3 Books For Starting, Scaling, and Evolving A Modern Day Company

After a career as an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, and innovation consultant I have many scars and some insights. To minimize the scars, and maximize the insights, I read a lot. About a year ago, in search of clarity on the challenges and gaps in the innovation journey, I researched and wrote a book called Iinnovate. (This is not one of the books I am recommending because it would be highly self-serving, so I am not recommending you read it unless you really, really want to!).

More importantly, I uncovered a few insights through this research. One small insight, which may be obvious to many, is that start-ups, scale-ups, and evolutionary companies represent phases on a continuum with distinct leadership challenges, requirements and competencies. A bigger insight is that operating engines can be created for Start-Ups, Scale-Ups, and Evolutionary companies that lead to superior innovation, execution, and overall performance.

As a result, if companies are in big enough markets, and implement these operating engines well, they will not only win, but can create sustained growth avoiding the slow and steady decline that most companies face. This applies to the whole spectrum from entrepreneurial start-ups to mature companies that want to start and scale companies repeatedly. These companies are faster, stronger, more nimble, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound again, and again. They are Super Companies, and we are seeing the beginnings of those super companies today with Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and even Microsoft! (See Diagram) .

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The Three Books

This leads me to the three books that I would recommend for implementing start-up, scale-up, and evolutionary operating engines within a company. The first book, is about building the start-up engine, called The Lean Startup, by Eric Reis. It is in this book where the concepts of Validated Learning, Minimal Viable Product (MVP), Build-Measure-Learn, Pivoting, and other concepts were popularized. It is a foundational book about innovation for companies of any size, but especially for start-ups.

The second book is about building the scale-up engine, called Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish. This book is a step-by-step guide for implementing a growth engine within a company focused on people, strategy, execution, and cash related elements. It is as good a "how to grow a company" book as any I have read, with templates that bring together a huge body of work into a practical and actionable guide for implementing a growth accountability engine within a company.

Last, but definitely not least, is a book about building an evolutionary or renewal engine within a more traditional and mature company, called The Corporate Startup by Tendayi Viki, Dan Toma, and Esther Gons. This book again brings together a large body of work into a very digestible guide (with lots of pictures, which is helpful). It outlines what an innovation ecosystem is, describes the difference between core, adjacent, and new innovations, get's into the structural issues that can make innovation work within a larger company without sacrificing execution, and much more.

Now you have your reading list for the holidays, or you may decide a good spy novel on the beach is a better course of action!

Joe Ottinger

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