By Dimis Michealides
“I PREFER to lead a lot not read a lot” said an arrogant CEO.
I disagree. Creativity is a significant leadership competency which can be learned through both reading and action. Without creativity, innovation is impossible. Below is my list of favorite creativity books, fiction and non-fiction in historical order.
The Odyssey by Homer. The hero, Odysseas, who in the Iliad had already helped the Greeks win a war by building a wooden horse, is undoubtedly the most creative explorer in the ancient Greek world.
Kama Sutra. Composed about two thousand years ago this book contains much more than plenty of imaginative (and practically challenging) sexual positions. It is not just an erotic manual but also a guide to gracious living that discusses love, family and the pleasures of life.
One Thousand and One Nights. Tales and tales within tales of humans and spirits, this book is a breath-taking monument of the Islamic Age.
Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s 1865 masterpiece that blurs the space between sense and nonsense still reads like new.
Applied Imagination by Alex Osborn, also known as the father of brainstorming. First published in 1953 and desperately in need of a revised edition, this book is a practical guide to solving problems creatively.
The Act of Creation. This 1964 book by Arthur Koestler is a gem of our genre with a deep and involving treatment of the “Eureka!” moment. It is part of a trilogy which also includes “The Sleepwalkers” a considered treatise on Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe and Galileo.
The Search for Satori and Creativity. Written by educator and pioneering creativity researcher E. Paul Torrance, published by the Creative Education Foundation in 1979. Torrance emphasizes fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration in the serious study and teaching of creativity.
Serious Creativity. Published in 1992, a good summary of much of Edward de Bono’s thinking including “Lateral thinking” and “Six thinking hats”. De Bono has a brilliant writing style but provides little to support his views.
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published this in 1996 after years of research. It is about Creativity with a “big C”, rare discoveries made by exceptional people. In particular the author emphasizes “flow”, the passion and know-how that drives the creative mind.
Out of our minds – Learning to be Creative. Ken Robinson’s 2001 book is important because of the scathingly relevant critique of the antiquated educational systems practised in most of the world today.
I was tempted to include “One Hundred Years of Solitude” – the great contemporary work of magical realism, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – and, from academia, Tina Seelig’s “inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity”.
I am aware that my list is personal. It is anything but exhaustive. There are masses of good books on innovation and masses of brilliant novels paying healthy respects to human creativity in all its grandeur. But a list of ten must stop at ten.
I make no apology for recommending these to business people with an interest in innovation. I know Alice, Scheherazade, and the Kama Sutra will do wonders for your creative leadership. Stuff the arrogant CEO!
Dimis Michaelides is a keynote speaker and author on innovation, creativity and leadership. He also offers workshops and change management consulting for private businesses, NGOs and public organizations. His book “The Art of Innovation – Integrating Creativity in Organizations” has been hailed as a “Bible for 21st Century CEOs”