Creativity isn’t just a “wonderful to have” asset anymore. It’s a strategic part of business survival in a world crowded with businesses. Creativity, whether it’s in product design, a marketing campaign or service delivery, is what sets a business apart from the rest of the pack. It allows a business to create the future instead of focusing their efforts on outdoing present-day competitors. Creativity is also a strong organizational asset for increasing employee productivity and engagement, as well as maintaining a pipeline of ideas that could be called upon to capitalize (or defend against) a change in company strategy.
Developing and maintaining creativity in a business setting isn’t something that comes naturally to many business owners. For so long, creativity has been pushed off as and neglected because business was supposed to be about the numbers. Business is still about the numbers but the way to achieve the right numbers is through strategic creativity.
One way to get started in thinking differently is reading differently. That’s why you can find a list of 10 books selected to help you do just that.
The Art of Opportunity
by Dr. Marc Sniukas, Matt Morasky and Parker Lee
Books focusing on business growth often focus on lots of words, lots of numbers, and lots of heavy-duty graphs. This focus on data is fine, but it lacks a component. In the coming disruptive world of the future, the numbers can fool you. What looks like a minor thing in your data could actually be the start of the next industry-disrupting event. Business owners need something else to bridge the gap between the strategies they create and an unpredictable future. Creative thinking can possibly serve as a bridge to close that gap. With The Art of Opportunity, business owners get some help in building that bridge.
This visually creative book focused on business growth combines the expertise of a professor in business strategy, a business design thinking consultant, and an associative creative director to help business owners design their own innovation instead of swimming in the data and chasing it. Readers are led through basic principles of design thinking and then taught to use those principles to identify and refine your business processes to radically redefine how to design their business.
by Dave Gray
Has someone ever told you that you need “to get out of your own head?” If so, they were pointing out the key issue that is the focus of Liminal Thinking written by Dave Gray. The term “liminal” is related to the Latin term meaning “threshold” and it is Dave Gray’s intention to get readers to cross the threshold of their assumptions.
The path to breaking this mental threshold is discussed in the book’s six basic principles and nine practices. By engaging in these nine practices, readers break out of the unconscious thinking and beliefs that we often engage in when confronted with a change or obstacle (Think about a highly successful business ignoring a “small” competitor because they have seen other “small” competitors fail.) By making this unconscious process into awareness, we can bring a more proactive response to changes in consumer marketing, business strategy and many other stressful areas in business.
by Bernhard Schroeder
As the book points out, we don’t live in a business environment where businesses can take their time developing new products or strategies. Businesses need to creatively innovate and they need to do it now. This increased need for creative labor is answered in Simply Brilliant written by Bernhard Schroeder, a branding expert, and professor at San Diego State University. Bernhard Schroeder wants to squash the notion that you have to be a “creative person” in order to innovate. You only need the right mental toolkit to work from. That mental toolkit lies within the reach of everyone, but most of us let this mental toolkit rust. Accessing this mental toolkit requires guidance, which is what the book offers in its CreativityWorks framework. With the CreativityWorks framework, Schroeder breaks down the complexity of creativity into basic components which readers can reassemble to tackle their problems in a faster and more productive way.
If you already a small business or are planning to start one are most worried about the pressures of ongoing innovation, this is the book for you. Don’t assume creativity to spur on innovation is a secret power gifted to only a few. Learn to create that power for yourself and for business that needs it.
The Designing for Growth Field Book
by Jeanne Liedtka, Tim Ogilvie and Rachel Brozenske
The Designing for Growth Field Book brings the world of design thinking directly into your workplace. It is a manual and project workbook, written by three business experts in the world of business growth (Jeanne Liedtka, Tim Ogilvie and Rachel Brozenske) that helps readers apply the D4G approach to every product or service they are creating. The D4G approach is a series of 4 questions designed to establish a process of business growth, not just a “one-trick pony” innovation.
To further help readers understand the design thinking process, the book provides tools (including customer journey maps and value chain analysis and interviews that show how it’s done in the real world.) For readers who have heard of design thinking but never found a practical way of integrating design thinking into their workplace, this book might provide some welcome guidance. The book takes the jargon and vagueness out of design thinking and helps readers apply it to the day-to-day tasks that will define their business in the future.
The Cheat Code
by Brian Wong
Being creative or innovative doesn’t always means you’re a rule breaker. In fact, the opposite can happen. Many businesses who feel that they are really “innovative” or “creative” are really following a script. Brian Wong, author of The Cheat Code knows all about this because he didn’t follow the rules. He graduated college at 18 and had a multi-million dollar company before he was 26.
The lessons he learned during that experience of building his business in a non-traditional way became the “cheat code” that he shares with readers. The “cheat code” can be summarized in the three parts of the book which focus on boldness, authenticity and carving your own path. Wong argues that entrepreneurs need to not only break out of the mental beliefs that hold them back but also the social rules as well. These social rules tell us that you need to be a certain age, attend a certain school or have a certain job in order to make a powerful change in the world. Brian Wong says that you can and should bypass these rules when they interfere with achieving your dream.
Everyone’s An Artist (or At Least They Should Be)
by Ron Tite, Scott Kavanagh and Christopher Novais
The books mentioned earlier in this list discussed the concept of bringing creativity back into business for strategic innovation. Everyone’s An Artist (Or At Least They Should Be) points to the fact that business itself is an art form. The authors of the book, master creative entrepreneurs in their own right, share why business is adopting this stance and how other entrepreneurs can benefit. For readers who are a little reluctant or hesitant to join the “business as art” bandwagon, the book helps readers break through the mental barriers that stand between them and creative thinking. Like the other books, this is accomplished by revisiting the idea that the only creative people in the world are artists and the like.
For those readers who are already on the “business as art” bandwagon, the book provides examples of how entrepreneurs made that transition from “just business” business owners to creative entrepreneurs.
And it also will get you to see how you may be able to something similar in your own small company.
Design a Better Business
If the books on this list have established anything, it’s that personal and organizational creativity is necessary for business growth and innovation. Design a Better Business wants to carry this line of thinking even further. The authors of this book want to help you scale the creative process itself, which they argue is more akin to the reality of business.
Unlike what many of us have been led to believe, business is not a straightforward process. It involves a lot of adaptability and creativity as the business integrates the information (both external and internal) into its daily decision making. Instead of running from that, the authors believe we should embrace and sharpen it using the tools in the book. Following that purpose, “Design a Better Business” starts readers from the ground floor of their idea and guides them through all of the tips and resources they need to turn that idea into a reality for their businesses.
Draw to Win
by Dan Roam
It was inevitable in a book list about design and creative thinking to include a book about visual communication.
Draw to Win will fit that purpose nicely. Dan Roam’s book is about more than just making cute or quirky drawings to present your data in an engaging way.
It’s an exploration into the world of visual thinking and how it can be used to stimulate a new and deeper level of thinking. And It is designed to help any reader, even ones that are scared of their own stick figures, to become more confident presenting their ideas in visual form.
Dan Roam, author of Draw to Win invites readers to combine storytelling, data and their own handwritten information into a more powerful tool for communication that can be a lot more powerful than a typical boring PowerPoint presentation.
It can be a means of communication all its own with a attention grabbing and unique approach to winning people over to your ideas.
Your Creative Mind
by Scott Cochrane
If strategic creativity is vital for business growth and innovation, why aren’t businesses dropping everything to hire the most creative people they can find? Your Creative Mind may provide a thoughtful and sobering answer: Our businesses are designed to meet our short-term goals, not to provide for long-term survival.
The book delves into how we can break free of the “business as usual” mindset and into the habit of creativity. Without a “creative habit”, creativity takes a backseat to the short-term goal of beating the next quarter’s financial report or some other metric. This short-sighted focus keeps business out of the “innovation loop” until it’s too late. If your business is focused exclusively on their own internal goals or the traditional competitors you’ve always faced, you will miss the disruptive business or trend that snatches your customers from under you. “Your Creative Mind” reinforces to readers why and how creativity is crucial to business strategy. The book then details how to use the “creativity habit” to reach a new level of business performance and execution.
by Tim Hartford
Business is all about organization and efficiency. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves. The reality isn’t as pristine. Instead of bemoaning that fact, why not celebrate it? Messy explores the creative potential and opportunities in messiness, of plans not turning out like we thought, and everything that disrupts our intended plans. Unlike the other books in the list, “Messy” argues that we shouldn’t always fight disruptive events or people. We should, in fact, look for the opportunity in it. In doing so, we can save ourselves and end up in a much better place. This doesn’t argue that businesses should blindly accept whatever the disruptive and unpredictable future throws at them. But author Tim Hartford believes we should forget about trying to figure it all out (you can’t!). We should embrace the reality and find the opportunities within it that others won’t.
All of the books on this list offer some perspective into how you might start to think differently. These books, however, won’t save your business from the future. The only people who can do that are you and the people you’ve selected for your team.
Books and Spectacles Photo via Shutterstock
Chris Reimer suggested during our podcast conversation that I should invite Dave Grey to my show in the future.
2017 is a great time to start reading some books again. A good pace is to have at least one book per month. That is good to add some knowledge to yourself in a smaller amount of time.
What a great selection you have here. I will definitely add some to my must-read books for the year.