Many books about creativity are well written
and entertaining. But almost all of them repeat creativity myths
that researchers have long known are false.
For example, Samuel Coleridge did not write the poem “Kubla
Khan” in an opium-induced haze; the plant breeder Gregor
Mendel was not an ahead-of-his-time genius who founded modern
genetics but whose work was rejected by his colleagues. The problem
is that most authors who write books about how to be more creative
don’t know the research.
Dr. Sawyer’s 2007 book Group
Genius is a good place to start if you’re serious about
learning the science of creativity. Here are Dr. Sawyer’s
recommendations for other books about creativity and innovation
that are based on scientific research.
Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, Second Edition. 2012, Keith Sawyer
I originally wrote this as a college textbook in 2006, but it’s
taken off and now has a broad readership among business school professors and innovation managers--especially this 2012 expanded second edition. If you like Group Genius, you might want to read this
Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas,
Concepts, and Cultures. 2005, Frans Johansson
This book was widely reviewed in the business press, but
it’s also appropriate for a more general audience.
Johansson’s basic idea has been proven by creativity
researchers over decades of research: that creativity happens when
people and ideas come together. The thesis of the book is not new
to creativity researchers, but his stories are absorbing and the
book is well written.
and the Mind: Discovering the Genius Within. 2002, by Thomas B. Ward,
Ronald A. Finke, and Steven M. Smith
This is a readable summary of over a decade of research by these
three scholars into the mental processes underlying creative
Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein,
Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. 1993,
Gardner is the Harvard Professor of Education famous for the
theory of multiple intelligences—he argues that rather than
one number for IQ, the brain has seven different intelligences. In
Creating Minds, Gardner extends his theory to creativity, by
selecting one famous creator in each of his seven
Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. 1996,
This is a report on a research study called “Creativity in
Later Life.” Csikszentmihalyi and his research team
interviewed 91 highly creative individuals, all over 50 years old,
about creativity across the lifespan. Fascinating and profound
details about the creative lives of people as diverse as John Reed,
former CEO of Citicorp, and Benjamin Spock, the famous
The Psychology of Optimal Experience. 1990, Mihaly
This classic book has long been a best seller. For over 20 years,
Csikszentmihalyi studied a special state when you’re doing
something you love extremely well. Time fades away, and these are
the moments that we live for. Csikszentmihalyi also found that
these are also the moments when we’re at our most
Handbook of Creativity. 1998, edited by Robert Sternberg.
This is the only book that brings together, in one place, all of
the top experts on creativity. Each expert has written one short
chapter summarizing the key messages of their research. This book
is a little academic, but will reward close reading.
The theme of Group Genius,
that innovation happens when many separate individual ideas come
together through collaboration, is also supported by several
scholarly books that I highly recommend:
G. (1988). The Evolution of Technology. New York: Cambridge University
This book has wonderful, detailed examples from the history of
& Duguid, P. (2000). The Social Life of Information. Cambridge:
Harvard Business School Press.
A modern classic, this book is a bit more theoretical than most,
but the argument is right on target, and is supported by several
detailed histories of specific innovations.
A. B. (2003). How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising
Truth About How Companies Innovate. Boston, MA: Harvard Business
Hargadon’s book builds on Basalla, Brown, and Duguid by
emphasizing the role of “technology brokers” in
bringing together prior sparks to generate new innovation.
M., & Schoonhoven, C. B. (1990). The Innovation Marathon:
Lessons From High Technology Firms. Oxford, UK: Basil
The authors interviewed top executives about their innovation
processes at five microelectronics firms, including H-P, Intel, and