17 Books (and Videos) to Inspire Creative Teams

There are a TON of books on creativity out there. A zillion. (We counted. That's the official number.) If you're a creative professional, a casual search for a good new read will bring up an overwhelming number of options, and it's hard to discern which are worthwhile and which can be skipped. While we certainly haven't read every publication on the topic of creativity, these books are 17 of the Wrike Team's favorites.

Finding Inspiration

1. Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity (Mar 2013)
Dr. Keith Sawyer

Creativity isn't a linear process, it zigs and zags and loops around to reach new solutions and make innovative connections. It may seem like an innate talent, or sheer random luck. But author Keith Sawyer breaks the mystery down into 8 scientifically-supported steps, 30 practices, and 100 techniques for increasing your creative potential, including the habits of supremely creative people you can pick up for yourself.

This 2:43 video lays out Sawyer's view that it's how we process all the different inputs that makes us creative, not the physical gray matter in our brains:

2. The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice (Aug 2013)
Todd Henry

Ever feel like you’re expected to provide a brilliant solution or genius headline on demand, 24/7? It’s exhausting, and it can stifle your creativity. Burnout and blockages are the bane of the creative professional’s existence, so pick up this book for tips on structuring your daily routines to support a sustainable creative rhythm. Todd Henry will teach you how to recognize what saps your creativity and discover practical solutions. You’ll learn how to organize your life to make the most of down times, batch similar tasks to maintain focus and flow, and manage your energy.

This 5:07 video shows Henry talking about two things [1] false assumptions that fossilize in our heads and [2] distracting pings & notifications prevent us from looking at potentially useful creative solutions.

3. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (Feb 2012)
Austin Kleon

Originality is a myth. We’re all influenced by the world around us, so embrace it! Tap into your curiosity, follow budding interests, and reimagine what already speaks to you to create something new. So says Austin Kleon, a writer who speaks on creativity for innovative companies like Pixar, Google, TEDx, and SXSW. Follow the “What Now?” list within the book for ideas and activities you can use to get your creative juices flowing right this minute.

In this inspiring 11:14 TED Talk, Kleon explains how he stumbled upon a poetry technique of choosing words from newspapers and building poems from those. And how it turns out the technique has a 250-year old history behind it that he did not know about. His point: artists steal things and creatively reuse them to build something better.

4. The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently (Jan 2014)
Sunni Brown

Blink. Blink. Blink. That's the cursor on the blank screen you've been staring at for the last twenty minutes. You're praying to the Muses and drawing a blank. Well, stop praying and start doodling. Author Sunni Brown reveals the humble doodle as the key to unlocking smarter creative solutions, faster than ever. The idea is simple — doodling activates all four learning modalities at once: the visual, the auditory, the kinesthetic, and the tactile. Stimulating your brain in a different way means new perspectives and innovative connections, leading to fresh “eureka!” moments.

In this 5:50 video, Brown very eloquently shares why there's such negative backlash against the definition of doodling and why there should be a new definition: that doodling is making spontaneous marks to help yourself think.

5. Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) (Jun 2006)
Michael Michalko

How would you define creativity? How about: looking at the same thing as a crowd of people and seeing something completely different? In this expanded 2nd edition of his bestseller, Michael Michalko offers hundreds of strategies, techniques, and puzzles designed to stimulate unconventional thinking and get you looking at the world with a fresh perspective.

In this long 27:28 radio interview, Michalko explains why creative thinking is often counter-intuitive. Worth a listen for some of his methods that may just help you develop your next fantastic idea.

6. Designing for Emotion (Oct 2011)
Aarron Walter

A favorite of the Wrike design team, this book translates the psychology of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs onto the process of designing an effective UX. Learn how web design can best appeal to users’ emotions to delight and convert passive visitors into active customers.

In this 9:03 video, Walter summarizes his thoughts on emotional design talking about how we make most decisions with the lizard brain. We're not like Dr.Spock at all!

Group Innovation

7. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration (Mar 2008)
Dr. Keith Sawyer

Another bestseller from the brain of Dr. Keith Sawyer, this book asserts that creativity is always collaborative. Yes, even when you're alone and inspiration strikes. Read this book to learn how people piggyback off of one another to find better solutions than any of them could have devised on their own. You’ll also discover how to create and sustain “group flow” and establish collaborative “webs" of creativity among your team.

This 7:03 video shows Sawyer explaining his thoughts on the creative power of collaboration in front of a live audience.

8. Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses "No, But" Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration (Feb 2015)
Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton

It may seem strange to take business strategies from an improv comedy group like The Second City, even if its famous graduates include Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert. But when you think of how fast-paced and collaborative the modern workplace has become (and how that aligns with the world of improv comedy), it starts to make perfect sense. Pick up a copy for tips on using improv training to help your team embrace unconventional thinking, quickly build off one another’s ideas, and using failure to fuel high performance.

In this 6:52 video, the authors explain how "Yes And" leads to listening, to openness to new ideas, and to creative (and on-the-spot) brainstorming — all elements of a successful comedy improv skit as well as a successful business unit.

9. The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results (Dec 2011)
Chris Grivas & Gerard Puccio

According to Chris Grivas and Gerard Puccio, every creative person has a preference for one of four phases of the artistic process: clarifying, ideating, developing, or implementing. This book will teach you how to identify each of your teammates' ideal roles and rethink your process so you can take full advantage of everyone's capabilities.

This 18:44 video shows Gerard Puccio delivering a TEDx Talk on how creativity and innovation are crucial 21st century skills.

10. Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers (Jul 2010)
Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, & James Macanufo

Let’s play a game! A sense of play is a huge asset when it comes to seeing the world in new ways and finding hidden connections. Give some of the 80 games in this book a try with your team to improve communication, brainstorm ideas faster, and make even routine meetings more productive.

This 2:53 video provides a brief introduction to the concept of gamestorming, how it came about, and how it can help promote employee engagement and innovation at your company.

Leading a Creative Team

11. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Apr 2014)
Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

It's not about the idea; it's about the team. So say the luminaries at Pixar. Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and you'll get a mediocre product. Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they'll transform it into something amazing. This NY Times Bestseller from Pixar president and co-founder Ed Catmull is a must-read for managers who want to bring out the creative potential of their teams and establish an enduring culture of innovation in their companies.

This 8:38 whiteboarding video lays out all the main points of Catmull's book in an artistic way.

12. Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity (Aug 2010)
David Sibbet

Tap into the power of visual learning and supercharge your meetings with story boarding, idea mapping, and visual planning. This book teaches you to apply visual tools to more than just brainstorming: enliven all your strategy sessions, staff meetings, and presentations to captivate your team and inspire new breakthroughs.

This 2:44 video has Sibbet explaining the big ideas behind his book Visual Meetings. Check it out.

13. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality (Mar 2012)
Scott Belsky

Coming up with a creative solution or product is only half the battle. You have to then make it a reality. This practical guide from Behance founder Scott Belsky helps turn daydreamers and visionaries into leaders and entrepreneurs by giving them an action plan. Pick up a copy, roll up your sleeves and start executing on your ideas.

This super short 1:06 video has author Belsky explaining how the book is made for those struggling to turn ideas into actual planned projects — which is much harder than it sounds on paper.

14. Make Your Mark: The Creative's Guide to Building a Business with Impact (Nov 2014)
Jocelyn K. Glei

Don't let the title fool you: although the premise of the book is for launching a startup, the 21 short essays from creative business leaders within hold insightful lessons for all kinds of creative projects and teams. Learn how to develop the practical skills you need to identify leaders within your team, make deeper connections with customers, and develop an efficient creative process.

This 3:31 video is an excerpt from the audiobook of Glei's Make Your Mark that narrates the preface to the book.

Building a Creative Strategy

15. Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Mar 2013)
Jonah Berger

What makes certain products, videos, and stories go viral? In this New York Times bestseller and 2014 Berry-AMA Book Prize winner, Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger analyzes wildly successful viral campaigns and leverages social science to pinpoint a method to the madness. Use his list of six essential elements to make your content more contagious.

This 3:26 video has author Berger talking about the background behind his book and how word-of-mouth impacts our behavior.

16. Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive (Dec 2009)
Robert Cialdini, Noah J. Goldstein, & Steve J. Martin

Whether you're presenting work to clients or trying to create a compelling ad, if part of your job is convincing people to say "yes," try out the techniques in this book. Drawing on his 60+ years of research into the psychology and science of persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini proves that even small changes can make you dramatically more effective. Use the fifty simple methods in this book to nudge your audience towards “yes!”

This 8:06 video was a segment that aired on PBS. In it, Cialdini is interviewed about persuasion ("pre-suasion"), psychology, marketing, and getting people to say yes more easily by setting the field up subliminally.

17. Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation (Feb 2010)
Sally Hogshead

Want to captivate your customers? Award-winning copywriter Sally Hogshead explores the phenomenon of fascination and combines psychology, sociology, neurology, and real-life success stories to identify 7 key triggers for enthralling your audience. Find your “F-score” and pick up tips for strengthening your fascination factor.

In this 18:26 TEDx Talk, Hogshead explains why we get captivated by some ideas (and people) and not others. And she does it by explaining captivation via the metaphor of online dating.

What book gets your recommendation?

We're always looking for a good page-turner. Share your must-reads with us in the comments!

Tip: If Amazon happens to be your bookseller of choice, try ordering your new books through Amazon Smile. Amazon will donate a portion of the price of your items to a charity of your choice.

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