24 Books to Read in 2018 to Boost Your Design Thinking

Not long ago, I invited Karin Lycke to moderate an expert panel under the banner of The Future of Design Thinking. Afterwards, Karin and the panel members decided to curate a reading list of books that have influenced them over the years.

Karin is a service designer and business developer with management consultancy Expedition Mondial and my go-to industry insider for the Design Thinking part of our Part-Time MA in Digital Management. The program is held in Stockholm and designed to give you the skills and knowledge you need to drive change in a digital world. You study while working and apply the insights and learnings to develop real business solutions.

Three industry experts made up the panel: Emma Lindahl, Lead UX with management consultants Acando; Jonas Höglund, EALA Lead and Leadership Design Director at Fjord Evolution; and Johanna Öhlén Meschke, Founder of Tankeapoteket and Global Director of Creative Strategy at Fotografiska.

Afterwards, Karin, Emma, Jonas and Johanna decided among themselves to curate a reading list of books that have influenced them over the years. The idea is for participants in the course to get some background on what design thinking is and how to best apply it to their businesses.

“It was just recently I came across the book Dangerous Ideas by Alf Rehn. One of my clients had read it and said to me ”read it”, which is funny because in many ways I’m a creativity consultant and he is really critical towards them. In all respect. For me, the book underscored a key professional insight from my engagements in 2017: organizations who are trying to be more relevant and innovative might be lacking in many things – but there is rarely (if ever) a lack of ideas. As an industry we need to move away from the sugar hit of “brainstorming” brand new shiny ideas and expecting somehow that things will change. Far more important is understanding why organisations are systematically rejecting ideas that already exist. Rehn says: ”A truly creative idea will always be dangerous to anyone, often for the more established, traditional companies... the best ideas are often both scary and uncomfortable.Companies must start by understanding and reflecting on how their organizations are built and what mindset everyone has in it. Therefore, in 2018, I promise I will not produce a single new idea and instead concentrate on exploring frameworks for organizations to become aware of potential barriers to ideas taking hold.” – Karin Lycke

Orbiting The Giant Hairball – A Corporate Fools Guide To Surviving With Grace by Gordon Mackenzie is a fantastic story about how to keep your creative sanity within large companies, which is especially relevant in the era of management consulting firms purchasing design agencies.” – Emma Lindahl

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect by Matthew D. Lieberman speaks to the nerd in me and makes neuroscience accessible and fun. It gives hard evidence that we are not the greedy creatures we’ve been told we are and that’s cheeriest within the capitalist society, but rather that we have hardwired needs to take care of one an each other and that we are true collective creatures, wired to collaborate for collective winnings.” – Jonas Höglund

"In his book Nonsense – The Power Of Not Knowing, Jamie Holmes gathers insights from social psychology and cognitive science and offers a compelling narrative on how to thrive in uncertainty and handle ambiguity. I especially enjoyed the illuminating cases he used to prove his point, those are stories I often return to when trying to make sense of the world.” – Johanna Öhlén Meschke

Personally, I am thrilled to be able to share this list of amazing books with you as I think it’ll be really useful. I hope you’ll share it with your coworkers and friends and tell us about any books you think are inspiring for you.

Here’s the full list (A-Z by title):

  1. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

  2. Dangerous Ideas by Alf Rehn

  3. Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas

  4. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

  5. Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

  6. Hidden In Plain Sight by Jan Chipchase & Simon Steinhardt

  7. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

  8. How Our Brain Works by Mariano Sigman

  9. In Praise Of Shadows by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki

  10. Leaders Eat Last and Together Is Better by Simon Sinek

  11. Leadership And The New Science by Margaret Wheatley

  12. Nonsense – The Power Of Not Knowing By Jamie Holmes

  13. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth And Happiness by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

  14. Orbiting The Giant Hairball – A Corporate Fools Guide To Surviving With Grace by Gordon Mackenzie

  15. Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux

  16. Sapien by Yuval Noah Harari

  17. Service Design by Andy Polaine & Others

  18. Slowing Down To The Speed Of Life by Richard Carlson & Joseph Bailey

  19. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect by Matthew D Lieberman

  20. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

  21. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F**k by Mark Manson

  22. The Zero Marginal Cost Society by Jeremy Rifkin

  23. Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder & Others

  24. 101 Things I Learned In Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

Learn more about our MA in Digital Management to see where designing thinking can take you, your business, and your career. Explore Design Thinking tools and processes, and dig into related areas like service design and human-centered design to solve complex problems. Understand the power of emerging digital technologies through theoretical discussions and hands-on workshops. Work with business development using cutting edge business modeling techniques, case studies, and user journeys.