Finding the right books for getting skills for problem-solving, innovation, creativity, design and decision making can be a daunting task – in the sea of books on these topics. Over the years speed readers coming to my speed reading course have brought hundreds of books that they’ve picked from bookshops and libraries. Here’s a selection of the top books that I and they found useful. The good thing about speed reading is that you can decide very quickly how useful the book is – just by looking at the cover, title, subtitle, TOC (table of contents), index, design of the book and layout as well as just by reading a bit of text to get the style and the depth of the information (this technique for choosing the best books is called ‘Preview‘).
Top books for problems solving and innovation
TRIZ (the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a systemic approach for understanding and solving problems and is based on 40 principles of innovation. Most books on TRIZ are good and cover the same 40 principles. Start with
Become an Inventor: Idea-Generating and Problem-Solving Techniques with Element of TRIZ, SIT, SCAMPER, and More Kindle Edition by
40 TRIZ principles are Segmentation, Taking out, Local quality, Asymmetry, Merging, Universality, ‘Nested doll’, Anti-weight, Preliminary anti-action, Preliminary action, Beforehand cushioning, Equipotentiality, ‘The other way around’, Spheroidality, Dynamics, Partial or excessive actions, Another dimension, Mechanical vibration, Periodic action, Continuity of useful action, Skipping, ‘Blessing in disguise’, Feedback, ‘Intermediary’, Self-service, Copying, Cheap short-living, Mechanics substitution, Pneumatics and hydraulics, Flexible shells and thin films, Porous materials, Colour changes, Homogeneity, Discarding and recovering, Parameter changes, Phase transitions, Thermal expansion, Strong oxidants, Inert atmosphere, Composite material
Top books on creativity
Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
It’s not enough to have ideas. You also have to make them happen, and Belsky shows us how to merge creativity with productivity.
Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World by Leonard Mlodinow
Learn how to think creatively, solve problems, and even how to procrastinate…
CHAPTER 1 RECOGNIZING CREATIVITY Box? What box? Finding your creative streak
CHAPTER 2 A CREATIVE ATTITUDE Getting out of the rut Identifying personal blocks Getting positive feedback Avoiding premature evaluation Turning whines into problems Beyond the expert view The “What if?” game Right time, right place Building confidence Just do it!
CHAPTER 3 THINKING AROUND A PROBLEM Answering a different question A child’s-eye view Simple questions Starting at the end Listening to your daydreams Comparing and contrasting Reversing a problem Lateral thinking exercises INTERLUDE: THE MESSINESS OF CREATIVITY CHAPTER 4 GENERATING IDEAS Where do ideas come from? Warming up your mind Patterns of thought Doing something totally different Seeking a second opinion Inspirational people Bending reality Figuratively speaking Old idea + old idea = new idea Storing ideas Serendipity When words collide Picking a theme Having a Plan B
CHAPTER 5 BEING CREATIVE WITH OTHERS Holding discussions Swapping ideas Working in large groups Brainstorming When differences get personal Suggest, don’t propose Finding three positives Looking for a third way Seeing the funny side
CHAPTER 6 MAKING IT HAPPEN Setting a deadline Beating the mid-project blues Planning for the worst case Ten words for creativity Solutions Further reading Acknowledgments
which are 1) open your eyes, 2) prepare the space, 3) play 4) use images, 5) do the opposite, 6) develop failure, 7) check-in, 8) use colour, 9) converse with blocks, 10) randomise, 11) cope nature, 12) lose the ego
Top books on design
Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design
This is the top comprehensive, cross-disciplinary encyclopedia of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, it pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. From the “80/20” rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Occam’s razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.
Top books for decision making
Decision making is an important skill when it comes to problem solving and innovation. Start with
The Decision Book: Fifty models for strategic thinking (New Edition) Kindle Edition by
The book covers: 1 Making Smart Choices How to think about your whole decision problem: a proactive approach 2 Problem How to define your decision problem to solve the right problem 3 Objectives How to clarify what you’re really trying to achieve with your decision 4 Alternatives How to make smarter choices by creating better alternatives to choose from 5 Consequences How to describe how well each alternative meets your objectives 6 Tradeoffs How to make tough compromises when you can’t achieve all your objectives at once 7 Uncertainty How to think about and act on uncertainties affecting your decision 8 Risk Tolerance How to account for your appetite for risk 9 Linked Decisions How to plan ahead by effectively coordinating current and future decisions 10 Psychological Traps How to avoid some of the tricks your mind can play on you when you’re deciding 11 The Wise Decision Maker How to make smart choices a way of life
A simple 5-step formula book on decision making is Harvard Business Essentials, Decision Making: 5 Steps to Better Results Paperback – by but notice when you have a quick look inside (preview) that the whole premise of the book, ie 5 steps are summarised (on pages 6-7) in the first chapter (The Decision Process – Five Key Steps) so if you get the message there – I guess that you may not need to read the rest of the book (sorry publishers for the spoiler; but now publishers add summaries at the end of the book so you do have to buy it when buying online!)
The five steps are:
1) establish a context for success
2) frame the issue properly
3) generate alternatives
4) evaluate the alternatives
5) choose the best alternative
or google ‘top books on…’ and you’ll find similar blogs with the list of top books on problem-solving, innovation, creativity, design and decision making and more…
or go to Waterstones bookshop in Piccadilly, London (the biggest bookshop in Europe) which will have dedicated sections for these topics