Resources on Creativity, Teams, and Leadership
There are many researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders who have written about creativity, teams, and leadership and influenced me personally and professionally. Below I share a few of my favorites along with my editorial comments. I hope you will gain as much knowledge, insights, and inspiration from these brilliant minds as I have.
Creativity and Innovation in Teams, Organizations, and at Work
Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback
This book explores the leadership of creativity and how to build organizations that can innovate over time. Leading creativity is not necessarily like any other type of leadership. The book explains several principles and each is followed by a real story demonstrating it in action. The leaders highlighted work at Pixar, Google, Volkswagen, the Pentagon, among others. The research behind the book is excellent and the stories make it come to life. Since teams are the #1 source of creativity in organizations, knowing how to lead them is critical to an organization’s success.
The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley
Tom Kelley is a partner at IDEO, a design firm his brother started in 1977. Even if you have never heard of IDEO, you have been impacted by the products they have designed. They designed the first Apple mouse, space shuttle parts, heart valve components, numerous toys, and even that squishy handle on your toothbrush. They are experts at innovating. In this book, Tom Kelley shares an inside look at how IDEO works their magic. Their strong emphasis on collaboration reminds us that creativity never happens in a vacuum and the romantic vision of lone genius inventor is really just a myth. Seriously, Thomas Edison had 1,000 employees! I have huge respect for IDEO and their work. You can also glimpse more into their culture through this ABC Nightline video where an IDEO team redesigns the classic shopping cart.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
In this book, Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar makes animated films. It’s not in a way that you’d think. The movies don’t have a script, but rather start with a seed of an idea and evolve to a feature length film. The entire production is a collaborative creative process. The end result – 30+ Academy Awards, box office records, and movies that have tugged at our hearts and minds for 20 years. The book ultimately is about creating a culture that supports and pushes creativity. Catmull stresses how culture is more important for creativity than any other element. This is a great book if you want to see an example of a company doing things differently and thriving in the process. Recommended for C-suite leaders, HR professionals and team leaders.
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer
When this book came out in 2007 there was not a lot that had been written yet about creativity and collaboration. This book had a significant impact on my consulting work and research on creativity in teams. Later, while getting my PhD I asked Keith to mentor me for one of my projects on creativity training. This book explores the research on creativity in teams while also sharing practical stories from big companies, jazz clubs, and improv theatre. The book is well-written and easy to read. If you are interested in learning more about the research on creative teams, but also curious about practical application check out Group Genius. You can also learn more from Keith on his interview on the Deliberate Creative Podcast, episode 37.
The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results by Chris Grivas & Gerard Puccio
This book explores the four cognitive styles of creative thinking, also known as FourSight. Through a fictional story of one team trying to be more creative, you’ll learn about the Clarifier, Ideator, Developer, and Implementer styles. There is also an overview of the Creative Problem Solving process and how it might be used to web more creative. I use FourSight with many of clients and found this book to be a nice tool for those who want to learn more or who learn well through examples.
Creativity 101 by James Kaufman
There are a lot of myths out there about creativity and how it works. Dr. James Kaufman has compiled the most up-to-date research to help explain how creativity works and dispel some myths. What I love about this book is that it’s research-based from someone with decades of understanding about creativity. Kaufman also has an easy to read writing style with a great sense of humor. More than once I laughed out loud while reading this.
Your Creative Power by Alex Osborn
This is an old book, written in 1948. It’s the source of the term “brainstorming.” Written by Alex Osborn, one of the founders of the marketing firm B.B.D.O., he wrote about “using the brain to storm a creative problem…” the process his company used to generate new ideas for their client. If you are only going to buy one book about creativity chose one of the other five, but if you are interested in the history of creative process and want to go back to the source then this is a great read.
Creativity in Life
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield just says it like it is. He understands how creative practice works. He writes about struggling through the day to day act of being creative, whether it’s writing, making art, inventing, acting, or launching a business. There are a zillion barriers to being creative and the solution is to do the work. Pressfield writes about how to get past those barriers and he does it in a matter-of-fact, approachable style. The section on resistance is particularly invaluable.
The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron
This is the book that launched me into understanding and exploring my own creativity. I stumbled upon this book in 1998 while perusing the shelves of a small bookstore in Colorado. It was the first book I ever bought about creativity (and little did I know there would be many more to follow). The following year I moved to Portland, OR and took a class that followed the 12 weeks of the book. The class and the book changed my life. I started looking at myself differently and got more interested in how creativity can be developed over time. A couple of years later I started teaching classes based on The Artist’s Way. I resonated with so many of the challenges Julia Cameron wrote about and she had an uncanny ability to predict exactly when they would arise. I would often read each chapter at just the right time. One word of caution about this book – it is divided into 12 weeks worth of chapters with the premise that you would read one chapter each week and do the corresponding exercises. I recommend this approach. However, I know countless people who own this book and have only read through Week 2 because they didn’t finish the exercises. Just keep reading. Even if you can’t do the exercises, read the whole book. An even better approach is join up with some friends and do it together. Julia Cameron’s other books are great as well.
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and Dave Kelley
The Kelley brothers started the innovative design firm IDEO and Dave also started the Stanford d.school. Needless to say they are experts and thought leaders in creativity and design thinking. This book highlights how creativity is a mindset. We all have incredible capacity to be creative, we just have to know how to tap into it. This book explains what you need to develop creative confidence and offers many stories, examples, and exercises to help you get there.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans are design thinkers. They developed a course at the Stanford d.school called Designing Your Life. It was hugely popular so they put it in a book. The book uses the process of Design Thinking to help you build the life you want. The book walks through a series of exercises to help you get unstuck, prototype new ideas, and create your life your way. It’s applicable to any age, but particularly when you are wanting to change directions, start something new, or looking for what’s next.
Note: The links on this page may be affiliate links. That means I get a small commission of your sale, at no cost to you. However, I only share links to products and resources that I believe are valuable. Enjoy!
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