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Everybody Wants To "Think Out Of The Box"
If you feed your brain what everybody else is reading, how can you expect to think differently from everybody else? Yet every company’s situation is unique, and the world is changing so fast, that unique, creative, "out of the box" thinking is more important than ever.

Here is a list of books for the intellectually bold and the strategically fearless. Is there one not here you would recommend? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at:

Title Author Why Great

Thriving in E-Chaos
James Underwood Recognizes that strategy has to fundamentally change in a turbulent enviornment. Points out the limitations of such business icons as the Porter model, TQM, Kaizen/continuous improvement, and others. An interesting feature is a what mix of different personality types ae required for different strategic tasks. Meets Dudik's main value criterion of "many ideas per square page."--And the second criteria, of crossing swords with conventional wisdom, even when academically approved.

Conjectures and Refutations

Unended Quest

The Myth of the Framework

Karl Popper Tells why amassing facts to support an idea doesn’t prove anything. Even if you don’t make it past the first two chapters, you still will be ahead of 95% of the pack. (Unended Quest is more autobiographical but gets the main ideas across).

Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge
Imre Laktos Test everything—including Mr. Test himself! Popper gets challenged. When you read some of this, you’ll have a confidence in the meaning and use of falsifiabililty.

How to Read a Book
Mortimer Jerome Adler This classic on thinking thoroughly and with true independence has been in print for over 60 years. The current fashion of "out of the box" thinking starts with strong foundations like Adler's. Also a great gift for your teenagers and college kids (of any age!) who suspect that not everything they read is God's honest truth, but aren't sure what to do about it.

How the North Won the Civil War
Hattaway and James North’s strategy. This is a great book on ‘judo’ strategy—surprisingly.

The Warrior Generals
Buell South’s turn: surprising, independent analysis of what made some War Between the States’ generals great and some mediocre. Changed my mind on Lee, Grant, Hood and Thomas

The Fifty Year War
Norman Friedman Identifies the assumptions under which both sides fought the Cold War—and what happened when those assumptions were challenged

Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage
Richard Foster An older, bolder predecessor to Foster’s current bestseller. Shows why strategies are hidden hypotheses and how they got that way.

Cohesion: The Vital Element in Combat
William Darrell Henderson, National Defense University Press Shows what it takes to change a culture to meet an objective, under stress

Fighting Power
Martin van Creveld Leading thinker on military history comes to some surprising conclusions about American styles of leadership. A must-read if you believe, as I do, that top management teamwork has everything to do with strategic success. Creveld’s other books are interesting as well.

The Practice of Creativity
Prince This book is out of print. But find it if you can! The best book on group creativity I’ve ever read. This will help you get to those breakthrough ideas that seem so elusive.

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
David S. Landes Far better than the better-known Guns, Germs and Steel, Landes explains why some nations succeed and others fail. Strategists and thinking business people as well as those who love history will glory in the myriad examples of nations, industries, and inventions—and get a lot of ideas from them.

A Whack on the Side of the Head

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants

Roger van Oech Books on how to be creative run to a pattern. Van Oech’s contribution are clear, usable and provide numerous examples. Also entertaining and easy-to-read.

How Hitler Could have Won World War II
Bevin Alexander To learn brilliant strategic thinking and to learn how to falsify apparently great and self-evident ideas, look to this fascinating "what if" history.

The Hitler Options
Kenneth Macksey Anybody who claims the Allies’ victory in World War II was inevitable should read this book on competitive strategy. The Allies had important weaknesses it would have been easy and logical for Hitler to exploit.

The Art of Maneuver
Robert Leonhard Military tactics book is the best I’ve read on the key concepts of "probing with pinpricks" followed by ruthless exploitation—and why it’s hard to bring ourselves to do it

The Logic of Failure
Doerner Why do all the procedures, fail-safe systems and training we put in place backfire? This work explains why consultant’s formats, action plans and other frameworks don’t get the results in implementation companies desperately need.

The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell One of the few best-sellers on this list, The Tipping Point focuses on the concept of how to achieve "critical mass" for a strategy. It explains why success is not linear, but typically occurs after persistent effort. Provides the anatomy for the concept of strategic breakthrough when applied to business in general or new product introduction in particular.

How to Solve Mathematical Problems
Wickelgren Wow! For those of us who love mathematical beauty and use math to solve problems, this book is an astonishing investigation into asking the right questions—the key part of any problem-solving effort. Although intended for students, the methodologies outlined here apply to any professional problem-solver’s world

The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire
Edward Luttwak An important classic on the evolution of strategy. The setting is the middle and late Roman empire. Takes you face to face with that basic real-world problem most maturing companies face—how to deal with limited resources and unlimited threats. After reading Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, it worth looking at how various Roman emperors met similar challenges.

Innovator’s Dilemma
Clayton Christensen This current best-seller is worth reading to understand how successful companies get trapped by their past. Beware, however, that Christensen generalizes a certain set of findings beyond what is totally justifiable. I believe first-rate scientists and military thinkers have faced Christensen-type dilemmas in the past and overcome them.

Influence: They Psychology of Persuasion
Robert B. Cialdiani Why our evolutionary heritage disposes mankind to behavior that are antithetical to strategic success. Also lots of memorable anecdotes and concepts useful in your personal life.

Strategy and Force Planning
Joshua Epstein

Brookings Institution

Epstein is a professional military strategy analyst. This book provides a case study testing an hypothesis: that the U.S. would be powerless to defend the oil fields of Iran during a Cold War attack by the USSR. A superb model of step-by-step hypothesis testing and analysis. The Cold War setting for the book is actually an advantage, as it allows the reader to be totally objective about the approach and hypothesis testing steps Epstein lays out.

On War
Clausewitz This classic is useful for its comprehensiveness and its sobriety. Unlike today’s business strategy books that are breathless advertisements for gee-whiz imitation, Clausewitz centers the principles of victory in conflict around real-world factors such as political realities, actions of the competition, ambiguity in information.

The Art of War
Sun Tzu Taking one page of Sun Tzu to heart is worth a dozen typical strategy books. He thinks things through to the root—but without handing you the answer on a silver platter. Sun Tzu is a great example of the inherent paradoxes that every strategic leader must come to deal with—exemplified by the fact that success is a prelude to failure. Is foremost in strategy because it integrates human nature into a full picture of success in conflict.

What a Great Idea
Chick Thompson A good book on creativity and problem-solving.

Marketing Warfare
Ries and Trout Fun, Fun, Fun—and a good framework on the application of military thinking to branding and advertising. Unfortunately a little bit of rear-view-mirror-looking and Monday-morning quarterbacking. But a good thought stimulator.

Tactical Genius in Battle
Simon Goodenough There’s nothing like short case studies with decent maps and a discussion of the tactical problems to spark the imagination.

Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card The only book of fiction on this list. I’m not ordinarily a fan of science fiction, but this novel has it all: strategy, developing top management teamwork, judo strategies (when you’re simply inferior in resources to your competiton), Sun Tzu-like understanding of your enemy…all packaged in a human-oriented psychologically dense plot.

U.S. Marine Corps Hard-boiled, but boiled-down principles. Best when you’ve got limited time and limited options. Contradicts Clausewitz on an important point.
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