The best books on building a strong technology organization

Who am I?

Marty Cagan has been working on and with technology-powered empowered product teams for his entire career. Before founding the Silicon Valley Product Group to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising, and coaching, Marty Cagan served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. As part of his work with SVPG, Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe. Marty is the author of INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products.

I wrote...

Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

By Marty Cagan,

Book cover of Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

What is my book about?

What is it about the top tech product companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix, and Tesla that enables their record of consistent innovation?  

Most people think it’s because these companies are somehow able to find and attract a level of talent that makes this innovation possible. But the real advantage these companies have is not so much who they hire, but rather how they enable their people to work together to solve hard problems and create extraordinary products. 

As legendary Silicon Valley coach--and coach to the founders of several of today’s leading tech companies--Bill Campbell said, “Leadership is about recognizing that there's a greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.” The goal of EMPOWERED is to provide leaders of product management, product design, or engineering, with everything they need to create just such an environment. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

Why did I love this book?

By far my favorite book on Empowerment at Netflix is the newly released No Rules Rules by co-founder Reed Hastings, along with Erin Meyer.  Most of what’s been written prior on Netflix is more origin story than innovation engine, and this book gives you a good look at a company that sets the empowerment dial to 10.

By Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked No Rules Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard work is irrelevant. Be radically honest. Adequate performance gets a generous severance. And never, ever try to please your boss.

These are some of the ground rules if you work at Netflix. They are part of a unique cultural experiment that explains how the company has transformed itself at lightning speed from a DVD mail order service into a streaming superpower - with 125 million fervent subscribers and a market capitalisation bigger than Disney.

Finally Reed Hastings, Netflix Chairman and CEO, is sharing the secrets that have revolutionised the entertainment and tech industries. With INSEAD business school professor Erin…

How Google Works

By Jonathan Rosenberg, Eric Schmidt,

Book cover of How Google Works

Why did I love this book?

Google is a very large and sprawling company, where one team in one group can often work very different than another.  But there are common principles and my favorite book (so far) is How Google Works by former CEO Eric Schmidt, and former head of product Jonathan Rosenberg.

By Jonathan Rosenberg, Eric Schmidt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Google Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Both Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg came to Google as seasoned Silicon Valley business executives, but over the course of a decade they came to see the wisdom in Coach John Wooden's observation that 'it's what you learn after you know it all that counts'. As they helped grow Google from a young start-up to a global icon, they relearned everything they knew about management. How Google Works is the sum of those experiences distilled into a fun, easy-to-read primer on corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, communication, innovation, and dealing with disruption.The authors explain how the confluence of three seismic…

Book cover of Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

Why did I love this book?

Amazon is, in my view, the most consistently innovative product company in the world, and their founder Jeff Bezos has been sharing truly valuable insights into product and leadership since the early days of the company.  The new book Working Backwards by long-time Amazonians Colin Bryar and Bill Carr does the best job so far in highlighting the important aspects of how the company has created such a consistent machine for innovation.

By Colin Bryar, Bill Carr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Working Backwards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Essential for any leader in any industry' - Kim Scott, bestselling author of Radical Candor

Working Backwards gives an insider's account of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives.

Colin Bryar and Bill Carr joined Amazon in the late 90s. Their time at the company covered a period of unmatched innovation that brought products and services - including Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and Alexa, and Amazon Web Services - to life. Through the story of these innovations they reveal the principles and practices that drive Amazon's success.

Through their wealth of experience…

Book cover of Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs

Why did I love this book?

Apple is the most secretive commercial company I know.  Most books that have been written about them are about their colorful co-founder Steve Jobs, and much less about the inner workings.  My favorite book on how the actual work of product is done at Apple is Creative Selection by former engineering lead Ken Kocienda. Ken worked on some of the company’s most important products and technologies, during what I’d consider the peak innovation period for the company (so far).  Because Ken is an engineer, this book provides the engineering perspective, but the book is loaded with useful observations, learnings and insights.

By Ken Kocienda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creative Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hundreds of millions of people use Apple products every day; a few thousand work on Apple's campus in California; but only a handful sit at the drawing board. Creative Selection recounts the life of one of the few behind the scenes, a highly-respected software engineer who worked in the final years the Steve Jobs era.

Ken Kocienda offers an inside look at Apple's creative process. For fifteen years, he was on the ground floor of the company as a specialist, responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing software for products including the iPhone, the iPad, and the…

Book cover of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

Why did I love this book?

There are many excellent general management books about the value of empowered teams, but this book by Simon Sinek is one of my favorites. In this book, he also references and puts into context many of the books and articles that have been published on the topic of empowerment, so it’s a good general overview of the topic, as well as an inspiring read.

By Simon Sinek,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Leaders Eat Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leadership is not a rank, it is a responsibility. Leadership is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of those in your charge.

When we take care of our people, our people will take care of us. They will help see that our cause becomes a reality.

In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek, internationally bestselling author of Start With Why, investigates these great leaders from Marine Corps Officers, who don't just sacrifice their place at the table but often their own comfort and even their lives for those in their care, to the heads of big business…

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