Covers for Productive Tensions

The best business books for everyone’s inner-CEO

Practical advice for business leaders and future leaders on how to prepare for the exciting—and challenging—future ahead

Modern businesses have seen few periods of change as intense as the one brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many business leaders are being forced to shift to the digital frontiers of management. These books, from our Management on the Cutting Edge series in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review, should aid in that process—offering solutions on how to lead in uncertain times, handle the trade-offs of innovation, harness digital technologies, and more.

Explore a selection of our business books below, and discover more in the Management on the Cutting Edge series here.

"Cover for Open Strategy"

Open Strategy: Mastering Disruption from Outside the C-Suite by Christian Stadler, Julia Hautz, Kurt Matzler and Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen

Why are some of the world’s most successful companies able to stay ahead of disruption, adopting and implementing innovative strategies, while others struggle? It’s not because they hire a new CEO or expensive consultants but rather because these pioneering companies have adopted a new way of strategizing. Instead of keeping strategic deliberations within the C-Suite, they open up strategic initiatives to a diverse group of stakeholders—front-line employees, experts, suppliers, customers, entrepreneurs, and even competitors. Open Strategy presents a new philosophy, key tools, step-by-step advice, and fascinating case studies—from companies that range from Barclays to Adidas—to guide business leaders in this groundbreaking approach to strategy.

“A useful blueprint.” —Financial Times

"Cover for Winning the Right Game"

Winning the Right Game: How to Disrupt, Defend, and Deliver in a Changing World by Ron Adner

The basis of competition is changing. Are you prepared? Rivalry is shifting from well-defined industries to broader ecosystems: automobiles to mobility platforms; banking to fintech; television broadcasting to video streaming. Your competitors are coming from new directions and pursuing different goals from those of your familiar rivals. In this world, succeeding with the old rules can mean losing the new game. Winning the Right Game introduces the concepts, tools, and frameworks necessary to confront the threat of ecosystem disruption and to develop the strategies that will let your organization play ecosystem offense.

Winning the Right Game is a landmark contribution to the strategy literature… Essential reading for anyone involved in setting strategy—or who wants to be.” —Rebecca Henderson, Harvard University; author of Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

"Cover of The Transformation Myth"

The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times by Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Nguyen Phillips and Jonathan R. Copulsky

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 shows that companies that use disruption as an opportunity for innovation emerge from it stronger. Companies that merely attempt to “weather the storm” until things go back to normal (or the next normal), on the other hand, miss an opportunity to thrive.

The Transformation Myth offers readers a vision for using technologies like cloud and AI to build digitally resilient organizations capable of pivoting in the face of disruptions.” —Teresa Briggs, Board Member, DocuSign, ServiceNow, Snowflake, Warby Parker

"Cover of The Ends Game"

The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value by Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg

Would you rather pay for health care or for better health? For school or education? For groceries or nutrition? A car or transportation? A theater performance or entertainment? In The Ends Game, Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg describe how some firms are rewriting the rules of commerce: instead of selling the “means” (products and services), they adopt innovative revenue models to pursue the “ends” (actual outcomes). They show that paying by the pill, semester, food item, vehicle, or show does not necessarily reflect the value that customers actually derive from their purchases. Revenue models anchored on the ownership of products, they argue, are patently inferior.

“A superb, nuanced, and wide-ranging book, The Ends Game is a must-read for anyone involved in strategy, business model design, marketing, customer relations, or organizational development.” —Strategy + Business

"Cover of The Digital Multinational"

The Digital Multinational: Navigating the New Normal in Global Business by Satish Nambisan and Yadong Luo

Digital technology has put globalization on steroids; multinational companies now account for one-third of world GDP and one-fourth of world employment. And yet complicating this story of unchecked global capitalism are two contradictory forces. Even as advances in digital technology enable borderless markets, a new nationalism has emerged, reviving protectionism and railing against digital colonialism. In The Digital Multinational, management experts Satish Nambisan and Yadong Luo examine how companies can adopt a dual strategy to cope with this new normal: harnessing the power of digital technology while adapting to the geopolitical realities of particular markets.

“I highly recommend this insightful book to leaders across the globe as they navigate the new normal.” Harit Talwar, Chairman of Consumer Business, Goldman Sachs

"Cover of Leading in the Digital World"

Leading in the Digital World: How to Foster Creativity, Collaboration, and Inclusivity by Amit S. Mukherjee

Certain ideas about business leadership are held to be timeless, and certain characteristics of leaders—often including a square jaw, a deep voice, and extroversion—are said to be universal. In Leading in the Digital World, Amit Mukherjee argues that since digital technologies are changing everything else, how could they not change leadership ideologies and styles? As more people worldwide participate equally in business, those assumptions of a leader’s ideal profile have become irrelevant. Offering a radical rethinking of leadership, Mukherjee shows why digital technologies call for a new kind of leader—one who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and inclusivity.

“Mukherjee makes a convincing case that digital technologies are creating new contexts for leadership.” —Strategy + Business

"Cover of The Technology Fallacy"

The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation by Gerald C. Kane, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan R. Copulsky and Garth R. Andrus

Digital technologies are disrupting organizations of every size and shape, leaving managers scrambling to find a technology fix that will help their organizations compete. This book offers managers and business leaders a guide for surviving digital disruptions—but it is not a book about technology. It is about the organizational changes required to harness the power of technology. The authors argue that digital disruption is primarily about people and that effective digital transformation involves changes to organizational dynamics and how work gets done. A focus only on selecting and implementing the right digital technologies is not likely to lead to success. The best way to respond to digital disruption is by changing the company culture to be more agile, risk tolerant, and experimental.

“Must-read for digital leaders.” —Thrive Global

"Cover of Designed for Digital"

Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success by Jeanne W. Ross, Cynthia M. Beath and Martin Mocker

Most established companies have deployed such digital technologies as the cloud, mobile apps, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence. But few established companies are designed for digital. This book offers an essential guide for retooling organizations for digital success. In the digital economy, rapid pace of change in technology capabilities and customer desires means that business strategy must be fluid. As a result, the authors explain, business design has become a critical management responsibility. Digital design, not strategy, is what separates winners from losers in the digital economy.

“Sick of being told your business should be more like Apple, Amazon, Uber, or Airbnb? Mystified about how to apply their examples to your big, older company’s digital transformation work? If so, read Designed for Digital.” —The Enterprisers Project

"Cover of Work Without Jobs"

Forthcoming: Work without Jobs: How to Reboot Your Organization’s Work Operating System by Ravin Jesuthasan and John W. Boudreau

Work is traditionally understood as a “job,” and workers as “jobholders.” Jobs are structured by titles, hierarchies, and qualifications. In Work without Jobs, Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau propose a radically new way of looking at work. They describe a new “work operating system” that deconstructs jobs into their component parts and reconstructs these components into more optimal combinations that reflect the skills and abilities of individual workers. In a new normal of rapidly accelerating automation, demands for organizational agility, efforts to increase diversity, and the emergence of alternative work arrangements, the old system based on jobs and jobholders is cumbersome and ungainly. Jesuthasan and Boudreau’s new system lays out a roadmap for the future of work.

Work without Jobs should be required reading for the leader and HR manager of the future.” Marshall Goldsmith, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Triggers, Mojo, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

"Cover of Productive Tensions"

Forthcoming: Productive Tensions: How Every Leader Can Tackle Innovation’s Toughest Trade-Offs by Christopher B. Bingham and Rory M. McDonald

Why is leading innovation in today’s dynamic business environment so distressingly hit-or-miss? Drawing on cutting-edge research and probing interviews with hundreds of leaders across three continents, in Productive Tensions Bingham and McDonald find that the most effective leaders and successful innovators embrace the tensions that arise from competing aims: efficiency or flexibility? consistency or change? product or purpose? Bingham and McDonald spotlight eight critical tensions that every innovator must master, and they spell out, with dozens of detailed examples of both success and failure, how to navigate them. The authors guide readers through innovation’s thorniest tensions, using examples drawn from the experience of organizations as varied as P&G, Instagram, the US military, Honda, In-N-Out Burger, Slack, Under Armour, and snowboarding company Burton.

“Productive Tensions brilliantly empowers leaders to throw off the constraints of either/or thinking that lead to mediocre new products and business models… It’s the how-to manual every disruptive innovator needs.” —Carey Jaros, CEO, Gojo Industries | PURELL

"Cover for Redesigning Work"

Forthcoming: Redesigning Work: How to Transform Your Organization and Make Hybrid Work for Everyone by Lynda Gratton

Professor Lynda Gratton is the global thought-leader on the future of work. Drawing on thirty years of research into the technological, demographic, cultural, and societal trends that are shaping work and building on what we learned through our experiences of the pandemic, Gratton presents her innovative four-step framework for redesigning work that will help you understand your people and what drives performance, reimagine creative new ways to work, model and test these approaches within your organization, and act and create to ensure your redesign has lasting benefits.

“A remarkably thoughtful and practical guide to rethinking how work gets done.” —Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business School; author of The Fearless Organization

Explore more books in the Management on the Cutting Edge series