Creativity is what you do in your head to generate an idea, while innovation is the process of putting it into practice. You need both to succeed, which may be why the number of new books on these topics seems to grow every year. Yet despite the popularity of this category and the steady stream of new books, I continue to go back to the classics, those books that actually taught me how to do it versus those books that just talked about it. Caution – these are not “light reads,” but they’re the ones I’ve learned the most from.
1. The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
All creative activities have a basic pattern in common. Koestler describes this pattern in amazing detail across many disciplines. Knowing this pattern will help you generate better ideas.
2. Creativity in Product Innovation by Jacob Goldenberg and David Mazursky
Inspired by Genrich Altshuller, Goldenberg and Mazursky struck gold when they discovered creativity templates that regulate one’s thinking and channel the ideation process. From these emerged a bona fide method to innovate…on demand.
3. Creative Cognition: Theory, Research, and Applications by Ronald A. Finke, Thomas B. Ward, and Steven M. Smith
This is the best work from the field of cognitive psychology. It explains why creativity happens exactly backwards from what you think. The authors share their research and experiments to back up their surprising claims.
4. The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms by Margaret A. Boden
This one reminds me of Koestler’s classic, but it goes further to debunk many of the myths and wrong-headed notions about creativity and innovation. Boden also makes a case for automating the creative act.
5. Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation by James M. Utterback
This masterpiece is the inspiration for the highly-popular notion of disruptive innovation. A professor at MIT, Utterback lays out how innovation transforms industries, for better or for worse. It will change how you approach innovation.
6. Think!: Before It's Too Late by Edward de Bono
de Bono may be the most recognized name in creativity. Of his twenty seven books, this is my favorite. Think of it as “The Best of Ed.” It’s pithy and wise, and I quote from it constantly. At age 80+, this may be de Bono’s last.