6 Books with Underappreciated Perspectives for Innovators

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute

Countless books on the subjects of innovation, design, UX, and research have flooded the world. Most of the time, the titles are the same ones we already have as staples in our creative libraries (for example, Think Like a UX Researcher, Don’t Make Me Think, The Design of Everyday Things, Jobs to Be Done). But how can we stay fresh? How can we think differently about our practices, our users, and our role when developing great products?

The following list is what Connected’s Senior Design Researcher, Dr. Tyler Hale, feels are underappreciated books with implications for new product development and innovation. These books, either because of their age or the discipline that produced them, have fallen by the wayside or just haven’t generated enough buzz to find their way into our libraries. These books are for product designers, UX researchers, and product folks of all stripes looking to refresh a stale practice or inject a new perspective into their approaches.

This nearly 25-year-old book is timeless today and serves as a treasure to improve user research practices. It hosts a collection of techniques and strategies from developing concepts that help us talk about phenomena in generalizable ways to methods for finding hidden data. As a researcher, if you are inevitably following the same processes of recruiting users, analyzing data, and presenting insights, this book will provide easily digestible techniques you can inject into your practice immediately.

While this may be the oldest book on the list, UX researchers shouldn’t ignore it as McCracken presents a true masterclass on everything from preparation, to execution, to quality assurance. The Long Interview reflects on and provides explicit instruction on one of the most powerful tools in the qualitative research armada. If you wish to go beyond surface details in user interviews or want to be able to determine whether an interview will give you the quality data you need, then you must not miss out on this exceptional read.

Chief Culture Officer is a manifesto on how companies should keep their fingers on the pulse of consumer cultures. This book magnificently answers a question every innovator is curious about –  why are some companies successful while others fail? If you want to understand how to stay in touch with user needs and goals and deliver value that changes with times, then this book is a must-read.

The Global Smartphone presents a contemporary study of how people across 11 countries use their smartphones. The book covers themes such as aging, health, class, and technology while providing new concepts for product owners to use when thinking through what your digital product might mean for people including (and outside of) your imagined users. If you are curious about the myriad of ways that smartphones are used globally today, and about how smartphone usage has shifted during the global pandemic, then this book is for you.

Situating Everyday Life is a retrospective on related research projects that demonstrate the behaviour of individuals within their homes and how difficult it can be to intervene in established cultural habits and experiences. Reflecting on her research and thinking about how to intervene in people’s daily activities in order to promote environmentally sustainable household practices, Pink uncovers how difficult that can be when you take the sensorial aspects of culture into account. As a product designer, do you ever wonder if those functional jobs you’re designing for have deep emotional and cultural roots? Are you curious about the role of sensorial experience in shaping cultural attitudes and product usage? Then this is the book for you.

Product designers, this book might turn your heads upside down as Escobar’s book represents a strand of literature at the cutting edge of design theory today. It essentially asks and tries to answer: how do we design a world outside of modernity? Drawing on principles and philosophies of the decolonial efforts of indigenous and Afro-descended people in Latin America, Escobar hopes to inspire people to construct non-Eurocentric design imaginations. Challenging and thought-provoking, if there’s one book on this list that challenges you to think differently, this is it.

We hope you pick up one of these under-appreciated reads and are able to refresh your perspective as a product manager, UX researcher, or product designer! 

Happy Reading! 


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