10 Must-Read Books on Creative Thinking

People regularly ask us what books on creativity we recommend. After all, the titles on the topic are plentiful. After having read several meters of books on creative thinking and innovation, I can assure you the following are 10 titles you will not regret reading.

1. Serious Creativity, Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono is widely regarded as THE authority on the topic of creative thinking. In Serious Creativity he proves this is not without reason. In this book, De Bono explains why we need creative thinking and more importantly: he shares his powerful lateral thinking tools and techniques. A classic.

2. Cracking Creativity, Michael Michalko
With this book, Michael Michalko doesn’t take half measures. It has to be noted that the enormous amount of theory and thinking techniques in this book can be quite overwhelming. For those who just want to know the bare essentials to get started, Cracking Creativity is probably too much in-depth. However, for those who want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about business creativity, this is a pretty good start.

3. The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson
In this book, Frans Johansson clearly describes how entering the ‘intersection’ of different fields hugely improves your chances of finding breakthrough insights. His advice? Bring different disciplines and cultures together and search for the places where they connect.

4. A Technique For Producing Ideas, James Webb Young
The same way Serious Creativity is a classic on the topic of lateral thinking, A Technique For Producing Ideas is a classic on the topic of Incubation. If you’ve ever wondered why your best ideas suddenly pop up when you’re under the shower, read this book. About 70 years ago James Webb Young already explained how the incubation process works. And as a bonus for all of you who have little time to spare; it’s only 48 pages ‘long’.

5. Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky
Generating an abundance of creative ideas is one thing… but as any creative will tell you: making those ideas happen is a whole different story. In this book, Scott Belsky (founder and CEO of Behance) helps you to create order in the ever-growing list of action steps that is a logical consequence of being creative.

6. Applied Imagination, Alex Osborn
Alex Osborn is the inventor of brainstorming. In this book, he explains several principles and procedures for creative problem-solving. As an advertising director and copywriter, he knows how to entertain and inform his audience. Although it was first published in 1953, Applied Imagination is still topical today. An easy read filled with interesting stories and references.

7. Weird Ideas that Work, Robert I. Sutton
Sutton explains how large organisations usually aim to prevent variation. While this practice allows them to do things safer, faster, cheaper and more consistently, it also prevents innovation. To find new ideas that work, you’ll have to try a lot that don’t. Sutton presents “11½ ways to promote, manage and sustain innovation” that seem illogical at first glance, but make sense when you read what makes them so powerful.

8. The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley
In this book, Tom Kelley, general manager at the famous design agency IDEO, describes how human-centered design is essential when you want to innovate. Reading how IDEO works will teach you (among other things) the value of observation, empathy, rapid prototyping and creating the right environment for innovation.

9. The Power of Positive Deviance, Richard Pascale & Jerry and Monique Sternin
The Positive Deviance (PD) approach is as simple as it is brilliant; instead of focussing on the problem, find the positive exceptions. It’s these exceptions that often hold the key to remarkable solutions. The Power of Positive Deviance tells the amazing story of Jerry and Monique Sternin and explains why and how the PD method works. The book contains some incredible supporting case studies.

10. Biomimicry; innovation inspired by nature, Janine Benyus
Benyus explains how humanity could benefit from the 3.8 billion years of ‘research & development’ that Planet Earth offers us. She shows how looking at nature can teach us how to solve humanity’s problems in a more effective and sustainable way.


Reading any of these books will offer you valuable insights and strategies to make yourself more creative and your organisation more innovative.

What are the best books on creativity or innovation you’ve read? Please share it in the comments down below.


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The Number One Habit Of Creative IndividualsHow to judge your ideas objectively