The Luna Tractor MBA

Always Curious. Always Learning.

What started as a tongue-in-cheek reading list alternative to an expensive university MBA course has turned into one of Luna Tractor’s best-loved offerings online.

Read. Keep. Borrow. Return. Gift. Share. Our curated list of books covering the broad spectrum from lean theory to design thinking, strategy, leadership, story-telling and human factors. Start anywhere you fancy, read in any order and let us know what challenges and inspires you.

As always the most important thing is just to start!

Superforecasting : The Art and Science of Prediction

By Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner

Leadership, process improvement, innovation and transformation all share a common thread — they are founded on our attempts to predict the future. Where will the market go? What factors will impact my team and organisation? What exactly will that look like?

Superforecasting provides both the knowledge and the skills to allow the better crafting, testing and evaluation of forecasts, along with a broader breakdown of how teams can function to better leverage cross functional skills and knowledge, while learning and improving these skills on the go.

Borrow
Or Buy

Turn The Ship Around

By L David Marquet

We know innovation often happens in unlikely places and creativity thrives on constraints.  Within the confines of a long metal tube full of people and a nuclear reactor which stays underwater for 3 months at a time Captain David Marquet ended up learning a bunch of really important stuff about people, models of leadership and how we move on from command and control.  The book is both a great story and has some really practical approaches which are totally applicable even if you don’t have nuclear launch codes.

Borrow
Or Buy

Hooked : How Leaders Connect, Engage and Inspire with Storytelling

By Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu
We can all recall stories from childhood — but can we remember and re-tell the strategy presented by our CEO at last years conference?
Story-telling is a powerful approach to communicating (often complex) messages with an engaging, understandable and memorable outcome. Written by Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu with a focus on story-telling in business, Hooked — How Leaders Connect, Engage and Inspire with Storytelling is a super practical guide to the many methodologies and techniques for effective communicating in business and in the workplace.
Written in a pragmatic and no-fuss manner with a bunch of real-life examples — think tool-kit versus story itself — Hooked is an ideal read for masters of storytelling wanting to finesse their craft, or for newbies to the art (and science) of communicating in compelling ways.

 

Borrow
Or Buy

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande

Now you’re on the way to your Luna MBA, let’s take a side-step, and experience what happens when technical practices meet storytelling, individualised communication and innovation.

At face-value, Being Mortal is Gawande’s exploration of how medicine’s technical advancement has left the customer (us real people) behind. Gawande beautifully exposes the risks of addressing human challenges with purely technical solutions. Behind all of this lies his commitment to asking the questions differently, never losing sight of the human at it’s centre.

Borrow
Or Buy

Conflict Without Casualties

By Nate Reiger

Change, leadership and growth are all the process of moving from current states to better states. Be it technical innovation, creative processes, or difficult conversations with employees and clients; bridging the gap from where we are to where we want to be is nothing more than the process of engaging in healthy, positive conflict — to create.

Conflict without Casualties is a field guide for seeking to merge empathy and accountability, fundamental to leveraging diversity, maintaining a growth mindset, and critically, ensuring accountability of self and team.

We like how Dan Pink puts it: “Conflict Without Casualties fills a gap by showing leaders at any level how to leverage positive conflict. Practical, insightful, challenging, relevant.”

Borrow
Or Buy

Good Strategy. Bad Strategy.

By Richard Rumelt

We rate this the best strategy book ever written for business people. It not only debunks all the mission, vision and values crap we have been peddling for decades as ‘strategy’ in the West, but tells you how to do it right. Turns out strategy is just like working agile – diagnose a customer problem, choose your option for addressing it (there’ll be many, and you’ll have to say ‘no’ to some), plan-do-check-act, and don’t wait five years to see if it worked.

Borrow
Or Buy

Rework

By  Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson founders of 37 Signals

The thing most striking about 37signals’ story was, they clued in to not having their payment feature delivered for Basecamp until after they had determined they were delivering a product of value. At the time an awkward decision is the most common strategy for marketing digital products today, subscription services are going to make us all poor!

It’s also a Luna fave for it’s philosophy on entrepreneurship: ‘What you really need to do is stop talking and start working’ is echoed in our oft quoted ‘Start by starting’.

Borrow
Or Buy

Meatball Sundae

By Seth Godin

Seth got tired of the repetition of earning money from bricks-and-mortar businesses who wanted to be ‘digital’, because the advice was the same every time. You can’t dominate distribution on the web, and there is no ‘middle of the road’ mass market. Suck it up Grandma.

Borrow
Or Buy

Predictably Irrational

Daniel Ariely

The handbook on how to move fast, and be customer-led, without losing your mind. Turns out if you solve interesting problems for yourself, other people have the same problems and will pay you money for your insight. Such an easy read – short chapters, quick lessons, pithy conclusions.

Borrow
Or Buy

Delivering Happiness

By Tony Tsieh

The story of Zappos – the most unlikely online retailer you can imagine, selling shoes on the web. Although occasionally a bit FIGJAM, the author imparts some good news for the humanists out there – online businesses succeed because of people and service. Australian retailers need to read this book, get their heads out of their asses, and start building online.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Perfect Store

Adam Cohen

#5 and #6 go together, because Amazon so admired the Zappo business they bought it. Understanding the business models of the last 10 years is vital to further innovation – this book is as good a history of ecommerce as you will find.

Borrow
Or Buy

Founders at Work

By Jessica Livingston

Suprising stories of the winners of the 21st century’s race to build businesses on the internet. Lots of lessons of how what you started out to do, isn’t what you always end up doing. This book adds a human face to many of the brands of the last decade, and some from the 1990s as well that have been swallowed up. Inspiring.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

Cooper and Vlaskovits

One of the most influential thinkers to emerge from the Stanford melting pot in recent times is Steve Blank, with his amazing book The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Unfortunately, his brain is the size of a planet and this shows in his book – it is vast in scope, terse in tone, complex in structure and a bit of a chore to follow. Fortunately, a couple of his students wrote the cheat’s guide – and this is it. Compulsory reading to understand innovation in the modern context – not just in the form of startups, but also within larger companies.

Borrow
Or Buy

Freakonomics

By Levitt & Dubner

A partner to Daniel Ariely’s book when it comes to understanding customers. I suspect WE Deming would have loved this book, with its insistence on good quality statistical proofs and proper experimental approaches. Not sure Deming would have loved some of the funnier examples, but hey, he must have had a sense of humor somewhere. A must-read to make you think twice about those assumptions on what your customers want and need.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Toyota Way

By Jeff Liker

Liker, who has remarkable inside knowledge of the workings of Toyota, does the West a big favour by describing in terms we can understand the sometimes impenetrable system of working developed on the top of Deming and Ohno’s leadership. He summarises 14 sensible and easily understood business rules — you’ll do well to write them down and have them to hand.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Art of Agile Development

By James Shore and Shane Warden

Warning, this is not a Dummies Guide to agile software development. It is however, one of the most thorough, extensive books you will find on the subject of agile software development. Have it handy to dip into, or read bigger chunks as an education on why agile works, what all those mysterious techniques and practices are, with a particular nod towards XP or Extreme Programming methods .

Borrow
Or Buy

Hackers & Painters

By Paul Graham

Now days Paul Graham is more famous for his Y Combinator Angel fund … but don’t be fooled, back in the day Paul was both a proper Hacker and very successful in his own right.  This book is one that we have often given to leaders of technology teams who are not themselves nerds.  It’s an essential guide to the mind of the software developer and explains the art and science blend that is great software development.

Borrow
Or Buy

Here comes everybody

By Clay Shirky

An excellent book that teaches us the power of the internet when it comes to communicating, and introduces the best definition of governance ever written – ‘rules for losing’. If you read carefully, Shirky provides the rational for individual organisations to rethink their org chart from being based on the limits of ‘span of control’ for bosses, and functional teams, to more communicative multi-skilled groups with a clear purpose. Sound like agile? Did to us.

Borrow
Or Buy

Freedom from Command and Control

By Jeff Liker

In my view, Seddon has picked up the lean torch from Deming, and run hard with it in a world of service-based government and business organisations (as opposed to manufacturing). He is a detail guy, steeped in the rigor and the hard slog of transforming organisations from the top down. His vanguard website and newsletter are also well worth getting to know.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Innovator’s Dilemma

By Clayton Christensen

Whilst not a new principle at all (Richard Pascale wrote about it in the 1980s, by the way ignore his Seven S theories IMHO, Christensen managed to coin a brilliantly memorable phrase to describe it 10 years later, and write a book to summarise the concept that we all fall in love with the last brilliant thing we made, and refuse to move on. Sadly, people have only been discovering this book in the last couple of years it seems. Too bloody late!

Borrow
Or Buy

Don’t Make Me Think

By Steve Krug

One of a pair of fundamental resources around listening to customers, observing customers and designing winning products as a result. If we had a dollar for every smart-arse who said “…oh, but Steve Jobs didn’t listen to customers”; or “…like Henry Ford said, ask the customer what they want and they’ll say a faster horse”, I’d be a rich man.

This book will explain why that is bullshit, and tell you how to overcome your fear and ignorance of customers. Easy to read like Rework by 37 Signals.

Borrow
Or Buy

Rocket Surgery Made Easy

By Steve Krug

The second in the series, and a worthy follow-up to Don’t Make Me Think. If you honestly work in product development, or design, or user experience and have not read these books – hang your heads in shame. Which may on fact be most of you! The most important point for agilistas is how the methodology of getting customers involved for one morning a month with your ideas can be proven to be valid against the army of marketing naysayers who demand huge sample sizes, laboratory heat map testing, and months of large scale research.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Mythical Man Month

By Fred Brooks

A candidate for the oldest book in our list, first published in 1975. A classic on team behavior, and the impossibility of success from just adding more resource to a project to make it happen faster. Brooks would have loved agile, and stands alongside Tim Lister and Tom Demarco as heroes from the 20th century. Obviously not required reading for any MBA that I know – they were too busy studying shareholder value and GRQ101.

Borrow
Or Buy

In Great Company

By Human Synergistics

Call us biased, as we had amazing results from using the Human Synergistics toolset at Lonely Planet as part of the change program moving to agile, but this is a favourite book on culture. It takes it from a thing we all know exists, to a science that we can understand and manage our way to healthier organisations with. It’s a big, dense book, and (at time of writing) there’s no eBook version sadly. And take the time to watch some of the videos while you are on their website.

Borrow
Or Buy

Good to Great

By Jim Collins

As with all books, authors are damned to historical retrospective where we can all laugh at what happened to the heroic companies referenced in their book. For a real chuckle, revisit that amazing 1980s treatise In Search of Excellence by Peters and Waterman. Good to Great survives because the model of why the companies were great alongside their industry competitors is credible and still working today. His new book Great by Choice is in available in Kindle reader, and may shed more light on what good looks like in the 21st century.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Winter of our Disconnect

By Susan Mauchon

James’ named this his favourite book of 2010 – a balanced and clever story of a family in Perth giving up electronics for a few months and observing the sociological results first hand. Every second chapter visits the research and theories around the impact of new media and devices on people and society. Essential reading for insight into the biases that we now live with daily – and it might well be a life saver for a few people struggling with teenagers and their addiction to online gaming, Instagram and Snapchat.

Borrow
Or Buy

What Should I Do With My Life

By Po Bronson

A wonderful book with a title that gives the story away nicely. Bronson’s earlier book ‘The Nudist on the Late Shift’ inspired me to up sticks from Melbourne and move to San Francisco for a dot com opportunity in 2000. This one brought me home. A collection of 50 stories of people who have struggled with this monumental question, and an emergent theme in the end.

Borrow
Or Buy

Learning To See

By John Shook & Mike Rother

A bit out of character for a generalist book-list, because it is strictly a how-to guide on value stream mapping — the lean tool for figuring out how to improve your business through better flow, attention to value delivery, and reduction in waste. A hard read, but lots of pictures and the concepts are vital, and not explained as well in many other books. You’ll learn to appreciate that Deming and Ohno had some hard-arsed principles behind their designs for work, if nothing else.

Borrow
Or Buy

Marketing Warfare

By Ries & Trout

I owned this book in the 1980s, and loaned it to my mate Andy who had just become the marketing manager at a big hotel chain in NZ. I recall telling him ‘this is pretty much all you need to know’, and I’m guessing he loved it so much he never gave it back. The good news is that there is a 20th anniversary edition, so you have a chance of getting hold of this book. In it you will learn all the fascinating military strategy from history you will ever need, and how it relates to business strategy in marketing today. Two subjects mastered in one paperback!

Borrow
Or Buy

Lean for Dummies

By Natalie Sayer & Bruce Williams

If Shook’s book is the reading equivalent of agile jerky (an acquired taste, and tough to chew through), this Dummies Guide is the plain pork sausage. A great introduction to Lean thinking, it is necessarily shallow but impressively broad in scope (like all Dummies Guides I guess). If someone is freaking you out with their use of Japanese words like Heijunka, have this guide handy.

Borrow
Or Buy

Zero Moment of Truth

By Google

This is a downloadable eBook (PDF and other formats) available here. The hypothesis is simple – buyer behavior has changed from what you were taught in the pre-search engine world. Now a huge part of buying something is a moment of truth when you google ‘Samsung TV consumer review’ before heading to the store, or even at the store. The growth of sites like Whirlpool in Australia attest to this, and the Google research is fascinating as to the timing of consumer research on the web, in relation to their actual purchase (see page 62). If you are in financial services or travel, read and weep.

Borrow
Or Buy

Management 3.0

By Jurgen Appelo

For such a large book with a grandiose title, the down to earth, funny and insightful way it is written is inspiring. I once helped make a book called The Successful Manager’s Handbook, which was an all-time bestseller, and I think this one is the replacement for people having to build 21st century organisations. Lots of stuff on managing Agile, plus managing the big picture of a company full of talented people in an agile way. If I lived my life twice over, took copious notes on the way, plus had 75 more IQ points, I might have written this book before Jurgen did. It still wouldn’t have been as good.

Borrow
Or Buy

Peopleware

By Lister & DeMarco

Another vintage piece of writing, ignored by managers for decades since 1987 when it was first published. Luckily they did a second edition in 1999 which you might be able to get your hands on, and at $10 for a Kindle edition versus $32 and freight for the cellulose model, you have no excuses. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Lister in NZ at an SDC conference, and found the secret to writing in the informative, witty style of this 25 year old book – be witty, warm and informative in person!

Borrow
Or Buy

The Lean Start-up

By Eric Reis

On the list above, we named Steve Blank as a smart man from Stanford. Here’s another one. A lot of people are foolishly ignoring this book as only being relevant to smelly university kids starting a dot com in the garage, when in fact it has the most potential to influence the way mainstream corporations learn to innovate.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Human Equation (building profits by putting people first)

By Jeffrey Pfeffer

This 1998 book is your shortcut of all the important research and knowledge from the 20th century on why people live, work and play the way they do. Pfeffer is yet another Stanford person (if they ever meet, morning tea in the staffroom must be bloody amazing at Stanford) and his ability to bring together multiple threads of history and science is unparalleled. If it is news to your boss that people and profit are linked in some way, have them read Chapter 2.

Borrow
Or Buy

The End of Business As Usual

By Brian Solis

A recent book from the research firm that houses the BYT (bright young thing) Jeremiah Owyang, one of the emerging big brains thinking about the impact of communities moving online. A fairly light read, it’s a quick skim to catch up on what the kids have been doing lately online.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Principles of Scientific Management

By Frederick Winslow Taylor

The oldest book on this list by decades, and still remarkably readable despite being 100 years old last year. This book is to some extent, for agilists and lean thinkers, the root of all evil. Written about a series of worker experiments carried out between 1880 and 1910, at several US steel companies and beyond (see his mate Henry Ford for example), Taylor pioneered time and motion studies and the belief that the worker needs to be managed to be efficient. It’s important to read to understand the context Taylor was working from, and reflect on just how irrelevant that is to innovating businesses 130 years later.

Borrow
Or Buy

Owners Workshop Manual, Apollo 11

By Haynes

No Luna degree would be complete without studying and passing the exam on the greatest vehicle ever made. You never know when you will find yourself on the moon and needing to re-start the old girl or begin that restoration project in the shed.

Borrow
Or Buy

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

By Tim Hardford

A remarkable, if slightly repetitive set of stories showing us the unpredictable path to true innovation. He starts with the story of Palchinsky at the turn of the 20th century who may have just invented Agile approaches analysing the Russian economy even before the ship building yards of the first world war; Of course he was exiled to Siberia for his efforts. He also explores our aversion to variation and experimentation – the tendency for governments and corporate bosses to love large and grandiose projects instead. As Hardford points out the proliferation of iPhone and Android apps has hidden the uncomfortable truth which is innovation is harder, slower and costlier than ever before. All the easy problems have already been solved. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book to inspire you to buy and read it.

‘Return on investment is simply not a useful way of thinking about new ideas and new technologies. It is impossible to estimate a percentage return on blue-sky research, and it is delusional even to try. Most new technologies fail completely. Most original ideas turnout either to be not original after all, or original for the very good reason that they are useless. And when a original idea does work, the returns can be too high to be sensibly measured.’

Borrow
Or Buy

Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

By Michael A Hiltzik

It is quite hard to imagine a world without so many of the things invented at the PARC labs. So often we talk about wanting innovation in our organisation, but I think without really appreciating the investment, genius and insanity it really takes. Don’t even talk about building an innovation lab in your organisation until you’ve read and appreciated these stories.

Borrow
Or Buy

The Lean Product Playbook

By Dan Olsen

How to innovate with minimum viable products and rapid customer feedback.

Olsen has downloaded his years of experience in developing and managing products into a step-by-step, easy to understand instruction manual. The Lean Product Playbook provides a detailed yet easy to follow process on how to create great products, but more importantly it explains how to avoid the pitfalls of going too far down the path without validating your product is right for market.

The catchphrase of the product management world at present is “Product-Market Fit”, and this book provides a detailed definition of exactly what this means, why it’s important, and how to find it. It’s worth noting that Olsen’s focus is software products, however the process is still relevant and translatable for non-technical equivalents.

This book is recommended for anyone new to product management who is looking for an easy-to-follow, tried and tested guide on how to develop products. It’s also a great refresher for those who have worked in the field and want to understand and implement Lean tools and methods.

 

Borrow
Or Buy

The Lean Product Playbook

Knowledge shared. Knowledge gained.


Reach Out To Us More At Amazon