The best books about responding to disruption and uncertainty

Jonathan R. Copulsky Author Of The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization Through Uncertain Times
By Jonathan R. Copulsky

Who am I?

Responding to disruption and uncertainty has increasingly dominated my thinking. Ten years ago, while a senior partner at a global professional services firm, I sponsored a major research project on digital transformation. The most surprising finding was that the organizations that are effective in responding to disruption figure out how to learn fast and scale fast. In my encore career of university teaching, I have dived deeper into how organizations and functions (such as marketing) respond to disruption. An improbable consequences of COVID-19 is an abundance of real-time examples of how organizations cope with acute disruptions vs. the chronic disruptions resulting from new technologies. 


I wrote...

The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization Through Uncertain Times

By Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan R. Copulsky

Book cover of The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization Through Uncertain Times

What is my book about?

When COVID-19 hit, businesses had to respond almost instantaneously—shifting employees to remote work, repairing broken supply chains, keeping pace with dramatically fluctuating customer demand. They were forced to adapt to a confluence of multiple disruptions inextricably linked to a longer-term, ongoing digital disruption. This book demonstrates that companies that use disruption as an opportunity for innovation emerge from it stronger. 

Drawing on five years of research into digital disruption, the book offers a framework for understanding disruption and tools for navigating it. The book outlines the leadership traits, business principles, technological infrastructure, and organizational building blocks essential for adapting in an era of continuous disruption.

The books I picked & why

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol S. Dweck,

Book cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Why this book?

Dweck’s concept of “growth mindset” is an incredibly useful way to explain why some individuals and organizations respond more effectively to disruption than others. The key is, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella points out, is to shift from being a ‘know-it-all’ to a ‘learn-it-all’. Dweck’s message is “It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.” 

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol S. Dweck,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Mindset as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the renowned psychologist who introduced the world to “growth mindset” comes this updated edition of the million-copy bestseller—featuring transformative insights into redefining success, building lifelong resilience, and supercharging self-improvement.

“Through clever research studies and engaging writing, Dweck illuminates how our beliefs about our capabilities exert tremendous influence on how we learn and which paths we take in life.”—Bill Gates, GatesNotes

“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”

After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this…


The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

By Clayton M. Christensen,

Book cover of The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Why this book?

I hate the way people toss around the term, disruption, to describe everything under the sun, neutering the value of the term in describing why disruption matters. Christensen’s book relies on empirical research, not hyperbole, to describe what makes innovations disruptive and why many companies fail to respond to disruptive innovations. I use the book and a series of Harvard Business Review articles co-authored by Christensen in one of my classes as a way to help my students understand the unique challenges of marketing disruptive innovations. Inevitably, the students who resist the concepts the most are the ones who write several years after graduation about how they are seeing Christensen’s concepts playing out in their markets. 

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

By Clayton M. Christensen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Innovator's Dilemma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors A Wall Street Journal and Businessweek bestseller. Named by Fast Company as one of the most influential leadership books in its Leadership Hall of Fame. An innovation classic. From Steve Jobs to Jeff Bezos, Clay Christensen's work continues to underpin today's most innovative leaders and organizations. The bestselling classic on disruptive innovation, by renowned author Clayton M. Christensen. His work is cited by the world's best-known thought leaders, from Steve Jobs to Malcolm Gladwell. In this classic bestseller--one of the most influential business books…


Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

By Geoffrey A. Moore,

Book cover of Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

Why this book?

The original version of this book was written over 30 years ago; the current edition was published in 2014. When I heard Moore interviewed on NPR after the publication of the latest edition, I bought the book and realized that his message is even more compelling 30 years later—don’t mistake early enthusiasm for your product for widespread acceptance. Just think Google Glass or Segway. No question, this book is the most important book for marketers that I can think of when it comes to understanding the challenges of marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream audiences.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

By Geoffrey A. Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crossing the Chasm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bible for bringing cutting-edge products to larger markets--now revised and updated with new insights into the realities of high-tech marketing
In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey A. Moore shows that in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle--which begins with innovators and moves to early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards--there is a vast chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. While early adopters are willing to sacrifice for the advantage of being first, the early majority waits until they know that the technology actually offers improvements in productivity. The challenge for innovators and marketers is to narrow this…


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear,

Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Why this book?

I stumbled on this book (long after it was already a best seller) when James’s sister was one of my students and she mentioned it by way of introduction. As a marketer, I believe that habits explain behaviors and that the main job of marketers is helping customers discard old habits and developing new ones. Watching how COVID-19 disrupted so many of our habits and forced many of us to adopt new ones, has made me wonder how marketers can become more adept at incorporating habit formation into their marketing strategies.  

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Atomic Habits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller. Over 4 million copies sold!

Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving--every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the…


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Book cover of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Why this book?

Taleb’s central idea is that it is impossible to predict the extreme impact of rare and unpredictable outlier events. His corollary is that we need to focus on building resiliency vs. better prediction capabilities. This notion of creating resilient organizations is central to our book but one which I see playing out over and over again as we experience wave after wave of disruptive, and seemingly improvable, events. 

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Black Swan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most influential book of the past seventy-five years: a groundbreaking exploration of everything we know about what we don’t know, now with a new section called “On Robustness and Fragility.”

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions…


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