As proponents of innovation, creativity and play, naturally we at Catalyst Ranch are always seeking new ideas ourselves. And while there’s inspiration to be found in conversation and cultural happenings, there’s unique comfort in curling up with a good book. For World Creativity and Innovation Week last month, we pulled together some titles that have given us a lot of food for our hungry brain.

Originally shared on social media, we’ve collected them here to elaborate on why we dig them and why they’re especially useful for our specific Catalyst Ranch clients.

You’ll notice the books on our Catalyst Ranch Bookshelf are varied: They deal in theory, biography, poetry, science and art — a lot of art, we’re happy to report! But they all concern the goals that motivate Catalyst Ranch: connection, community, celebration, and of course creativity and innovation.

These page-turners offer great advice, but more importantly, they pose potent questions. We’re pleased to suggest them to you, dear readers and valued clients, meeting coordinators and party planners. Mine them for wisdom and motivation for an ongoing quest for creativity!

And check back in with us here and on social media for additional recommendations in this ongoing series. The Bookshelf is ever-expanding! Happy reading, everyone…

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, by Priya Parker

We’ll start with a book that speaks directly to our heart: meetings and events, large and small. We devoured this book and immediately adopted it as our meetings bible, as Priya Parker is a modern guru who knows the company of even just one other person is something to be savored.

In The Art of Gathering, Parker tells stories: committee meetings that were a wash and friend dates that broke new ground; parties that bored and board meetings that galvanized. And the context for each example is an important guidepost that Parker encourages us to consider when planning. 

This book serves as a thought-provoking workbook for planning gatherings with intention, and it inspires us to deepen the impact of every meeting our clients hold.

Useful for our Meeting Planner clients: The suggestions in this book could fill an ocean, but applying just one to any meeting will deepen the experience of your attendees and underline the importance of your meeting goals.

Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us, by Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen

Your Brain on Art takes the vague notion that “Art is good for you” and proves it — with both the fascinating science of neuroaesthetics and human stories from across the globe. The result is, to us, an ironclad defense for making art and creativity available every day.

Similar to the now classic book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which advocates artists to take themselves out on weekly solo ‘Artist Dates’ to engage with art, Your Brain on Art makes the case that the Artist Date concept is beneficial for all humans (not just artists) and beneficial even on a smaller scale, in ways that can happen daily.

And when you, say, engage in a small art project for as little as forty-five minutes, your aesthetic mindset is cultivated, which involves: “(1) a high level of curiosity, (2) a love of playful, open-ended exploration, (3) keen sensory awareness, and (4) a drive to engage in creative activities as a maker and/or beholder.”

Useful for our Meeting Planner clients: Share the evidence presented in this book to lobby for the budget to provide creative, artful experiences in your meetings, ensuring an easier path to innovation.

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, by adrienne maree brown

You might think by the title that this is a business theory book, but you’d be wrong. Author adrienne maree brown reclaims the term as a lens for processing the world and ones humanness in that world, giving us a work that is described as “radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help to shape the futures we want to live.”

This book is absolutely informed by brown’s self-described identities of (but not limited to) facilitator of social justice work, mediator, activist, sci-fi scholar, doula, witch, philosopher, queer Black multiracial lover of living in Detroit. It’s challenging and very non-traditional, and perfect for World Creativity and Innovation Week, which dares us to confront norms and take risks to make the world a better place.

Useful for our Community Leader clients and DEI clients: This book is rich in ideas for spurring discussion among communities and teams about how to drive progress prioritizing green actions, diversity and inclusion, and other social transformation.

Hervé Tullet’s Art of Play: Images and Inspirations from a Life of Radical Creativity, by the artist and Sophie Van der Linden

Hervé Tullet is the mind behind the contemporary-classic children’s art books which began with Press Here. His art, which spans further than children’s lit, is iconic for his use of color and skill for engaging the viewer. This is a monograph-masterclass describing both his background and the ideas that fuel his creation. For artists and non-artists alike, it contains useful instruction for making and for inspiring action.

Tullet’s work occupies a unique space that bridges children’s literature, fine art, and experiential design. This revealing view into his creative inspirations is a thorough case study for how effective techniques for childhood development are just as potent across wider audiences.

Useful for our Special Event clients and Event Planner clients: The ideas in this book show how and why immersive creative environments are so widely appreciated, changing how you approach creating your party or celebration.

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

It’s right in the title: “curious people.” We mentioned that Your Brain on Art argues that an aesthetic mindset embraces curiosity and exploration. Those elements are so necessary for innovation. Creative Acts for Curious People literally asks you to look at ideas or problems from different angles, expanding those aesthetic mindset qualities.

With its journal-like pages filled with exercises, this is an interactive workbook. It’s created by and intended for designers, but it’s stimulating for brainstorming and idea-making for everyone. It’s practical and fun, and with the colorful, purposeful illustration, you can tell it’s from an authority: Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of Stanford’s Design School.

Useful for our Meeting clients and Education Manager clients: Need an icebreaker? Or a self-reflection exercise? The prompts in this book are perfect solutions. Need to stoke the creative problem solving for yourself or your colleagues? This workbook gives that muscle some iron to pump.

The d.school guide series, by various authors

Speaking of Standford’s Design School, which is also called the d.school, their highly influential programs have spotlighted ten different topics in their series of paperback guides, and the collection is basically a Justice League super team of manuals. Some titles include Experiments in Reflection, You Need a Manifesto, and The Secret Language of Maps.

Each book deals with a challenging facet of the design industry, but those facets can largely be applied to all sectors. And like Creative Acts for Curious People, the series caters to designers and thus relies heavily on illustration and right-brain-engaging visuals. And that visual design makes the content easily digestible even for non-designers.

Useful for our Meeting Planner clients and our Product Manager clients: Does your team have room for improvement regarding various aspects of the business? These guides give you plenty to think about in specific interest areas. We’re especially thinking of Design Social Change by Lesley-Ann Noel, and Drawing on Courage by Ashish Goel.

Click here to learn about creative meetings at Catalyst Ranch.


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