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Innovation Books - Top 5 Innovation Management Books 2021

Top 5 innovation management books 2021

What is innovation management?

Innovation management includes all the processes of an organization that aim at developing new innovative solutions. Innovation management therefore includes the generation of ideas, the development of such ideas into prototypes and into actual solutions, but also the strategic goal setting for innovation. In short - innovation management combines the creative space of new ideas and concepts with clear structures and objectives in order to successfully build new innovations and create value for customers.

5 new innovation books

Really Good Innovation chose five new innovation management books for you (published in 2020 or 2021) that can help you with practical tools and recommendations to develop strategies and instal innovation processes. Two of them are very practical how-to guides that can be especially used by corporate innovators (“The New Innovation Standard” and “Pirates in the Navy”). Two others give a bigger picture about innovation management and provide the reader with lots of case studies and practical examples for inspiration (“How Innovation Works” and “Managing Innovation”). The fifth book (“Think Again”), is not directly aimed at innovation but provides the reader with a mindset of “rethinking” that is crucial for successful innovation management.


  1. The new innovation standard - IDEANOTE
The new innovation standard by Ideanote
The new innovation standard - Ideanote

The first book is a free ebook by the idea management startup Ideanote. While this is the shortest of the five books, it brings a lot of great practical recommendations with it. The ebook is based on the premise that organizations need to change their innovation management practices in order to adapt to the expectations of customers, employees and other stakeholders. Their innovation framework highlights four steps to achieve innovation-led growth: Collecting ideas, engaging people, managing ideas and measuring impact. 

The innovation Flywheel framework - Ideanote

The authors provide the reader with practical tips to answer the critical “why”, “who”, and “how” questions. For example, Ideanote highlights the importance of finding initiators early in the process to drive the idea collection part effectively and give examples of who these stakeholders could be. After going through the process in detail, there is a whole list of general recommendations to drive innovation management successfully. Ideanote thereby helps innovators with aspects such as how to set up the right structures, how to ensure an open mindset in the organization or where to start with the innovation process.

Get the free e-book here.

  1. Pirates In The Navy: How Innovators Lead Transformation - Tendayi Viki
Pirates in the Navy - Tendayi Viki
Pirates in the Navy - Tendayi Viki

Pirates in the Navy specifically focuses on innovation inside existing organizations. The title of the book thereby presents the goal of the author: to enable innovators to disrupt a company from within. To innovate within large organizations is often challenging as a high focus is put on the management of existing core business. Also, political structures often prevent innovation from happening. Tendayi Viki presents a thorough step-by-step guide to address these different challenges and to implement structures and processes that facilitate innovation management. If you prefer to listen to content instead of reading the whole book, Viki highlights some critical challenges in his keynote:

If you want to implement a new and successful innovation program inside your organization, this book is a great guide on how to navigate the complex organizational environment and set up innovation processes that last. A high emphasis is placed on understanding the different stakeholders in the organization and how their interests and needs can be integrated successfully into innovation management. The book is very practical in nature and gives specific recommendations on how to deal with possible problems.

  1. How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom - Matt Ridley
How innovation works - Matt Ridley
How innovation works - Matt Ridley

The second book on our list is from Matt Ridley, author of the bestselling book “The Rational Optimist”. Along the same lines as the first book in our list, “How innovation works” highlights the importance of a continuous bottom-up approach to innovation management. While the book is less practical than “The New Innovation Standard”, its value comes from the great examples of innovation in different industries. The stories of different innovations such as steam engines, vaccines, fertilizers or mobile phones, that either failed or succeeded, help the reader to gain a better understanding of the whole process of innovation in different contexts. Ridley discusses some of these contexts in the following video where he is interviewed by Peter Robinson from the Hoover Institute:

Ridley highlights that innovation is always a trial and error process and after discussing the different cases, shows specific principles that should be followed when implementing an innovation management process. The book moves thus from different examples to more practical insights that can be applied by innovators. While some critics judge the book to be slightly too academic, many insights can be found in the various industry examples and the practical tools that are proposed can provide high value to innovators.

  1. Managing Innovation: Integrating Technological, Market and Organizational Change, 7th Edition - Joe Tidd & John R. Bessant
Managing Innovation (7th edition) - Joe Tidd and John Bessant
Managing Innovation (7th edition) - Joe Tidd and John Bessant

While this book is not entirely new, the 7th edition is updated with new data and new concepts that help innovators manage innovation holistically. The book is specifically meant for students in the fields of business and innovation and therefore seems relatively broad. It had been criticized with previous editions that the book focuses on many concepts that might not be that relevant. However, its in-depth analysis of different concepts and its broad spectrum of case studies is exactly why it gives such a great overview of the innovation management field. Aimed at graduate and undergraduate students, the book is based on recent academic research and is combined with a foundation of extensive practical management experience.

While the main target group are students, we do see the value also for practitioners, as the different case studies and reflection questions can help any Chief Innovation Officer to take a step back and reflect critically on internal innovation processes. With different exercises, the reader is encouraged to directly apply the newly gained knowledge.

  1. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know - Adam Grant
Think Again - Adam Grant
Think Again - Adam Grant

Innovation is all about rethinking existing concepts, taking on new points of view and challenging the status quo. This is what Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, helps the reader with in his newest bestselling book. While we are taught how to think and learn, the book highlights the importance to also unlearn in order to rethink critically. In order to innovate successfully, it is key to listen to the most critical voices and understand them even if their point of view challenges our own thinking. This however is often prevented by our cognitive biases and by overestimating our own abilities.

To innovate successfully, it is key to listen to the most critical voices

While the book is not directly talking about innovation but rather about thinking processes in general, this book can help individuals, teams and whole organizations to develop a mindset of rethinking that benefits their innovation management capabilities. Lifelong learning is at the core of Grant’s argument and therefore embracing being wrong. Innovation is all about trying and failing and learning. The mindset presented in this book is thus an extremely helpful tool for anyone who wants to bring about change and the key takeaway is that having an open mind is a skill you can acquire. The following video very nicely summarizes the core message of "Think Again":

Which innovation book is for you?

Really Good Innovation has selected 5 new books on innovation management for you that can help you innovate successfully. “Pirates in the Navy”, as well as “The new innovation standard” are very hands-on tools for corporate innovators and give many practical tips to overcome different organizational hurdles to change. “How innovation works” and the 7th edition of “Managing Innovation” are in-depth books about innovation management, diving deep into industry examples and the very idea of innovation, thereby providing the reader with a great background knowledge. The fifth book, “Think Again” is not directly aimed at innovation management but we found it important to include due to its focus on a crucial mindset for all innovation activities: keeping an open mind and critically rethinking. 

We hope that one of these books will meet your needs to improve innovation practices for yourself, your team or your organization. If none of them is what you are looking for, check out the other innovation books listed on Really Good Innovation, such as "Making Ideas Happen" or "The Medici Effect". You can also check out a list of 29 best innovation books in 2020.

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