What's on My Design Thinking Bookshelf?


When working with school leaders, I frequently get asked for my top Design Thinking book recommendations.  Whether you are looking to learn more about design thinking yourself or engage your staff in a collective book read, these are my (current) top ten recommendations to get you started:

  1. Creative Confidence, Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, by Tom & David Kelley.  This book is written for everyone who wants to get in touch with their inner creative spirit.  Filled with practical exercises and stories it makes for an excellent group book read. 

  2. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations & Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown.   This book provides a fantastic overview of design thinking and methods. This book is written in a way that makes Design Thinking accessible to any leader who wants to infuse the strategies into their organization.

  3. Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, by Tom Kelley.  If you have ever been annoyed by the “devil’s advocate” in meetings this book provides a remedy...ten in fact.  Over the years, IDEO has developed roles people can play to foster new ideas.  Anthropologist, Cross-Pollinator, and Hurdler are just three of the roles to explore.

  4. Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, by Dev Patnaik.  Wired to Care is full of stories about people and companies who have achieved great success using empathy as their platform for change proving that people are really “wired to care.”

  5. Designing your Life, How to Live a Well Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans.  This book takes Design Thinking mindsets and tools and helps you apply them to designing your life.  It is an empowering book that will allow you to experience the power of design thinking on a very personal level.

  6. The Art of Innovation, by Tom Kelley.  This book is a behind the scenes look at the problem-solving process used in IDEO.  Kelley shares both success stories and failures using the process which can help any organization aspiring to be more creative in their approach to problems.

  7. Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work, by Nigel Cross. This book digs deep into the habits and mindsets of designers.  Cross help demystify design ability.

  8. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon. While not a book directly on design thinking, Kleon explores the notion that everyone is creative.  You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself.  Fun, inspiring and practical advice for everyone.

  9. Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector, by Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman & Daisy Azer.   Thus far most books on design thinking focus on the how-to and results within the business world.  Design Thinking for the Greater Good looks at the potential impact in the social sector.  Ten stories of change are told in fields such as healthcare, education and social services showing how design thinking strategies can work in heavily bureaucratic organizations.

  10. Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, by Jeanne Liedtka & Tim Ogilvie.   This book serves as a very practical handbook for leaders looking to use design thinking. Filled with strategies and tools, it is an action-oriented read.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of books on Design Thinking, but will certainly get you started. What books make your top ten list?  I’m always looking for recommendations.  If you are looking for a book that explores the intersection of design thinking and school leadership, we may have just the book coming for you.  Design Thinking for School Leaders: 5 Roles & Mindsets That Ignite Positive Change will be published in May of this year!  Stay connected to get information on the book launch.