The book: Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown; HarperBusiness; October 2009.

The big idea: Design is about more than aesthetics, just as exercise is about more than looking good. Design thinking considers how people interact with products, with other people, and with their surroundings.

The backstory: Brown is the CEO of iconic innovation firm IDEO, which famously hit on the first popular mouse design by attaching the roller ball from a deodorant dispenser to the bottom of a butter dish.

If you read nothing else: Brown's most intriguing ideas involve innovation in services. In Chapter Two, he explains how one designer created a more inviting hospital setting after feigning an injury and then subjecting himself to the ER experience, armed with a hidden camera. To help Marriott create that homey feel, IDEO built a full-scale mockup of part of an extended-stay hotel. Read about it in Chapter Four.

Pass-along value: This should be mandatory reading for marketers and engineers who can't understand why a product as cool as the Segway wasn't a breakout hit.

Rigor rating: 7 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). The book draws heavily on case studies of IDEO gigs with clients such as Amtrak, Intel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though IDEO's track record is incomparable, the scent of self-promotion occasionally wafts through the pages.