A lot of people use the words “innovation” and “creativity” interchangeably, but my favorite definition helps differentiate the two: “Innovation is the value-added application of a creative idea.”
Of course, knowing a snappy definition is one thing — putting it into practice is something else altogether. If you’re struggling to truly innovate, or if you just want to refresh your creative mojo, start with this list of books that will make you more innovative in the new year.
I know there are a LOT of books out there on these topics, but this list is made up of some of my own trusted favorites. It’s an eclectic mix of exciting new releases from the past year combined with a few of what I consider the all-time greats. Each of the books on this year’s list will help you generate more creative ideas, communicate and present your ideas more effectively, and/or foster a culture of innovation.
Plus, they’re all highly entertaining and enjoyable to read. Written by some of the top thought-leaders out there today, some of whom you may already know and others you most definitely should. As my company’s mission and motto is “Educate, Engage, and Excite,” TM I assure you that every book on this list fulfills this slogan with flying colors. They will inform you, capture and hold your interest, and inspire you to new heights.
14 Books, 365 Days of Innovation
My 14 recommended books, in alphabetical order, are (drum roll please…):
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People and 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People
Susan M. Weinschenk Ph.D.
These two beautiful, colorful, companion books take a fascinating, psychology-based (and yet extremely practical) approach to both technology design and presentation design based on how people see, listen, think, feel, learn, and act. Here’s a fun video sample from the author (otherwise known as the “Brain Lady”), as well as a link to her blog.
Back of the Napkin, The: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures and Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-on Method for Solving Complex Problems With Simple Pictures
Cave drawings (and, therefore, visual communication) existed long before the written word was invented. These books (especially the fun and interactive “Unfolding the Napkin” workshop-in-a-book) will teach you how to think, problem-solve, and communicate more visually, and master the art of napkin-sketching, whiteboard-drawing, and more. Tons of great resources on the website as well.
Design For How People Learn
The simple and straightforward title pretty much says it all. But what it doesn’t tell you is how extremely creative, visually appealing, and entertaining this amazing book is. For people who design and/or deliver training or facilitate workshops of any kind, this book is my new #1 recommendation. Even if you don’t do training, it will help to make you a smarter thinker and learner.
Doodle Revolution, The: Unlock the Power to Think Differently
The Beatles sang, “You say you want a Rev-o-lution, we-ll you know, we all want to change the world.” Well, visual thinker Sunni Brown IS changing the world through her Doodle Revolution by single-handedly shifting the paradigm from thinking of doodles as useless scribbles to giving the doodle its rightful place as a powerful and under-appreciated catalyst for innovation. Warning: If you visit her website, just know that you will be entering a wonder-filled world of color and creativity that you may never want to leave.
Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
While this book is not necessarily about innovation, per se, the creative and powerful storytelling by Wharton professor Adam Grant teaches us how being a “giver” rather than a “taker,” and and how selflessly cultivating a climate of generosity can help foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. One of the best business books of the past year, by a terrific guy who definitely practices what he preaches.
Icarus Deception, The: How High Will You Fly?
No book list on the topic of innovation would be complete without a selection by the brilliant and prolific thought leader Seth Godin. Last year it was Linchpin; this time around it’s Icarus. Impossible to describe in a sentence, the basic premise is: you are an artist and your work – whatever it is that you do – is your art. So now that you realize that, the question is: “what are you going to do about it?” If you don’t know Seth Godin yet, or don’t yet subscribe to his blog, you must. You just must. Take my word for it.
Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs
Bryan W. Mattimore
Staring at a blank screen, flip chart or whiteboard is no way to come up with new ideas — especially as a team. So ideation specialist Bryan Mattimore generously shares with us a number of his time-tested ideation and innovation secrets, including his simple but powerful (and energizing) “brainwalking” process, as well as numerous other idea-generating facilitation techniques and an array of inspirational and entertaining real-world innovation success stories.
Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia — Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things
In a world where Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials are thrown together and expected to work side by side in peace and harmony, the question becomes: “how can we leverage the power of this generational diversity to cultivate a climate of collaboration, creativity, and innovation?” Internet entrepreneur and keynote speaker Brad Szollose tells us how through humorous and insightful research and storytelling.
Naked Presenter, The: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides
To gain buy-in for your ideas, you need to be able to communicate and/or present them to your listener or audience. And this book is, without question, the single best book on public speaking I’ve ever read. And I’ve pretty much read them all. Written by Garr Reynolds, who I consider the king of presentations, this simple, aesthetically beautiful book is a resource that you will refer back to time and time again.
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
About how many business books can you say, “This book, literally, forever changed my life and the way in which I see the world?” This awe-inspiring, Zen-based piece of work will take your breath away — and make you unable to sit through (or produce) another horrible PowerPoint presentation ever again. His website and blog are amazing resources, as well.
Quick and Nimble: Lessons From Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So what can business leaders do to “build and foster a corporate culture that encourages innovation and drives results?” In his brand new book, New York Times business columnist and author of The Corner Office, Adam Bryant, identifies six key drivers that help companies to stay quick and nimble, as well as innovative.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences and Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
If Garr Reynolds is the king of presentation design and delivery, then Nancy Duarte is the queen. There is no way to put it other than to say that these two amazing – and amazingly beautiful – books will blow your mind. While Slide:ology is all about creating more effective visual presentations, Resonate is about telling more visual and impactful stories. Together, these two awesome works will transform you and help you transform your audiences. Great resources on her site as well.
Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get And Keep Your Creativity Flowing At Home, At Work & In Your Studio
Do you ever feel stuck when trying to come up with new creative ideas? This fun, colorful, visual, interactive book by Noah Scalin provides you with page after page of exercises intended to kick-start your creativity and help you generate new ideas. Whether you read it cover to cover, or simply open it to a random page, this stimulating do-it-yourself guidebook will help jump-start your creative flow.
White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner’s Guide to Communicating Visually Through Graphic, Web, & Multimedia Design
Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen
This book is a wonderful introduction to design thinking for non-designers. For someone like myself who previously knew very little about design, this visually beautiful book opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.
While there are definitely other great books out there on the topic of innovation and creativity, you have to start somewhere. So this list of personal favorites is as good as any and, to me, they are some of the best of the best. Now is the perfect time to start turning those New Year’s “resolutions” into “real solutions,” and one way to do that is through reading.
I know this list may, at first glance, seem a little overwhelming, but remember that, as Confucius said, a reading journey of a thousand (or even 14) books begins with a single book. Or something like that. So let the wonderful books on this list be the fuel that powers your innovation engine and speeds you down the highway of success.
If you have any additional book suggestions – or comments on any of the above selections – tell us about them in the comments section below.