The book: Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It, by Adrian J. Slywotzky and Karl Weber; Crown Business.

The big idea: Successful companies recognize that a gap exists between what people want and what they buy when they can't find better alternatives. These companies create demand by designing products that produce an emotional connection with consumers, remove their hassles, and every day in every way get better and better.

The backstory: Slywotzky has written several excellent books about how companies make money.

Don't tell. Show: Slywotzky presents dozens of enjoyably detailed case studies. He includes some of the usual examples (Zipcar, Amazon's Kindle) as well as some surprising ones (Eurostar trains, the Seattle Opera).

If you read nothing else: Chapter Two extols companies that identify and eliminate pain points for customers. For example, after health care company CareMore examined the problems seniors were having with navigating the medical system, it introduced new services, including free transportation to appointments. Chapter Four explains how to transform a product from something that sounds good to something people actually buy.

Food for thought: Any product could always be a little better, every customer a bit more satisfied. How do leaders assess at what point improvements succumb to the law of diminishing returns?