Matt L.F Smith
Dec 17, 2017 · 5 min read

Some of these were written in 2017 and one or two a couple decades ago. Each one of these books has undoubtedly shifted or pushed my thinking toward a greater intuitive sense of what a organization, business, startup, team, or founder looks like when it’s working, when it’s not, and how to get from point A to B in launching an idea. Still — nothing beats experience, and as much as these books have helped me piece together and make sense of what startup work I have done thus far, the highest level of understanding must be attained though creating and doing.

1. Change by Design by Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the CEO and president of IDEO, one of the greatest design firms on the planet. Change by Design shows us how we can use design to improve our organizations, business, startups, methods of work, and society. Reading this shows you just how much deliberate design impacts and improves the day to day quality of our collective lives.

2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

This book will remind you that under all the how-to business advice out there, no amount of intellectual understanding will get you around the hard decisions you WILL have to make in order to create a successful business. Ben lets us know that anyone who claims to know the business success formula is bullshitting you, no such formula or correct way of creating a business exists. The truth of this may piss you off at first, but it will set you free and remind you when things get hard that it’s just the way it goes.

3. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

Crossing The Chasm is basically The Lean Startup of the 90’s. Moore gives strategies and advice for taking your business from early adopters to main stream consumers. Reading this helps you understand how to launch your product for niche early adopters who will be willing to work with product issues and transition to a more brutal main stream market.

4. The Alliance by Reid Hoffman

Ried Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn provides a framework for the future of employee to employer relationships, hiring, and positioning your talent to integrate into teams. The underlying message is that you should be radically transparent with employees from the get-go, to acknowledge and discuss how long an employee intends to stay with a company and even help them transition to wherever they end up next. The company exists to transform the employee’s personal carrier and the employee to transform the business.

5. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel demonstrates that the next Microsoft wont be a software company, the next Google wont be a search engine. Great companies are formed from uncommon insights and contradictory beliefs.

6. The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

This one is more of a classic and shows the reason companies fail is not because of poor management, and good standard management very well inhibits many companies from innovating. It’s not that large companies are completely risk averse, in fact, many large companies are testing things and taking risks all the time. These risk are just not radical enough because they never seem like a good idea.

7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The Biography of Steve Jobs, very well known and unquestionably inspiring.

8. Finding My Virginity (Richard Branson Auto-biography)

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group tells the crazy and remarkable story of his life from early 2000 to 2017.

9. Product Leadership by Martin Eriksson, Nate Walkingshaw, and Richard Banfield

Wether you’re launching a startup, running a business in it’s early stages, or trying to manage what has become a true enterprise, Product Leadership provides tested and proven advice for product managers to successfully launch products and run teams.

10. The Startup Way by Eric Ries

The Startup Way is essentially the 2017 older sibling version of the Lean Startup. After 6 years from The Lean Startup, Eric Ries re-defines and updates his methods to launching and running a successful startup with the new startup way.

11. Contagious by Jonah Berger

How do things go viral? How can you create viral word-of-mouth around your videos, art, business, or product? Jonah Berger examines the qualities that most viral things share and the psychology behind it.

12. High Output Management by Andrew Grove

A classic on measuring your underlying successes in management against results and output. Written in the 80’s, many specifics of this book are outdated, but Andy Grove still gives amazing advice for any managers or would be managers to increase their output in the work place. The advice in this book has stood the test of time in the extremely fast-paced world of tech.

13. Only The Paranoid Survive by Andrew Grove

When technology fundamentally changes, as an established organization you can either ride the wave or crash and burn. Unfortunately, you have no choice and you must do this almost overnight or your business will die. Grove calls these moments “inflection points”, and what makes a business successful in one area usually inhibits that company from adapting to it’s newly forming industry. Under Andy Grove, Intel was able to make a fundamental transition of it’s business from memory chips to microprocessors as Intel’s primary product.

14. Good To Great by James C. Collins

Good To Great examines several case studies of companies and their founders who took a company from good to extraordinary. There are so many things Collins claims in this book, so I’ll just give my favorite. You can think about the success of a company (or the success of anything really) as a giant wheel. As you push this wheel, working consistently, for a while no movement seems to be happening, but suddenly the wheel starts to build momentum and before you know it takes off and the same effort that originally did nothing continues to spin this ever accelerating wheel. You have to be consistent with your effort towards you goals and it was always be slow at first, but with disciplined consistency and effort you will build the momentum on your success wheel to become great.


- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

- Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

- Originals by Adam Grant

- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


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Matt L.F Smith

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Helping humanity feel like we’re on the same mission, in work & life. Laser focused building an eco-system of collaborative innovation. I love you! 🌅7/14/2000

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