While necessity is said to be the mother of invention, innovation is the engine driving personal growth, creativity, and startup success. While some people are quick to innovate, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking are skill sets that can be cultivated and taught.
If you are looking for good reads on the subject, you can crowdsource recommendations by checking out Amazon's bestseller list and best-rated titles. Among the books featured are Harvard Business Review's 10 Must Reads on Innovation by Peter F. Drucker; The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros; and Innovation Tools: The Most Successful Techniques to Innovate Cheaply and Effectively, by Evan Shellshear.
Another option is asking a single person for recommendations. What better expert to suggest books on a topic than a professional librarian. I reached out to John Balow, who is curator for business, history and social science at The New York Public Library, for his top three picks for people who want to boost their creativity and create a mindset and environment that bolsters innovation. Here is what he shared, along with some thoughts on what makes these his "top shelf" picks.
1. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Branden Kowitz
Sprint is co-authored by three partners at Google Ventures -- Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz. The book prescribes a five-day process for testing ideas and solving problems. It is divided into five main sections, each one detailing a day in the five-day process. One of the things Balow likes best about this book is its universal application. "The practical steps can be applied to companies of any size or intention, from startups, to large, established corporations, to nonprofits," he explains. He also praised the book's voice, which is extremely accessible. "The brisk, lighthearted tone perfectly matches the subject matter, as does the format."
One would not necessarily associate happiness with innovation, but there is a reason Balow includes it in his top-three picks. "Drawing upon cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Seppälä, who is science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, disputes commonly held notions of success as both outdated and counterproductive. She offers practical advice to increase happiness, and in turn, bolster professional satisfaction," Balow explains. Backed by scientific research, Happiness Track offers insights for changing the way we approach our work and non-work lives. "It teaches the reader how to thrive professionally without sacrificing authenticity and moral values." This focus helps build an emotional environment conducive to true innovation driven by satisfaction and camaraderie.
3. Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom
Balow describes this book as "Part Margaret Mead, part Sherlock Holmes, part Woodward and Bernstein" adding: "It is a truly singular business book." To write this book, Lindstrom spends 300 nights in strangers' homes observing their every action to discern what motivates them, and ultimately consider what these data mean in the marketplace. Balow likes this book because "Lindstrom's methodology is disrupting market research and getting to the details usually missed by big data analysis." The book is filled with examples of how observed human behavior led to revolutionary redesigns and product launches. For example, the author explains how a worn out sneaker changed LEGO, and how a teddy bear changed the design of 1,000 retail stores worldwide. "By uncovering the unexpected experiences and connections that have caused some of the most successful brands in the world to innovate and adapt, the author leaves readers looking at the world around them with much more appreciation for their own small inspirations and epiphanies."
When it comes to innovation, making new connections, thinking about things differently, and being exposed to new ideas gets the juices flowing. Who knows? Perhaps your next big idea lies just beyond the pages of one of these fascinating books.