9 must-read technology books for 2020

Get a fresh perspective on core and emerging technologies - from AI to analytics - and the related leadership challenges. Put these technology books on your reading list
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must-read technology books 2020

How do you keep up with technology change, given the exponential rate of tech advances today? It’s not easy and it’s not optional. Since technology underpins the competitive stance of most organizations, maintaining a working knowledge of current and emerging technologies is as important for IT leaders as building their soft skills or leadership abilities.

To that end, we’ve pulled together a reading list for CIOs and IT leaders seeking to increase their tech skills in 2020. This covers everything from digital systems and architecture to AI and deep learning, plus the ins and outs of tech experimentation and innovation.

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Enjoy these nine books for a thorough dive into key technologies and the related business and leadership challenges:

Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success

By Jeanne W. Ross, Cynthia M. Beath, and Martin Mocker


Book description (via MIT Center for Information Systems Research): “In the digital economy, technologies and customer demands are changing rapidly. As a result, business strategies are constantly evolving. Only agile companies will survive! Most business leaders rely on organizational structure to implement strategy, unaware that structure inhibits, rather than enables, agility. To execute digital strategies, companies must abandon structure and instead rely on business design.

Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success discusses five capabilities—we refer to them as building blocks — that together enable established companies to execute, and constantly refine, their business strategies. Published by MIT Press, the book explains how companies can evolve into digital powerhouses without compromising current sources of revenues and profits.”

Why you should read it: Ross (principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research) and Beath (Professor Emerita at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business) have decades of experience examining corporate IT organizations to uncover best practices for technology-enabled competitive advantage. In this book, along with fellow author Mocker, they dig into five years of research and in-depth case studies at digital leaders (Amazon, BNY Mellon, LEGO, Philips, Schneider Electric, USAA, and more). What emerges is a practical guide to what they have found to be the foundational components of digital business: shared customer insights, an operational backbone, a digital platform, an accountability framework, and an external developer platform.

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Artificial Intelligence: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review

By Thomas H. Davenport, Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, and H. James Wilson


Book description (via HBR): “Companies that don’t use AI will soon be obsolete. From making faster, better decisions to automating rote work to enabling robots to respond to emotions, AI and machine learning are already reshaping business and society. What should you and your company be doing today to ensure that you’re poised for success and keeping up with your competitors in the age of AI?

Artificial Intelligence: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review brings you today’s most essential thinking on AI and explains how to launch the right initiatives at your company to capitalize on the opportunity of the machine intelligence revolution.”

Why you should read it: This collection of previously published articles by a veritable Who’s Who of Tech Thought Leaders provides a high-level overview of AI as seen through a practical business lens: what AI is and isn’t, how it’s impacting organizations and markets, the implications for business leaders, and more. Each article ends with practical takeaways. HBR’s Artificial Intelligence: Tools for Preparing Your Team for the Future is an optional companion, including a slide deck highlighting the most critical information presented in the book; discussion questions corresponding with each article; and two Harvard Business School (HBS) case studies.

The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives

By Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler


Book description (via Amazon): “In their book Abundance, bestselling authors and futurists Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler tackled grand global challenges, such as poverty, hunger, and energy. Then, in Bold, they chronicled the use of exponential technologies that allowed the emergence of powerful new entrepreneurs. Now the bestselling authors are back with The Future Is Faster Than You Think, a blueprint for how our world will change in response to the next ten years of rapid technological disruption…

“Diamandis, a space-entrepreneur-turned-innovation-pioneer, and Kotler, bestselling author and peak performance expert, probe the science of technological convergence and how it will reinvent every part of our lives — transportation, retail, advertising, education, health, entertainment, food, and finance — taking humanity into uncharted territories and reimagining the world as we know it.”

Why you should read it: There are recommendations from the likes of Ray Kurzweil, Pharell Williams, and Tony Robbins for this guide to the next decade. Diamandis and Kotler explore how the convergence of exponentially advancing technologies – AI, robotics, virtual reality, digital biology, IoT, 3D printing, blockchain, global gigabit networks – will transform industries and impact society overall.

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything

By Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith


Book description (via Amazon): “In this smart and funny book, celebrated cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith give us a snapshot of what’s coming next – from robot swarms to nuclear fusion-powered toasters. By weaving their own research, interviews with the scientists who are making these advances happen, and Zach’s trademark comics, the Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.

Soonish investigates ten different emerging fields, from programmable matter to augmented reality, from space elevators to robotic construction, to show us the amazing world we will have, you know, soonish.”

Why you should read it: This digestible and funny book from Dr. Kelly Weinersmith and her cartoonist husband looks at ten technology breakthroughs that may have an enormous impact on the future. Combing through existing research and conducting interviews with those at the forefront of these emerging technologies, from augmented reality to space travel, the duo offers a peek at some possible tomorrow worlds and what will need to happen to get us there.

The Power of Experiments: Decision Making in a Data-Driven World

By Michael Luca and Max H. Bazerman


Book description (via MIT Press): “Have you logged into Facebook recently? Searched for something on Google? Chosen a movie on Netflix? If so, you’ve probably been an unwitting participant in a variety of experiments — also known as randomized controlled trials — designed to test the impact of different online experiences. Once an esoteric tool for academic research, the randomized controlled trial has gone mainstream. No tech company worth its salt (or its share price) would dare make major changes to its platform without first running experiments to understand how they would influence user behavior.

“In this book, Michael Luca and Max Bazerman explain the importance of experiments for decision making in a data-driven world.”

Why you should read it: This forthcoming tome (March 2020) examines the role experimentation has played in the success of some of today’s tech giants (StubHub, Alibaba, Uber, eBay). HBS business professors Luca and Bazerman outline the rise of tech-enabled experimentation in organizations, the powerful role that data-driven tests can play in decision-making, and how business leaders can most effectively harness this powerful tool (made infinitely more doable in the digital age).

Let’s look at the next four books:

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.