-invent your products
  • The type of environments that foster great product designs and inventions

7. Superhuman Innovation: Transforming Businesses with Artificial Intelligence

Image attribution: Chris Duffey

By Chris Duffey

Published: 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been revolutionising the way we do business on a global scale. In his book, author Chris Duffey talks about how to harness the power of AI in a way that will “supercharge” the workforce and produce powerful innovation to give you the competitive edge you need to thrive.  

It’ll help you figure out how to infuse your products, content, and services with that crucial dose of innovation.

So why read it?

You can’t get around it. AI is being called the “electricity of our times,” and a clear understanding of its applications in business is vital.

This is a fantastic read for forward-thinkers looking to nurture the superstar innovators of the future by providing them with the tools they need to thrive.

In this book, Duffy also explains how AI companies are centralising the strength of their data, personalisation, and on-demand services.

8. Grow from Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Image attribution: original authors

By Robert C. Wolcott & Michael J. Lippitz

Published: 2009

Renowned authors Wolcott & Lippitz offer some great insights to help you achieve a balance between free-flowing creativity and innovation management. One of the main distinctions, as explained in the book, is that “creativity is often messy and inconsistent, but innovation management should never be.”

Companies like IBM, Whirlpool, and Dupont are skillfully used to illustrate how businesses that are continuously looking for new venture opportunities report the highest profit margins.

It’s a functional thesis on how companies can enable and support their intrapreneurs in achieving advances that are both creative and profitable.

So why read it?

You’ll learn all about what it takes to design a new business, as well as find creative ways to align your innovation program with your corporate strategy.

The authors provide some spot-on insights aimed at helping readers:

  • Find the right corporate strategy
  • Achieve growth organically
  • And reach their financial goals [TVH4] 

The book also contains an informative deep dive into today’s four most dominant corporate entrepreneurship models as well as the leadership requirements necessary to develop a new business.

9. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies

Image attribution: original authors

By Reid Hoffman & Chris Yeh

Published: 2018


What really separates startups that fizzle out from the ones that go on to become global powerhouses? It’s all about a technique called “blitzscaling”.

Inspired by their renowned course at Stanford Business School, the authors use case studies from companies like Airbnb and Wechat to help you understand the ins and outs of:

  • Designing business models aimed at sustainable growth
  • Strategies for successful hiring and managing
  • How you as a founder should evolve with the changing needs of your business

The blitzscaling technique advocates for speed over efficiency and illustrates how companies can accelerate to the stage in their cycle where the most value is generated.

So why read it?

 You’ll pick up some great tips and tricks on creating design business models that support lighting speed growth, capture your core market and best deal with the inevitable shifts coming at you during the different stages of your company’s life cycle.

If rapid and sustainable growth is something you’re interested in, you’ve found you’re next read!

10. The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation

Image attribution: original authors

By Gerald C. Kane, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan R. Copulsky & Garth R. Andrus

Published: 2019

This is a no-nonsense guide for any entrepreneur dealing with the disruption caused by today’s digital technologies. 

It provides a refreshing perspective, arguing that digital disruption is actually about employees and that real transformation should focus on organisational changes and adjustments in company culture.

In other words, the selection and implementation of digital technologies takes a back seat to efficiently managing the people who work with them.  

So why read it? 

You’ll learn all about how to achieve “digital maturity” in your business. Basically, it translates into the ability to:

  • Harness the power of new technologies
  • Identify the specifics of your own digital transformation
  • Cultivate a digital environment
  • Encourage an experimental mindset among your employees

The changes fueled by today’s digital disruption aren’t going to end anytime soon, and the insights in this book can help make your business more agile, efficient and risk-tolerant. 

11. This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See

Image attribution: Seth Godin

By Seth Godin

Published: 2018

The main premise of this book is that efficient marketing should be aimed at helping clients and solving problems rather than just getting noticed. In other words, great marketing campaigns are founded on the principles of empathy, knowledge, sharing, and emotion. 

Author Seth Godin offers a very refreshing approach to marketing, focusing on transparency rather than spamming potential clients with flashy ads and never-ending email funnels.

So why read it?

 You’ll learn how to create a solid and sustainable marketing strategy based on honesty and client loyalty.

There are also some useful tips on how to:

  • Effectively position your offers
  • Establish meaningful connections with your clients
  • Identify opportunities to create and release tension
  • Provide your clients with the tools to achieve their goals

It spells out exactly why older approaches to branding and advertisement are no longer functional and why a more direct, client-focused approach will have more success in the long run.

12. The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

Image attribution: Allen Gannett

By Allen Gannett

Published: 2018


This book sheds light on what it actually takes to be successful and creative by demystifying some of the myths surrounding the concept of “creative genius”. The central premise here is that it takes more than just a miraculous hit of inspiration or a sudden eureka moment.

Instead, author Allen Gannett argues that there is a 4 law based method to reaching mainstream success in anything from creating a new marketing campaign to writing your first novel.

So why read it?

It’s full of common sense techniques on how to jumpstart your creativity. Gannett argues that it’s all about finding that perfect midpoint between what’s comfortable and familiar and what’s new and out of your comfort zone.

The main points are entertainingly illustrated through inspiring stories, among which you’ll find the founder of Reddit, the Chief Content Officer at Netflix and many others.

There are some great tips on how to spend less time on non-productive ideas and better identify the winners.

13. Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas to Become a Digital Leader

Image attribution: John Rossman

By John Rossman

Published: 2019

Ever wonder what the secret is behind success stories like Amazon’s?

Author and former Amazon executive John Rossman offers a detailed guide on thinking, strategising, and competing like Jeff Bezos does. The book contains specific ideas on how to:

  • Transform your company culture
  • Improve your e-commerce marketing
  • and create a successful online culture  

So why read it?

You’ll learn all about Amazon’s unique ground-up approach to driving operational intelligence and out-of-box innovation strategies.

There are also some great tips on successfully navigating new markets, initiating company growth, and using AI to radically change your client experiences.

14. Success Is in Your Sphere: Leverage the Power of Relationships to Achieve Your Business Goals

Image attribution: Zvi Band

By Zvi Band

Published: 2019


This is an insightful read for anyone interested in harnessing the power of relationships to gain a competitive advantage in business.

The main idea here is that the most cost-effective, high-yield way of creating higher numbers of new and repeat business is through your current networks.

Author Zvi Band offers a transformative guide on how to solidify your existing network to achieve your professional goals. It’ll make you look at your professional relationships in a new light, specifically, as a precious asset for growing your business. 

So why read it?

 You’ll pick up some very interesting and easily applicable techniques to nurture, strengthen, and solidify your professional relationships.

Band uses a combination of his own personal research and real case studies to guide his readers on how to better:

·      Forge stronger relationships

·      Build a killer professional contacts database

·     And take your execution strategies to the next level 

15. The AI Advantage: How to Put the Artificial Intelligence Revolution to Work

Image attribution: Thomas H. Davenport

By Thomas H. Davenport

Published: 2018

Anyone looking to successfully incorporate AI into their business and become a “cognitive corporation” will really enjoy this book. It does a great job describing the technologies available and how you can best apply them in your own company to gain that coveted competitive edge.

Davenport offers some practical insights on AI, cautioning entrepreneurs not to get swept up in all the unrealistic AI hype. Instead, he advocates for readers to look for “low-hanging fruit” types of technologies that are affordable, manageable, and can be game-changers in terms of efficiency.      

So why read it?

 Because it can help you make better, more informed decisions in terms of choosing the right technologies. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype surrounding some of the newer AI technologies and lose sight of what is useful and high yielding.

There are some wonderful examples of how you can experiment with automation, starting with some of your more repetitive tasks all the way to actual AI interactions with clients.  

Pick up that book!

It’s always advantageous to stay on top of what’s current and cutting edge in terms of good business practices and staying competitive. And what better time to catch up on your reading than during the summer?

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