Bookshelf · Henning Witzel


A selection of some of my favourite books that I recommend to read.

Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Book by Simon Sinek · 2011

Start with Why is one of the most useful and inspiring books I have read recently. It starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people wouldn't truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.

I started to learn seeing things from a different perspective by using his framework: the Golden Circle. He states that upon this, organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired - it all starts with WHY. Just recently, I held a presentation about user testing in my company. Before I began to show the results, I started with WHY we actually did user testing and moved then on to the HOW (the methods we used) and the WHAT (the results).

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Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don't

Book by L. David Marquet · 2020

Your words matter more than you think

Most of us use the language we inherited from a time when workers worked with their hands and managers worked with their heads. Today, your people do much more than simply follow orders. They contribute to performance and solve problems, and it's time we updated our language to reflect that.

In Leadership Is Language, former US Navy captain L. David Marquet offers a radical playbook to empower your people and put your team on a path to continuous improvement. The framework will help you achieve the right balance between deliberation and action, and take bold risks without endangering your mission. Among other things, you'll learn: How to avoid the seven common sins of questioning, from binary questions (should we do A or B?) to self-affirming questions (B is the better option, right?) Why you should vote first, then discuss, when deciding on a plan with your team, rather than voting after discussion. Why it's better to give your people information instead of instructions?

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Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

Book by L. David Marquet · 2013

I used to compare working in a software company like being on a ship. Everyone on board needs to know where we are heading. Each team has responsibility for a specific area and, at the same time, requires to function with others – it doesn't matter if you control the engines or work the kitchen.

Sometimes we get feedback that the ship is not fast enough. Sometimes people try to take a motorboat to go ahead while ending up coming back at some point. Who is making strategic decisions? Who is actually on the steering wheel? Is it one person that determines everything, and do we all have to follow? When I found this book, I was curious about the story of how David Marquet and 134 others overcame their challenges by actually being together on a submarine.

Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy's traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control.

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The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

Book by Rob Fitzpatrick · 2013

Talking to customers is one of the foundational skills of both Customer Development and Lean Startup. We all know we're supposed to do it, but nobody seems willing to admit that it's easy to screw up and hard to do right. Many of us even do talk to customers. But we still end up building stuff nobody buys or uses.

Learning how to ask the "right" questions to ascertain whether there is real customer pain is key. This book is going to show you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.

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Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders

Book by William A. Gentry · 2016

You’ve been promoted to leadership—congratulations! But it’s nothing like your old job, is it? William Gentry says it’s time to flip your script.

We all have mental scripts that tell us how the world works. Your old script was all about “me”: standing out as an individual. But as a new leader, you need to flip your script from “me” to “we” and help the group you lead succeed. In this book, Gentry supports and coaches you to flip your script in six key areas. He offers actionable, practical, evidence-based advice and examples drawn from his research, his work with leaders, and his own failures and triumphs of becoming a new leader. Get started flipping your script and become the kind of boss everyone wants to work for.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Book by Mark Manson · 2016

Mark Manson's book influenced some of my core philosophies and values. He says that there are only so many things we can give a fuck about, so we need to figure out which ones really matter. Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given.

What stuck with me is that you shouldn't base your happiness on values that are superstitious, socially destructive, and not controllable. Relying on external events that are outside of your control doesn't make you happy. Real-life stories like the one from Dave Mustaine or Pete Best make a good point. Base your values on things like honesty, self-respect, curiosity, or standing up for oneself and others. They can be achieved internally and opens your mind in a certain way to experience it.

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Creativity, Inc

Book by by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull · 2014

I’m a big fan of Pixar, and I’ve always wondered how they been able to create so many fantastic movies over the years? Movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Cars, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille. In this book, Ed answers the question, and you can learn about their growth and how they found a way to manage creativity. For me, it’s a must-read for product designers, managers, and artists that want to invent and create new products.

What stuck with me is the concept of the Braintrust. To achieve a certain level of honesty, they created a group of trusted colleagues that review the progress of a film that is in development. It’s an environment where honesty is possible; directors and creative teams can give and receive direct and constructive feedback to each other. According to Ed, the job of the Braintrust is to “push towards excellence, and root out mediocrity.” If I made you curious here two articles that go more into detail. The first one talks about lessons you can learn from the Braintrust and second one about why it’s important for a creative culture.

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Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

Book by Marty Cagan · 2018

In INSPIRED, technology product management thought leader Marty Cagan provides readers with a master class in how to structure and staff an empowered and effective product organization, and how to discover and deliver technology products that your customers will love--and that will work for your business.

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User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product

Book by Jeff Patton · 2014

User Story Mapping is a dead simple idea. Talk about the user's journey through your product by building a simple model that tells your user's story as you do. It turns out this simple idea makes working with user stories in agile development a lot easier.

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Design Products People Love

Book by Scott Hurff · 2015

How can you create products that successfully find customers? With this practical book, you'll learn from some of the best product designers in the field, from companies like Facebook and LinkedIn to up-and-coming contenders. You'll understand how to discover and interpret customer pain, and learn how to use this research to guide your team through each step of product creation.

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Shape Up

Book by Ryan Singer · 2019

This book is a guide to how Basecamp does product development. Ryan describes everything they do backed up with real stories. I already read it twice and apply multiple things in my daily work like breadboarding or mapping scopes – a toolbox full of techniques.

Just recently I visualised the process of shaping and published it into a discourse about learning Shape Up. My goal was to have a quick reference at hand, help me to refresh my memory as well as to promote the process inside my company.

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Delivering Happiness

Book by Tony Hsieh · 2010

Delivering Happiness is a book by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It details his life as an entrepreneur, with emphasis on the founding of LinkExchange and Zappos.

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Book by Yuval Noah Harari · 2011

The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century, focusing on Homo sapiens.

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Book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson · 2013

In this book, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson show both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any location.

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It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work

Book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson · 2018

In this timely manifesto, the authors of the New York Times bestseller Rework broadly reject the prevailing notion that long hours, aggressive hustle, and "whatever it takes" are required to run a successful business today.

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On Writing Well

Book by William Zinsser · 1976

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

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