A list of people, theories, and ideas that can be used as building blocks for the future.

Disruptive Innovation by Clayton Christensen

“First, a quick recap of the idea: “Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” More here.

It would be difficult to speak on innovation without discussing the contributions of Clayton Christensen. You may heard of his books, or at least the one, The Innovator’s Dilemma. As a great teacher, he has simplified some of the more complex topics around innovation and disruptive innovation. Explore him to learn more.

Four Steps to Epiphany by Steve Blank

It will be challenging for you to understand digital transformation until your mind has adjusted to the paradigm shift discussed by Steve Blank in the Four Steps to Epiphany. If you are facing digital transformation as an obstacle to grow your business, it likely means you are an existing business led by a traditional leader – not a digital native. If it is true, that you lack digital nativity, then it may also be true that you still prioritize product development over customer development. This paper by Steve Blank should help you adjust your mindset accordingly.

Atomic Design by Brad Frost

Brad Frost taught me how to think about design in a modular way. As Brad Frost calls it, Atomic Design. My ability to think of the thought leaders as building blocks is an essential component of what Brad Frost has done for design.

Earlyvangelists by Steve Blank

Yes, we have Steve Blank again. I mention him a third time below as well. After you read, and adopt, the concepts in Steve Blank’s paper The Four Steps to Epiphany, you will understand the importance of earlyvangelists. These are your early users who have the luxury to test your product before it evolves into an actual product and, eventually, a significant piece of your organization.

Do things that don’t scale by Paul Graham

Paul Graham works with Sam Altman over at Y-Combinator which is an accelerator with a unique model that has established itself as a global force building startups that solve problems that matter. Do things that don’t scale is an essay by Paul Graham that discusses the importance of focusing on the small things because they will soon become the big things.

Start with WHY by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is at the forefront of this concept of “purpose”. It has helped the world understand the importance of starting with why because people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. Adopt the principles of Simon Sinek to understand how to bake your purpose into the core of your organization.

Happy Startup Canvas by Happy Startup School

The Happy Startup School offers a unique model for elite founders to become great founders. They adopted a version of the Jose Munez’s Culture Canvas into what they call the Happy Startup Canvas. It is a helpful hands-on exercise to uncover and define your organization’s cultural elements. What’s your Startup DNA?

Love your problem by Ash Maurya

Ash Maurya is a significant thought leader in the problem > solution space. He publishes a lot of content and simplifies complex topics that bring “ah ha!” moments. I recommend adding him to your morning reads until your mindset has adjusted to operating naturally with his fundamental principles.

Lean Canvas by Ash Maurya

Ash Maurya invented the Lean Canvas as a helpful exercise for you to think through the flow of your entire organization. It is a holistic and high-level view that helps you eliminate mental roadblocks by providing you with infrastructure to the chaotic thoughts associated with building a startup.

Value Proposition Canvas by Alex Osterwalder

The Lean Canvas is holistic, and the Value Proposition can be thought of as an element within the whole. It can be difficult to map out all elements of a business, and, for that reason, Alex Ostewalder invented the Value Proposition Canvas. Alex Osterwalder brings clarity to the abstract concept of a value proposition and how to define yours.

Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder

The value proposition is the solution you sell to your customer. The solution that solves her previously unsolvable problem. Once you validate and prove your value proposition with your customers, it lays the foundation for you to map out your business model using the Business Model Canvas by Alex Ostewalder. How will your organization package the value proposition? How will you sell it – how will transactions take place? Which partners will unlock access to your customers who will then buy your value proposition?

Vision Roadmap by Taylor Westcoatt

Five years ago, I discovered Taylor Westcoatt. I can say with confidence that he is a smart guy. He is an exemplary case study of a product designer breaking through the barriers of organizational hierarchy to now become an investor in other startups. He is a role model. Just as his Vision Roadmap continues to change the outcomes of the founders he currently works with, it will soon impact the way the world solves problems. Learning to adopt the Vision Roadmap into my toolbox has certainly become a competitive advantage. Thank you, Taylor.

Journey Line by Barry Overeem

I learned of this exercise from a scrum master I met in Washington, D.C. It was simple. Well, she simplified a complex challenge. In order to learn who I was, what I brought to the table, and what I have done she shared the Journey Line exercise by Barry Overeem. Typically, this exercise is used by teams to give them an understanding of their fellow teammates as they come together into a cohesive force. I used the exercise to unpack the last decade of my life into ten buckets. Each bucket contains the stack of projects and value I created throughout the year. (link coming soon)

Feedback Loops by Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen is a brilliant product person. You may notice a theme in the people I have shared with you in this post are incredibly talented at simplifying complexity. Jason Keath once told me, “The difference between a good teacher and great teacher is their ability to simplify complex topics.” Andrew Chen taught me that when building a product, we want to start the process with the feedback loop. We will have a direction that we want to walk – our vision – however, from there, we must establish the feedback loop with our potential users in order to carefully nurture and nudge them towards acquisition and problem-solving. Andrew Chen overlaps with Steve Blank, for sure.

Petal Diagram by Steve Blank

The Petal Diagram is one more I want to include for you from Steve Blank. It is essentially a one page exercise that helps you think through the markets and competitors surrounding your startup. There is always competition. If you say you have no competitors it likely means you don’t really know what you are doing, and it will show. Competitive analysis can be a boring process, though. Steve Blank makes it exciting with his Petal Diagram.

Empathy Map

A staple in product design, the Empathy Map. Use the Empathy Map exercise to put yourself in the shoes of your users. Understand your users by thinking through what an individual user does, sees, hears, feels. If you do, you will surely be on your way to gaining the empathetic understanding required to create, package, and sell a value proposition (Alex Osterwalder) that solves her unsolvable problem (Ash Maurya).


As a new project, you won’t know who your users are, and your users are your eventual customers. Where do users come from? See “Earlyvangelists” from Steve Blank (above). When you don’t have an existing list of customers to segment, you must develop Proto-Persona based on the data you collect from your feedback loop (Andrew Chen). Eventually, as you validate your value proposition and prove your business model you will transition from Proto-Persona to Persona. The difference being that you will know, with certainty, who are your users, customers, and partners.

There are others I haven’t included in this post, but I will be sure to include them in the first version of the book we publish.