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Innovation books to inspire creativity, inventiveness and leadership

Favorite Reads of the BMGI Innovation Team on Creativity, Inventiveness, Collaboration and Leadership

We recently asked the BMGI innovation team: What are your favorite innovation books? While not an all-inclusive list by any means, here are a few favorites they shared. 


Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and InventionCreativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Some people distinguish between creativity and innovation, but Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi embraces the broadest definition of creativity as the “… interaction between a person’s thoughts and a sociocultural context. It is a systemic rather than an individual phenomenon.” Creativity is to “bring into existence something genuinely new that is valued enough to be added to the culture.” This book is a recommended read because it’s based on extensive research, full of stories, and ties into his concept of flow, covered in Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience.


The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your BusinessThe End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business

By Rita Gunther McGrath

Rita Gunther McGrath is one of today’s foremost thinkers on strategy, and in this book she takes on Michael Porter head-to-head. When it comes to strategy, nothing can be grounded purely in research because strategy evolves every day. If we wait for the longitudinal studies to prove what works and what doesn’t, whatever is proven will be so commonplace by the time you’re ready to use it that it will be worthless. Instead we need to turn to bright, articulate super thinkers like McGrath to gain the insights we need now.


The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature Is Inspiring InnovationThe Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature Is Inspiring Innovation

By Jay Harman

Instead of using lots of energy and forcing materials, what if we looked to nature’s elegant designs? Nothing in nature is accidental. Biomimicry is the inspiring science of employing nature to find creative, efficient solutions. This book offers a look at pioneering engineers who are applying biomimicry in a variety of businesses.



The Innovator’s ToolkitThe Innovator’s Toolkit

By David Silverstein, Phil Samuel and Neil DeCarlo

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without The Innovator’s Toolkit, written by BMGI’s innovation team. The 50-plus tools and techniques are organized around a framework for identifying innovation opportunities, generating new and unusual ideas, selecting the best ideas for further refinement, and implementing new solutions that better meet customer expectations.


Think Like a FreakThink Like a Freak

By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

This is a fun read that gives us great tools and techniques woven through a story that helps us to think differently and better. It helps us “rethink the way we think.” The intro sums up what the book is about: “The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism.”


Teach Your Child How to ThinkTeach Your Child How to Think

By Edward de Bono

Another great “thinker” on how we can all become better “thinkers,” Edward de Bono gives us several practice techniques to help us improve our thinking. His other books are also recommended reads!





The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers

By David McCullough

This book was listed as a favorite as it unveils the meticulous and methodic approach behind a revolutionary solution and takes us down to the very essence of innovating: observation, inspiration, hard work and determination.




The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital RevolutionThe Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

By Walter Isaacson

Successful innovators are also explorers. This book explores the traits of those responsible for the digital revolution, and shows how innovators continuously look for other innovators’ contributions to the existing body of knowledge—and then build on it.




The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant TechnologiesThe Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

By Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Looking at the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy, this book shows the power of envisioning in coming up with a breakthrough innovation.




The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering InnovationThe Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation

By Matthew E. May

From a section titled “elegant solutions often come from the customers—get out more and live in their world,” comes this quote from Toyota: “We practice Genchi Genbutsu…go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals at our best speed.” Data is good, yet the best observation for solutions is watching the process and looking for a better way.



Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from TechnologyOpen Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology

By Henry William Chesbrough

This book emphasizes the importance of piloting or beta testing an incomplete design with the customer, learning with the customer, and then applying those lessons learned to future solutions.




Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior ResultsToyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

By Mike Rother

Author Mike Rother explains why Toyota has become so successful and good at building not only empowered workers, but also critical thinkers who coach and teach daily experimentation and creativity through the use of coaching and learning kata routines. He helps us to see how this is a daily effort for all involved and that we should not stop innovating just because we’ve solved a problem or reached a milestone, but rather continue the journey by habitually developing traits of human ingenuity.


Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone SmarterMultipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

By Liz Wiseman

Author Liz Wiseman demonstrates what it takes to be successful not from an execution standpoint, but from the perspective of how to make other leaders by creating an environment where people are rewarded for their contributions and innovative creativity. This books shows us how leaders change through the work of others and how we can multiply our efforts by engaging with and encouraging those who have the intelligence and capability to innovate solutions that add value.


The Secret Life of the BrainThe Secret Life of the Brain

By Thirteen/WNET New York and David Grubin Productions

This one isn’t a book, but a great video series that explains how the brain works and cites recent research. To be a good thinker means to understand how the logical and emotional parts of the brain work together. A favorite quote from this series: “We are not thinking machines; we are feeling machines that think,” from neuroscientist Dr. Antonio Damasio.


Thanks to Dr. Phil SamuelDon Wood, Dana Ginn, Eric Zink and Tevfik Durmusoglu for sharing some of their favorites!

Which books (or videos) would you add to the list?

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