Best Creativity Advice Books

I’ve just finished writing my latest book, which is filled with advice for how to be more creative. The title is Zig Zag: The surprising path to greater creativity. To prepare to write Zig Zag, I read every existing creativity advice book…and there are a LOT of them!

Here are my favorite creativity advice books, the ones with the best practical advice and the most useful hands-on techniques. They’re exciting to read and consistent with scientific research. Of course, when Zig Zag is published in Spring 2013, that will be at the top of my list! But until then,

Drum roll please…

Creativity Today by Igor Byttebier and Ramon Vullings. 2007. This insightful and fun book is by two Dutch consultants who are part of the “new shoes today” collaborative. I came across it while in The Netherlands. It really deserves to be much better known in the U.S. Really, this is surprisingly good, and very easy to use in workshops or in creative firms.

Disciplined Dreaming by Josh Linkner. 2011. After founding eTrade, Linkner interviewed over 200 CEOs, entrepreneurs, and others about creativity. His advice is really on target. It has very little to do with “dreaming” but it has a lot to do with jazz improvisation (like me, Linkner is a jazz musician).

Ideaspotting by Sam Harrison. 2006. Great two-color graphic design, good anecdotes, and good advice. A lot of anecdotes and quotations I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Innovation by Tom Gorman. 2007. This book is a bit more simple and introductory than the others. (It has sidebars defining “OEM” and “strategic alliance” and “value proposition,” for example.) It’s very much directed toward someone working in a large organization, with lots of advice about product development, product launch, marketing, hiring, etc. But it’s all good advice, and I really love the two-color graphic design of the interior…one of the best-looking books on of this list.

Stimulated! by Andrew Pek and Jeannine McGlade. 2008. A wonderful looking, colorful book, it almost certainly cost the most to print of any on this list. I particularly like this book for its organization around five “habits that spark your creative genius”: scouting, cultivating, playing, venturing, and harvesting.

Two books are particularly strong for their collections of classic creativity techniques:

Five Star Mind by Tom Wujec. 1995. Classic exercises and insight problems, organized into 8 cooking-related categories like appetite (hunger for ideas), mix (combine ideas), and spice (season ideas).

101 Creative Problem Solving Techniques by James M. Higgins. 2006. These techniques are probably the most widely known, such as the Fishbone Diagram and Mind Mapping and SCAMPER, but there are a lot of techniques I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

So, what if you had to buy just one book? Which one would I recommend? That’s a difficult choice, because they’re all great in different ways.

  • If you’re leading a creativity workshop, I would get Creativity Today.
  • If you’re working in a creative setting and you need to enhance your personal creativity, I really like Stimulated!
  • If you work in a traditional corporation and you’re primarily interested in business innovation, I would get Innovation. (Although it may be too introductory for you if you’re already involved in innovation activities.)
  • If you’re an experienced creativity expert, you’ll probably find the most things you don’t know already in Ideaspotting.
  • If you want a more traditional book with a readable narrative, something for a long airplane ride, try Disciplined Dreaming.

Or, you could wait until Spring 2013 and buy Zig Zag!

3 thoughts on “Best Creativity Advice Books

  1. Sam Harrison, author of IdeaSpotting, writes “Many thanks for your kind words about IdeaSpotting. And best wishes for your upcoming book, Zig Zag — can’t wait to read it!”

    1. It’s fascinating! It’s a set of simulation games that you engage in with customers to better understand the customer experience. So while it’s great stuff I wouldn’t put it in the category of “creativity advice books.”

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