As a product leader and entrepreneur hearing new ideas, learning new methodologies/frameworks, and pondering perspectives is critical for me to stay at the top of my game. In 2020, like most years, I read (and in some cases reread) a lot of books on business, product management, entrepreneurship, and biographies on leaders/businesses. Here is my list of the best books I read in 2020 that product managers and leaders of product lead organizations can benefit from (not in order).
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t
Jim Colin’s does an amazing job of identifying what makes great companies great over the long term. There are lots of real world examples provided and an amazing amount of strategic insights any leader or organization can draw from.
2. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, Second Edition
In my opinion, this book is the 101 of product management. Leaders of any experience level can benefit from the insights provided. Marty Cagan offers a detailed analysis of how to set up and grow a product team which I found to be incredibly insightful. If you’re interested in product or wanting to set up a product team, this book is a must-read.
3. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World — And Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Although I was reluctant to this book at first, I am so glad I did. Factfulness takes a macro view of the world and the state it is in while providing valuable insights on future opportunities. Hans Rosling spent his entire career researching and painting a new picture of the world that I think everyone can benefit from. For me, this book allowed me to take a step back and reset while allowing me to pivot how I could strategically view what I work on. This book is a must-read and also a good break from many of the more tactical books out there.
4. Facebook: The Inside Story
Steven Levy is a great job of writing an interesting and engaging book that also provides real insights into rise of Facebook ranging from Zuckerberg’s childhood, to how Facebook growth hacked its way to success, to Cambridge Analytica and the political election. From a product and growth perspective learning about how Facebook actually grew, structured teams, and the tactics used was very insightful. From a leadership perspective, understanding the impact Facebook has had on society and the scrutiny faced was also very interesting. Definitely worth reading. I rate this book much higher than No Filter.
5. Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean
I’ll keep this summary short. If you are a leader or a manager, read this book. Kim Scott has done an amazing job of creating a leadership framework while providing engaging examples she experienced from her time working in some of the top tech companies.
6. That Will Never Work
Many people think Reed Hastings is the founder of Netflix, but did you know Marc Randolph was the co-founder, original CEO, and drove the initial success of Netflix? This book is a fun read that goes into the details of the early days of Netflix, key decisions that were made, and how they overcame numerous challenges. This is a fast and fun read you won’t regret.
7. Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value
This is a must-read of anyone who wants to instill a product mindset in an organization. It challenges some of the traditional product stereotypes while providing insights on how businesses can move away from being feature/delivery focused and transition to being product lead. If your company uses technology in any way, please read this book. Although this book will really resonate with anyone in product, the real value comes when people who operate outside of product are influenced by this book.