Hector-BareaBy Hector Barea
Senior Design Engineer

Since a young age I was interested in what goes on in a person’s mind that leads to creative ideas. I have read many books on the subject and have many more on my to-read list. Here are five books that, in my opinion, offer practical advice and can be used to teach.

The list is not exhaustive, so please add your own book recommendations. I am looking particularly for a good Design Thinking book to introduce students to this subject.

1. A whack on the side of the head: How to unlock your mind for innovation by Roger von Oech

This is one of the first books I read on this subject and still refer to it today when mentoring students. Roger von Oech went on to write multiple revisions, but I am still partial to first edition. He also wrote A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative and Expect the Unexpected or You Won’t Find It: A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus. If you are facilitating a brainstorming meeting and get stuck, one of these10 techniques will get you back on track.

2. Hands on Systematic Innovation by Darrell Mann

If I was going to recommend just one book, this is it. This is the most comprehensive book on technical innovation that I have come across. Is based on TRIZ, but not limited to TRIZ. I would recommend the second edition which includes Perception Mapping (Chapter 9). If you have an issue in your organization due to interactions between different departments, Perception Mapping could help you differentiate between the root cause of the problems and the perceived source of the problem. In addition to the technical version, Darrell also published a business and a software version: Hands on Systematic Innovation for Business & Management and Systematic (Software) Innovation.

3. inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig

You can watch a 20 minute summary of the book in the TED Talk: A crash course in creativity: Tina Seelig at TEDxStanford. If you are responsible for implementing innovation in your group, the concept of the Innovation Engine can help you bring into focus the individual contributions (knowledge, imagination and attitude), the organization contributions (resources, habitats, and culture) and how these elements work together to successfully innovate. Tina Seelig published another book that would be of interest to entrepreneurs, Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World.

4. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael J. Gelb

This is another book that was published some time ago but is still relevant. The seven Da Vincian Principles (Curiosita, Dimostrazione, Sensazione, Sfumato, Arte / Scienza, Corporalita and Connessione) will make you a better inventor and a better professional. From Arte / Scienza I regularly use Mind Mapping to organize my ideas when tackling a new problem. Michael J. Gelb also published Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History’s Ten Most Revolutionary Minds and Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor.

5. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull is one of the Pixar founders. In my opinion there are no bad Pixar movies, I have seen all the films in a movie theater. When you must create and innovate you need to feed and keep alive your inner child. I found the advice of the book particularly useful when I transitioned from engineering to management, from innovating myself to inspire a group to innovate.

Hector Barea has over 20 years of innovative mechanical engineering design experience, including research, development and product design. Before joining YETI, he was Product Research and Development Manager (Product Innovation Worldwide) for Tupperware Brands, and previous to that he was Senior Mechanical Design Engineer for Motorola Solutions.