The best books on mastering design thinking

Who am I?

Inspired by the brilliant Silicon Valley technologists that I worked with in the early 90s and the pioneering design work of my husband’s grandfather, Leroy Grumman, I believe that design thinking is one of the most important reasons to believe that teams can achieve extraordinary results. It increases the likelihood of implementation of ideas by enhancing any companies’ abilities to align, learn, and change together. I have made it my mission to build creative capacity in individuals, organizations, and cities using the language of design thinking so that everyone can make positive change within their sphere of influence.


I wrote...

Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey

By Jeanne Liedtka, Karen Hold, Jessica Eldridge

Book cover of Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey

What is my book about?

In daylong hackathons, design thinking seems deceptively easy. On the surface, it involves a set of seemingly simple activities such as gathering data, identifying insights, generating ideas, prototyping, and experimentation. But practiced at a superficial level, even great design tools don’t go deep enough to create the shifts in mindset and skillset that are required to achieve transformational impact. Going deep with design involves creating the conditions that shape who we become. Innovators become design thinkers by experiencing design.

Our book is a guide for how to create these deep experiences whether for you, your team, or your organization. Ultimately, we need to be someone new to create something new. This book shows you how to use design thinking to make this happen.

The books I picked & why

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Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways

By Sarah Stein Greenberg,

Book cover of Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways

Why this book?

Creative Acts for Curious People is a treasure trove of activities and exercises to build design thinking competencies. It is the first book of its kind to move beyond design methods to design learning experiences. Each exercise was carefully crafted by 116 of the most talented designers, educators, contributors, and academics at the Standford d.School. Until now, these exercises were only available to d.School collaborators in shared Google Drives if you were lucky enough to get access. This is a huge gift to the design thinking community.

Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways

By Sarah Stein Greenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creative Acts for Curious People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Packed end to end with ways to see the world in new ways' Mike Krieger, cofounder, Instagram

'Designed to spark creativity, help solve problems, foster connection and make our lives better' Gretchen Rubin

'Navigate today's world with agility, resilience and imagination' Lorraine Twohill, CMO, Google

What do they teach you at the most prestigious design school in the world?

For the first time, you can find out. This highly-visual guide brings to life the philosophies of some of the d.school's most inventive and unconventional minds, including founder David Kelley, Choreographer Aleta Hayes and Google Chief Innovation Evangelist Frederik Pferdt and…


The Field Study Handbook

By Jan Chipchase,

Book cover of The Field Study Handbook

Why this book?

The Field Study Handbook is the definitive how-to guide to running international field research projects. Jan Chipchase reveals not only how to run the practicalities of field study projects from initial pitch to project deliverable, but he also reveals the why-to conduct research and how to align it with organizational intent. It is the blueprint for running excellent field projects.

The Field Study Handbook

By Jan Chipchase,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Field Study Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader

By Jeanne Liedtka, Robert Rosen, Robert Wiltbank

Book cover of The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader

Why this book?

The Catalyst will inspire every manager who wants to create extraordinary growth in spite of the organizational roadblocks standing in the way. It is both a how-to guide and an inspirational you-can-do-it guide that provides both the pathway and the vision for creating change in organizations. It is the prequel to Jeanne Liedtka’s popular Designing for Growth and Designing for Growth Field Book which are my go-to workbooks for applying design thinking to projects. A must-read.

The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader

By Jeanne Liedtka, Robert Rosen, Robert Wiltbank

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Catalyst as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book will help every executive--especially those middle managers caught in the middle, between bureaucratic structures and the need for profitability--deliver the organic growth that is demanded of them. It also will help their bosses--the C-Suite executives--unleash the corporate creativity lying dormant with the organization.


Creative Clarity

By Jon Kolko,

Book cover of Creative Clarity

Why this book?

It is hard to pick just one Jon Kolko book to recommend because all of his books are brilliant. My copy of Creative Clarity is dog-eared and heavily underlined which is an indicator of just how much I rely on it over and over again. I like it because Kolko articulates the specific conditions necessary to achieve creative cultures and most importantly details how to do it. Mastering design thinking is much more than learning new tools and building the mindsets and behaviors to deepen your experience, it is about solving more problems and ultimately creating more impact. This book will help you do that. 

Creative Clarity

By Jon Kolko,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creative Clarity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is built on a simple premise: Most companies don't know what creativity really is, so they can't benefit from it. They lack creative clarity.  Creative clarity requires you to do four things: 1. Choreograph a creative strategy, describing a clear future even among the blurry business landscape.
2. Grow teams that include those creative, unpredictable outcasts;  give them the space to produce amazing work; and build a unique form of trust in your company culture.
3. Institutionalize an iterative process of critique, conflict, and ideation.
4. Embrace chaos but manage creative spin and stagnation.  This book is primarily…


Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work

By Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin, Daz Rudkin

Book cover of Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work

Why this book?

My favorite business school professor gave me this book on a whim that I might be interested in the work of What If? I took it home and devoured it in a matter of hours. It’s captivating in its accessibility to normal people and probably more relevant today than it was twenty years when it was published as creative catalysts and design thinkers refocus on behaviors over process and habits over tools. By adopting the six creative behaviors outlined in the book: freshness, greenhousing, realness, momentum, signalling, and courage, innovators can increase their creative capacity and even more importantly, their creative confidence. 

Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work

By Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin, Daz Rudkin

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sticky Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We all know how important creativity is at work. New ideas, fresh solutions, and innovative approaches are always talked about, but rarely ever practiced. ?Whatif!, Second Edition gives you the power, insight, and courage to capture the essence of creativity at work. This one--of--a--kind book breaks creativity into six practical behaviors and shows you how all of us----not just the wacky genuis----is packed with creative potential. This fully updated and expanded edition explores areas that the first edition did not, filled with new insights, stories, and cases it will help you find or recapture your creativity with proven exercises that…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in design thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurs?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about design thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurs.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like How to Make Sense of Any Mess, Just Enough Research, and Interviewing Users if you like this list.