If you want to excel at work, you have to stand out. And there’s no better way at making a name for yourself at your office than giving voice to creative and unusual ideas. In order to think differently, you have to read differently. That means you shouldn’t just read business books but texts that give you atypical insights.
Here are three books that you won’t find on any business school syllabus but will enhance your creative thinking skills at work:
1. “Elastic” by Leonard Mlodinow
Theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow explores how the mind discards old ideas and adopts new ones. The brain engages in “elastic thinking” which Mlodinow writes “is what endows us with the ability to solve novel problems and to overcome…psychological barriers that can impede us.” He contends that the brain can think laterally, unlike a computer, so we can create unique solutions and ideas.
For example, he references the designers of the game Pokemon Go who wanted to create a gaming system that was wholly new, unlike what people had experienced before. Instead of thinking incrementally, they created an augmented reality product that garnered more than 600 million downloads.
Because the brain is capable of fusing seemingly disparate ideas, you indeed have the physiology to think of great new ideas. When you’re at work, ask yourself “what doesn’t go together?” And then try grouping ideas, products, systems – and you may stumble upon something truly unique.
2. “A Beautiful Question” by Frank Wilczek
Frank Wilczek, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, investigates whether beauty is inherent in the universe. He asks the question, “Is the world a work of art?” He finds evidence that suggests this is so. For example, he discovers that the mathematical equations that explain atoms are the same as those for music and sound. He finds that there is a certain beauty and elegance in the work of Pythagoras, Plato, and Newton. Ultimately, Wilczek surveys the sciences and establishes a compelling synthesis that indeed that there is a harmony and elegance to the natural order of things.
All too often, we get tied down with daily obligations, tasks, and chores. We spend so much time inside looking at our computers, that we don’t go outside and look at the world around us. Wilczek’s book will spark your curiosity. When you start seeing the world and people around you with fresh eyes, you’ll see new ideas, productions, and solutions in your midst.
3. “The Big Picture” by Sean Carroll
Cosmologist Sean Carroll wrote this fascinating book that details the history of the universe. He chronicles what we know about the universe and how we know it. Ultimately, Carroll poses questions about the meaning of life and free will. These questions will make you see the world in a new way. And by doing so, you will be reminded of how much we don’t know about the universe.
If anything, this book will increase your humility: anytime you think you know what you’re doing, you can remember the infinite questions that still loom over humanity. By increasing your sense of wonderment, you will bring your enhanced curiosity to everything that you do.