10 Books I Wish I'd Have Read Sooner

Product Management Nov 23, 2022

I never liked reading Dutch books. Ever since reading my first English book, Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques, I've been a voracious reader.

I often receive messages what books I would recommend to someone starting in Product or Agile to read. These are the 10 books that had a profound influence on me and still impact the decisions I make every day.

The list is in no particular order, even though it contains numbers.

#1. Made to Stick - Chip and Dan Heath

How do you tell a story in such a way that it's not only captivates people, but they remember it and are capable of telling it to others? That's what this book is about. I use the principles in this book whenever I communicate, write or present something.

The best influencers I've seen in action, are great story tellers. They use heart and mind to convince others using stories. This book explains the principles behind great stories and how you can use them in your own presentations, writings or conversations.

#2. Influence - Robert B. Cialdini

At university, one of my best friends who studied psychology told me I had to read this book by Robert Cialdini. Once you're aware of the principles of persuasion you cannot unsee them and see them applied everywhere (even when having dinner at a restaurant).

For three years Cialdini went undercover to study people who make a living persuading others. Cialdini took on many jobs, such as used car salesman, telemarketer and fund raiser. At each job he carefully took notes about the tactics he learned. The undercover experience formed the foundation for many years of follow-up research and scientific experiments.

The principles he distilled from his experience and research are contained in this book. When you're aware of them, you can see when others (ab)use them, and you can also use them to your advantage. Don't underestimate how powerful and primal these principles are. Even when you're aware of them.

#3. All Marketers Are Liars - Seth Godin

A book on how to tell stories that resonate, what works and what doesn't work. It's the perfect companion to 'Made to Stick' as it provides a unique perspective what kind of stories will engage your audience and the kind of stories that will fall flat.

It's easier to tell stories that already fit with the existing world view of your reader, than to try telling a story that requires them to look at the world differently from the start.

#4. Never Split The Difference - Chris Voss

How do you negotiate with terrorists? What works and what doesn't? And how can you use these same negotiation tactics in your daily lives? FBI Hostage negotatior Chriss Voss reveals the techniques he applies and why they work. It's the perfect more practical companion to Influence by Robert Cialdini.

#5. Where Great Ideas Come From - Steve Johnson

A recurring pattern is history is co-invention, that many people around the same time have the same ideas. This book explains why it happens and made me realize that many ideas are only original when you are unaware of their roots. Once you understand the roots, it often becomes obvious why different people had the same ideas at around the same time.

This book also underlines the importance of studying different fields to bring various perspectives together which leads to new ideas being unearthed.

#6 Story Mapping - Jeff Patton

As useful as the Story Mapping technique is presented in this book, the ideas behind it are even more important and powerful. You don't have to use Story Mapping to benefit from the collaborative approach and ideas that make Story Mapping better than someone throwing perfect requirements over the fence.

#7. Turn the Ship Around - Captain David L. Marquet

This book tells the story how Captain David L. Marquet turned the worst-performing submarine into the best-performing submarine in the Navy. The approach he followed was unique and contrarian to naval leadership at the time. Instead of having leaders and followers, he decided to run a submarine with the leader-leader model, where everyone is empowered to make decisions in the moment instead of waiting for orders.

#8. The Art of Action - Stephen Bungay

The military had found a working model for Agile and Agile at scale more than 200 years ago. After reading this book, you will be able to explain Agile without referring to the traditional waterfall model. You will also have a framework to help evaluate what kind of working practices are helpful to agility and what kind of approaches are detrimental.

#9. The Build Trap - Melissa Perri

I love both Marty Cagan's Inspired and The Build Trap. However, I believe Melissa Perri does an even better job of explaining the fundamental ideas and principles behind Product Management. Instead of reading another book on Agile and Scrum, consider picking this one up.

#10 Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

What's the bedrock of high-performing teams? When you read this book you'll understand and you'll have a working model how to assess at what stage the team you're working with is at and what kind of behavior and actions are necessary to move them further up the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team pyramid.

That's all folks!