Staying up-to-date on evolving technology and the latest consumer preferences is one of the most important elements of a product manager’s role. But on top of leading product initiatives, conducting user analysis, drafting product requirements and specs, developing product roadmaps, and the pressure to launch successful products, keeping up with trends can often feel like one of the least important tasks on a long list of to-dos.
Somewhat counterintuitively, successful product management is grounded in continual learning. Some of the best product managers are relentlessly and incessantly curious. Keeping up with tech and trends should be a priority. Given that there’s no shortage of people willing to share their ideas, expertise, and wisdom, reading is one easy way to accomplish this.
In fact, it’s one of the best ways to glean lessons learned from the experts. On our podcast, This is Product Management, we ask all guests which books they’re currently reading.
Must-Read Product Management Books
Below are the most recommended product management books, along with some of our favorites, in no particular order.
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
By Peter Sims
Sims does a masterful job explaining how innovation is not designed in a vacuum of brilliance. From Chris Rock to Steve Jobs, world-renowned innovators use a similar creative approach that relies on iterative development to build up to major breakthroughs. While Sims shows how a ‘little bets’ approach can be applied to various areas of one’s life, it is a particularly useful strategy for enterprises looking to innovate while mitigating risk. This is one of the product management books at the core of Alpha’s strategy.
Start at the End: How to Build Products that Create Change
By Matt Wallaert
The Design of Everyday Things
By Don Norman
While this classic is basically mandatory reading for designers, you likely won’t find this in the ‘product management books’ section of the book store. But that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Product managers will enjoy Don Norman’s thorough analysis of why design is the key aspect of any product, and why some products delight customers while others frustrate them.
Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
By Marty Cagan
The leader of the Silicon Valley Product Group explores the creative process that inspiring products go through, from validation to feasibility.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Five Days
By Jake Knapp
In this product management book, the Google Ventures team documents the approach they’ve used with hundreds of startups in their portfolio and network. The result is the compelling five-day ‘Sprint’ which helps organizations prioritize and test product and feature concepts.
Don’t Make Me Think
By Steve Krug
This is essentially the official guide to usability principles and information architecture. Steve Krug presents user experiences and product managers with the rules of the road for building modern and intuitive products.
Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
By Ed Catmull
Another example of a good read that’s not necessarily in the category of product management books. Pixar co-founder, Ed Catmull, takes readers through the Pixar Animation factory where some of the most creative and originals films were designed. This book is a gold mine for product management lessons.
Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
By Tim Brown
Treat this book as your introduction to design thinking, a concept that’s critical to taking a customer-centric approach to building products. Legendary IDEO leader, Tim Brown, dispels common myths about innovation and argues that it doesn’t take genius, but instead takes a rigorous and disciplined approach, with a side of experimentation. There are so many great stories and anecdotes in Brown’s book that are worth a read for product managers.
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
By Geoffrey A. Moore
Lean product managers understand the value of rapid user feedback and early adopters, but often hit roadblocks when it comes to gaining widespread adoption. Crossing the Chasm illustrates the importance of product roadmapping, customer segmentation, and involving other departments like sales and marketing into the product lifecycle.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business
By Clayton M. Christensen
Software is eating the world and changing every industry in the process. Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, explains the idea of “disruption,” and how large corporations can avoid it. Prominent venture capitalist, Mark Suster cites this book as one of the most influential books in informing his investment decisions.
The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth
By Clayton M. Christensen
The Innovator’s Dilemma presented a pretty bleak case for established organizations. Fortunately, in a follow up to The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor explain how companies can become disruptors themselves.
The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
By Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
Before there was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, there was The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. The Startup Owner’s Manual is an updated and revised version of The Four Steps to the Epiphany. This book provides a detailed account of the entire product development lifecycle, including customer development and innovation accounting metrics. If you’re looking for practical applications and step by step instructions on applying Lean to product development, let this book be your bible.
Product Management for Dummies
By Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure
Brian, Pamela and The 280 Group have been at the forefront of standardizing and defining product management for nearly two decades. In Product Management for Dummies, the duo provides the strategies and methodologies that will shape the next generation of great product managers.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
By Ben Horowitz
While we consider all the books on this list must-reads, what separates The Hard Thing About Hard Things is its complete disregard for the formulaic strategies that dominate the pages of its cohort. In often rant-like, profanity-laced form, Ben Horowitz gets down and dirty discussing some of the most difficult decisions that product owners must makes for which there is no playbook. He ‘tells it like it is’ in this sobering tale that will get product managers nodding in agreement and reminiscence.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
By Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover
Sometimes the success of a product is not as simple as solving a problem. Creating engaging products that “hook” users can take you from a product people like to a product people love. In Hooked, Nir Eyal shares his extensive research based on psychological principles for how to create habit-forming products.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
By Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely gives Malcolm Gladwell a run for his money in this psychological thriller. Ariely explores the irrationality of human behavior in a book that has many lessons for product managers seeking to build sticky products.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
By David Allen
As a product manager, you’re juggling many different tasks and responsibilities all at once. This book provides an actionable framework for managing your workflow in such a way that reduces opportunity for error and maximizes productivity. If you have a backlog of to-dos going into 2015, this can help you tear through them.
High Output Management
By Andrew S. Grove
The former chairman and CEO at Intel explains how to build and run a company. This is one of the premier product management books and can teach product managers the art of leading by influence.
Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
By Laszlo Bock
We’ve all heard the myths about Google’s recruiting process. Well, the Head of People Operations finally spills the beans on the organization’s unique approach to attracting and retaining the world’s best talent.