Breaking The Wheel

Management & Operations Resources

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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, Jim Collins

This is, hands down, the best business book I have yet read. Collins and his team identified a set of exacting criteria for defining a “good to great” business – a company that was mediocre for 15+ years, experienced an inflection point in performance, and then went to be an industry leader for at least 15 years. They then looked for trends between them and differences from less successful comparison companies in the same industries. It offers concrete recommendations on how to make a great company, supported by honest-to-god data, not historical anecdotes.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries

This is an essential book for any professional’s library. Yes, it is nominally aimed at entrepreneurs, but it’s as applicable to marketing and operations. This is a book about how to test your ideas, how to measure them objectively, and how to reduce the cycle time between rounds of discovery. One of the best, most practical books on management I’ve ever read.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz

If you want the straight dope on how much it sucks to be the man or woman in charge, and what to do about it, look no further than Ben Horowitz’ no-holds-barred, warts-and-all, eminently readable treatise on the topic. Full of anecdotes and advice from a man who’s seen it all and lived to tell the tale. A must read if you plan to start your own studio or publishing company. Or any company, really.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Making video games is chaotic as all get out. But you know what’s more chaotic? Urban warfare. This is the single best book on leadership I have ever read, from two men who understand the subject intimately. Don’t let the title turn you off. “Extreme ownership” (both the concept and the book) doesn’t mean being a hard core lunatic and getting in everyone’s face. Quite the opposite. It means accepting responsibility – and accountability – for everything that happens around you. And being humble while you do it. Willink and Babin introduce lessons they learned in Iraq and then give examples of how they’ve applied those lessons in the business world. It’s a fast read and full of action. Which is a weird thing to say about a business book.

Discipline equals freedom.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott

In most circumstances, I tend to be skeptical of self-improvement books that are based entirely on anecdotal evidence. But Kim Scott wields such an overwhelming amount of emotional intelligence (not to mention a staggering resume) that you’d be foolish not to heed her words. An invaluable tome on how to manage people with honesty, compassion, and integrity, full of Scott’s unvarnished accounts of her own successes an failures.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t, Nate Silver

Nate Silver and his site,, famously predicted the electoral outcome of all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election. The guy understands data, statistics, and forecasts like few other people. But The Signal and the Noise isn’t a textbook or a primer of mathematics. Instead it’s a fascinating and very readable dive into the concepts behind forecasts and predictions. If you’re looking for a way to wrap your head around big data and analytics, look no further.

Managing Business Process Flows (3rd Edition), Sunil Chopra, Eitan Zemel, Jan A. Van Mieghem, Sudhakar D. Deshmukh

This is a straight up text book and it’s dry as a cracker. But it does a great job of walking you through the mathematics of operations management science, building up all of the crucial equations one formula at a time. If you want to scientifically manage any sort of process at your studio, this book will show you how to measure success. Get whatever edition is the most recent.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, Eliyahu Goldratt

This is a weird one: it’s an operations textbook that passes itself off as a novel. Using a struggling manufacturing plant as a petri dish, Goldratt socratically walks the reader though the key, often counter-intuitive, concepts of operations management. There’s an entirely unnecessary, vaguely chauvinistic subplot about the protagonist’s failing marriage that provides no value other than gratuitous drama. Feel free to skip those parts.

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Robert Coran

I’ve always had a soft spot for the iconoclasts. The folks who walked up to the status quo, looked it straight in the eye, and flipped it the bird. John Boyd was such a man. A fighter pilot turned warrior-philosopher, Boyd refused to accept the notion that dogfighting was pure art, and proceeded to demonstrate the science behind it. Then he turned his attention to the art of war in general, establishing concepts like “fourth generation warefare.” In the process he became a legend and revolutionized how militaries all over the world think about warfare.

While this biography won’t teach you anything about game development, it is inspirational in demonstrating how rigorous thinking can be applied to the most esoteric, seemingly unknowable topics.

Agile Game Development with Scrum, Clinton Keith

My honeymoon with scrum is long over, but that doesn’t that I don’t think the framework is devoid of value. Scrum is a great starting point for effective operations, and Clinton Keith’s seminal book on the topic is still my go-to reference. I suggest it to anyone who wants to learn more about scrum and agile, regardless of industry.

HBR IdeaCast

The official podcast of the Harvard Business Review, the premier magazine and source of casestudies for business schools. If you want to stay on top of the latest in business related thought leadership and research, this is your show. And if you’re running your own studio, you should want to stay on top of that. For serious.

HBR IdeaCast