Best Books In Design & Innovation

It’s that time of the year. Many publications and websites are issuing their “best” of the year lists. I always check BusinessWeek’s best business books list to see if our library has acquired them all. But I made a new discovery this year. I found that BusinessWeek also produces a separate listing of their picks for the top ten books on design and innovation. I thought I’d share that list here.

I can’t quite say these books are ranked, but the first book listed is one I’m reading right now (well, sort of, I started reading Subject to Change about half way through). That’s Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. This book has attracted a great deal of attention and deservedly so. The idea of communicating through doodling is big right now – you’ve no doubt seen those popular UPS whiteboard commercials – although I don’t think that guy is actually doing the drawing. I’m enjoying the book although I’m not sure I’ll be drawing my way through presentations. But I am learning much more about the power of visual communication, and how to reach people with visual messages. In addition, even if you never use drawings in communicating with others, there is value in using drawing to work through challenges or to simplify complicated ideas. Visual thinking through drawing can provide an alternate and creative approach to problem solving – and it fits in well with a design approach.

Unfortunately I have not had time to get to most of the other books on BusinessWeek’s list, but I plan to get to a few of these in 2009:

Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy by Judy Estrin

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns
by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, Michael B. Horn
If you don’t have time to read Christensen’s latest or it seems of only marginal interest, you can grasp the book’s core ideas by reading this IdeaConnection interview with Christensen in which he discusses the book.

The Endless City by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic

The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation by A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan
This one also showed up on BW’s best business books list. I try to pay attention to any article or ideas coming from Ram Charan, one of the most interesting consultants in modern business.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies byCharlene Li and Josh Bernoff
This one should be of particular interest to the library community because it focuses on using social networks to create and share ideas, and explains how companies are using it to reach new customers.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
Here’s a title well known to the library community as it was mentioned in more than a few librarian blogs. Not surprising given the interest in the social communication tools that Shirky discusses. Personally, I just didn’t get into this one, but the ideas may really resonate with you.

The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value Through Global Networks by C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan
One reason I may try to take a look at this one is because the authors discuss the importance of creating unique experiences for customers. Note that there is a link to a video interview with the authors – another good way to get the gist of the book if you don’t have time to read it.

The Numerati by Stephen Baker

The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World by Amar Bhidé

Here’s to better reading for new ideas in 2009. The bloggers of Designing Better Libraries appreciate your support and readership, and we look forward to continuing our mission to share with the library community the best ideas in design thinking, user experience, innovation and creativity. We continue to believe that by integrating these ideas into our practice we can design better libraries with the end goal of giving our user communities the best possible library experience.

Latest Inside Innovation Available

The newest edition of BusinessWeek’s IN (Inside Innovation) is found it the December 1, 2008 issue, but you can also find it online. This issue features two interesting profiles. First it examines the work of David Rockwell, an architect who shifted his career to design and now creates designs for building interiors, products and processes. Even in a down economy Rockwell’s firm is growing and adding more staff.

Can you encourage innovation with contests? Peter Diamandis thinks so. IN takes a look at the work of his X Foundation and its multiple prizes, such as Lunar X Prize for the first privately-funded team that can land a robot on the moon or the $100,000 being offered for the best idea in making the airport check-in process faster. And were you aware that India’s design startups are growing so rapidly they may exceed the country’s computer support centers. For the first time, India is designing products from start to finish. You may also enjoy the usual graphics as well.

Learning More About Innovation From Tim Brown

Fans of Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO Corporation, will be pleased to know they can learn some new things from Brown – or at least obtain more insight into his thinking about creating a more innovative organization. Two new resources featuring Brown recently became available.

Brown is interviewed in the November 2008 issue of The McKinsey Quarterly in an article titled “Lessons from innovation’s front lines: An interview with IDEO’s CEO.” What I like about this inteview is that Brown gives some fairly straightforward answers to questions about how to achieve better innovation. For example, when asked to explain what gets in the way of innovation Brown answers “The biggest barrier is needing to know the answer before you get started. This often manifests itself as a desire to have proof that your idea is worthwhile before you actually start the project. This kills a lot of innovation.” I think this happens in libraries quite a bit where innovative ideas get shot down because librarians can’t prove that their idea is going to be a good or successful idea. If you read the article you’ll get a clearer picture of this.

If you think you can learn more from Brown about creativity and innovative by seeing and hearing what he can share – not just from reading his interview – then you are in luck. Now you can watch a 27-minute presentation by Brown on creativity and the link between it and play. TED recently posted a video of Brown giving a talk at a conference on serious play. This is a fun talk with Brown giving the audience a number of interesting participative activities – surely nothing you’ve tried at your library instruction sessions. He focuses on how play is used at IDEO to encourage creativity. The big challenge is getting adults to drop their fear of being judged by peers so they can be more spontaneous and playful. He also speaks about the idea of divergence and convergence. Designers at IDEO typically diverge and engage in play in order to discover new ideas and then converge in a more serious way with their team colleagues to apply their ideas to solutions. He boils the application of play for innovation to three things: 1) exploration – go for quantity of ideas and don’t worry about what works 2)build – use your hands to make something (prototypes) and 3) role play – put yourself in the shoes of your user.

I wonder if, based on Brown’s advice, we might not do better with our students if we could somehow encourage they to be playful when searching for information – which means trying new things and experimenting. While college students have long left behind their childhood creativity (more about this in the video) they are not yet that far removed from it.

Another Leadership Skill – Setting The Stage For Creativity

Leaders can emerge from anywhere in the library organization. Those who lead staff at any level recognize the importance of bringing together the right people, and orchestrating their efforts toward a common goal. Now comes an article that encourages these same leaders to manage the creativity generated in the organization. Creativity is critical to the development of new programs and services. So it is in the best interest of leaders to design and develop a work enviroment that promotes creativity. I’m going to attempt to summarize the key ideas from a Harvard Business Review article on “Creativity and the Role of the Leader“.  The article appears in the October 2008 issue if HBR. Here are several things you can do to help your colleagues and organization to foster greater creativity.

Draw on the right minds – Engage the right people, at the right times, to the right degree in creative work. Distribute creative responsibilities across the organization. Avoid the myth of the “lone creative genius”; get staff collaborating. Creativity and innovation are more likely to ingnite when people of different disciplines, backgrounds and areas of expertise share their thinking.

Bring Process to Bear – Carefully – Organizational creativity depends on vibrant, ongoing collaboration and free idea flow; adding people and projects restricts the flow. The leader’s job is to map out the stages of innovation and recognize that each one requires different types of support. Idea generation and idea implementation are best handled by different people. Leaders must guide ideas through the bureaucracy. Leaders need to filter creative ideas; find the ones that have little potential and weed them out.

Fan the Flames of Motivation – Intellectual challenge is a better motivator for creativity than salary or benefits. Leaders must find ways to provide intellectual challenges and independence; allow people to pursue their passions. Leaders let others know they appreciate their work. Decrease the fear of failure to increase creativity.

These ideas and others presented in the article emerged from a colloquium held at Harvard University. Attendees included business leaders from organizations that depend heavily on the contributions of creative minds. The participants came to the conclusion that more work needs to be completed to understand creativity in the organization.