For me, the new year is the perfect time to take stock of your career and capabilities, and get up to speed with the most important stories and new ideas. I believe this helps set a tone and pays dividends throughout the year. Toward that end, I offer you my list of the top 10 design books to read this year.
This is a pretty diverse list, and not one actually has the word design in the title. If you dig in, however, you’ll find the connective tissue between each is they all shed light on the “thinking” part of “design thinking” – sure to be a defining theme of 2015.
So, within these books, you will find stories about staying curious, asking the right questions, collaborating and never saying never. (Or, as Ed Catmull says in the beginning of Creativity Inc., doing “…the ongoing work of paying attention.”) All of this, I believe, is at the heart of design.
As important, these stories show how people and organizations overcome the hidden barriers (whether real or even just perceived) that can hold them back from true creativity and breakthrough innovation.
So, these selections – or even any one of them – just might inspire you and energize the investigator, the provocateur, the problem solver and the change agent (i.e., the “designer”) present in all of us. As you will see in these books, it’s all about the way you think.
1. Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on it by Ian Leslie. True curiosity is becoming increasingly difficult to foster but ever more important to harness in our wired world.
2. Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The Freakonomics authors take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally.
3. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within All of Us by David Kelley and Tom Kelley. Two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity show us that each and every one of us is creative.
4. The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew by Cracked.com. This book hilariously breaks down and debunks common knowledge.
5. What If? by Randall Munroe. Munroe answers queries from the merely odd to the downright diabolical.
6. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. A revealing story of the creators of the computer and the Internet.
7. How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson, author of Mind Wide Open and Where Good Ideas Come From, explores the history of innovation over the centuries.
8. How Google Works by Erick Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, offering a rare view into the inner workings of the technology giant.
9. Zero to One by Peter Thiel. The author says there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create, and he points the way.
10. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. This book is a manual for managers who want to build a sustainable creative culture in any organization.