Do you remember getting new school supplies as a child at the start of each school year? The perfection of newly sharpened pencils with pristine erasers, the intoxicating smell of those fruit-scented markers, and the sharp crack of a hardback textbook’s spine the first time you opened it.
Well, it’s back to school time and for most of us, those are fairly distant memories. However, dear reader, I believe we share a love of lifetime learning so here for your reading enjoyment is a list of books I recommend for insights on innovation. If you come across one that’s new to you and decide to read it, I hope you will find a bit of inspiration or a nugget of knowledge to apply in the year to come and beyond.
1. A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger: explore the art of questioning and its application for innovation. Berger provides some simple frameworks to successfully use questioning and interesting examples of innovators whose inquiries led to breakthroughs.
2. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries: the Lean Startup primer for anyone interested in entrepreneurship or innovation in general; somewhat technology industry focused, but principles are more broadly applicable.
3. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, Ash Maurya: valuable for startups; he builds on concepts from other thinkers in space (e.g. Eric Ries and Steve Blank) but gives many more practical tips and real world examples for applying lean startup principles.
4. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman: a seminal work for anyone interested in why people do what they do. Fair warning, this one is long and a bit dry and academic in parts, but I think it’s still worth it for a deep and thorough understanding of System 1 vs. System 2 thinking.
5. Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results, Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg: I read this one as part of the Innovation & Design MOOC offered by University of Cincinnati, but the book stands alone as as instruction manual for creative brainstorming techniques that work.
6. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, Tim Brown: Conceptual book about design thinking with lots of IDEO examples. This isn’t a “how to” book—there’s not a lot of practical application tips, but it does have great examples from a range of companies and is fun to read.
7. The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, David Burkus: Insightful and inspiring book about creativity, useful for both individuals and entire organizations. Debunks common creativity myths and gives the message that everyone can be creative.
8. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath: a great idea is only great if you can get others to remember and act on it so this book gives lots of ways to make ideas “stickier” with lots of fun examples.
9. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink: I read this several years ago and I feel like I have already seen the trends shifting as he predicts and believe they will only accelerate as we continue to move from the “information” to the “conceptual” age.
10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini: This book is all about how to get people to say "yes". I actually read this book in college and still reference what I learned from it—it’s the essential guide to persuasion for marketers and market researchers.
Bonus Reads: For My Fellow Researchers
11. Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, Sam Gosling: a psychologist’s take on what you can learn about people based on their stuff. It explores the connection between belongings and the “big five” personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeability, and Neuroticism). Great read for those who regularly conduct ethnographic/observational research.
12. Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Barbara Ehrenreich: I recommend this book for exercising your empathy muscle and getting a unique take on anthropological research. The author tells the story of her experiment to live on poverty-level wages for a time. While this book is not without detractors (namely that the experiment was conducted by an otherwise wealthy white woman who got to go back to her “real life”), I think it still paints a compelling portrait of a specific life experience.
Did I miss one of your favorites? I’d love to get some of your top recommendations too so please leave a comment to this post with one of your favorite innovation titles.
Note: I provided hyperlinks to each book on Amazon purely for convenience, but of course, I also recommend checking your local library or independent bookstore.
Sarah Faulkner, Principal, Faulkner Strategic Consulting