There are thousands of books on creativity and innovation out there. Many are great, some are exceptional, but few stand (or will stand) the test of time. As an author and researcher on innovation myself, I keep a short list of books to recommend to leaders and entrepreneurs who need to jump-start their creative thinking.
These are my personal favorites so far (in alphabetical order):
1. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. A quick, but entertaining read on how to generate brilliant ideas at a moment’s notice.
2. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. While creativity isn’t the focus, this book is full of insights on how to build a career or business around your creative passions.
3. Collective Genius by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback. A manual on creative collaborations by an outstanding collaboration of world-class scholars and creative thinkers.
4. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. Often we don’t need to improve our creative thinking. Instead, we need to grow confidence in our ability to have creative ideas.
5. Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. One of the first, and still one of the best, science-based books on the creative process.
6. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. An all-access pass inside one of the most prolific and creative animation studios in history.
7. Little Bets by Peter Sims. Great ideas don’t come out fully formed. They grow and change, and eventually shape up from making lots of small discoveries.
8. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky. It’s not enough to have ideas. You also have to make them happen, and Belsky shows us how to merge creativity with productivity.
9. The Myths of Creativity by David Burkus. OK. I’m biased on this one, but since I limited the list to 15, I had to include the synthesis of all my research on creativity and creative thinkers.
10. Originals by Adam Grant. Once you’ve got your idea, how do you champion it to a world that demands conformity? Adam Grant brilliantly addresses the question.
11. Powers of Two by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Creativity is a team effort. This book profiles the great teams and draws lessons we all can apply.
12. Unmistakable by Srinivas Rao. A new book and a new idea, but an impactful one. It’s not enough to be original; we need to be unmistakable.
13. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. Pink makes a compelling argument that creativity is the only thing that can’t be outsourced, and offers a guide to growing our creative thinking.
14. Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. An empirical look at the things highly creative people do differently.
15. Zig Zag by Keith Sawyer. Sawyer is one of the world’s foremost creativity researchers, but this isn’t a book of research. Instead, it’s a practical map of the creative process that anyone can follow.