Download high-resolution image Look inside
Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00

Creative Acts for Curious People

How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways

Illustrated by Michael Hirshon
Foreword by David M. Kelley
Look inside
Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00
WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • “A delightful, compelling book that offers a dazzling array of practical, thoughtful exercises designed to spark creativity, help solve problems, foster connection, and make our lives better.”—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author and host of the Happier podcast

In an era of ambiguous, messy problems—as well as extraordinary opportunities for positive change—it’s vital to have both an inquisitive mind and the ability to act with intention. Creative Acts for Curious People is filled with ways to build those skills with resilience, care, and confidence.

At Stanford University’s world-renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, aka “the d.school,” students and faculty, experts and seekers bring together diverse perspectives to tackle ambitious projects; this book contains the experiences designed to help them do it. A provocative and highly visual companion, it’s a definitive resource for people who aim to draw on their curiosity and creativity in the face of uncertainty. Teeming with ideas about discovery, learning, and leading the way through unknown creative territory, Creative Acts for Curious People includes memorable stories and more than eighty innovative exercises.

Curated by executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg, after being honed in the classrooms of the d.school, these exercises originated in some of the world’s most inventive and unconventional minds, including those of d.school and IDEO founder David M. Kelley, ReadyMade magazine founder Grace Hawthorne, innovative choreographer Aleta Hayes, Google chief innovation evangelist Frederik G. Pferdt, and many more.

To bring fresh approaches to any challenge–world changing or close to home–you can draw on exercises such as Expert Eyes to hone observation skills, How to Talk to Strangers to foster understanding, and Designing Tools for Teams to build creative leadership. The activities are at once lighthearted, surprising, tough, and impactful–and reveal how the hidden dynamics of design can drive more vibrant ways of making, feeling, exploring, experimenting, and collaborating at work and in life. This book will help you develop the behaviors and deepen the mindsets that can turn your curiosity into ideas, and your ideas into action.
Sarah Stein Greenberg View titles by Sarah Stein Greenberg
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school, was founded at Stanford University in 2005. Each year, more than a thousand students from all disciplines attend classes, workshops, and programs to learn how the thinking behind design can enrich their own work and unlock their creative potential. View titles by Stanford d.school
Getting Started

Think about the last time you tried to change, fix, design, or solve a problem in your life and you really didn’t know what the outcome would be. Maybe it was a challenge you took on following a promotion at work, the search for an apartment in a new city, or an effort to organize your neighbors to deal with a block-wide problem. You might have felt a mix of things—excitement, commitment, and nervousness—all at the same time. You might have been secure in your skills and prepared a creative approach, yet still felt like a beginner. This is really common: when faced with an open-ended challenge that doesn’t have one fixed, right solu- tion, we can all feel like beginners. And it’s true—we are inexpert in that particular problem. However, if we have practiced how to tackle an open-ended situation and learned how to handle all of the complicated feelings that arise while doing so, we can improvise our way through any challenge.

This is a story about a group of beginners facing a large, messy, creative challenge and bringing all they had to it. It’s a story about a big opportunity hiding in plain sight and about finding a signal within a noisy, complex system by listening to the clarion call of human suffering and fear.

It’s about resilience, inventiveness, improvisation, humility, and many leaps of faith.

It’s also a story about Edith Elliot, Katy Ashe, Shahed Alam, and Jessie Liu, four graduate students pursuing degrees in international policy, civil and environmental engineering, and medicine. Their lives took an unexpected turn when they met during a d.school class called Design for Extreme Affordability. As part of the class, they began to work with the Narayana Health Hospital chain of cardiac care centers founded by a charismatic surgeon, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, based in Bangalore, India. The team was asked to travel to India, find opportunities, and design solutions to improve the patient flow in order to help the hospital get closer to its mission to deliver high-quality, low-cost care on a wide scale.

When they started, the team had a lot of support and a willing partner, and they had already experienced a few of the assignments included in this book, specifically The Monsoon Challenge (page 89); I Like, I Wish (page 212); and Stanford Service Corps (page 264). But their biggest advantage was that they went into the situation without being fixed on the exact problem they would tackle. What the students thought might be the need and what they actually found turned out to be two very different things. No matter your skill level or the scope of the challenges you take on, approaching the unknown with the spirit and tools of inquiry will help you uncover bigger and better opportunities than you could imagine beforehand.

That’s just how design works. It can take you on a journey to learn not just how to solve a problem, but also how to identify what problem might be so worth solving that you reorganize your life around the endeavor.

That’s where we hope this story ends, anyway, but that’s not where it begins. Like so many great tales, this story starts with a miscommunication.

Educator Guide for Creative Acts for Curious People

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

“In Creative Acts for Curious People, [Greenberg] guides you to build your own creative skills with a fun, often light-hearted approach. But make no mistake: [Sarah’s] enjoyable exercises are fully based in research and practice. Boost your creativity and learn to solve complex problems in new ways with Creative Acts for Curious People.”—Success

“Whether you’re an independent artist seeking new approaches to your work or a leader aiming to mentor and galvanize your people, this book has an experience for you. I plan to put it to use in my own nonprofit leadership and personal creative projects.”—Susannah Felts, BookPage
 
“Full of practical exercises designed to spark creativity in the face of uncertainty.”Fast Company

“Attending classes at the d.school changed my life. I learned that to build empathy and creativity, you have to break out of habits and patterns to see the world in new ways. This book is packed end to end with ways to do just that by taking any part of the design process to a new level, be it in the initial need-finding stage or deep into the execution phase. The illustrations are great too!”—Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram
 
“I’ve seen firsthand how the d.school thinks about creativity and design. Creative Acts for Curious People makes the genius of Sarah Stein Greenberg and the d.school available and accessible to everyone. The experiences inside this book teach both the hard and soft skills that we all need to navigate today’s world with agility, resilience, and imagination.”—Lorraine Twohill, chief marketing officer at Google
 
“Talent and intelligence are universal, but resources and opportunities are not. This book offers everyone what I experienced at the d.school—the realization that when you believe in your own creativity and support people in cultivating their own, together we can create a new future.”—Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income
 
“Mastering the skills of creativity, inventiveness, and improvisation may seem to be out of reach, but not if you are brave enough to read this extraordinary book. With memorable illustrations and compelling exercises, Creative Acts for Curious People clearly lays out practical ways to overcome any obstacle.”—Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School professor and bestselling author of Rebel Talent

About

WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • “A delightful, compelling book that offers a dazzling array of practical, thoughtful exercises designed to spark creativity, help solve problems, foster connection, and make our lives better.”—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author and host of the Happier podcast

In an era of ambiguous, messy problems—as well as extraordinary opportunities for positive change—it’s vital to have both an inquisitive mind and the ability to act with intention. Creative Acts for Curious People is filled with ways to build those skills with resilience, care, and confidence.

At Stanford University’s world-renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, aka “the d.school,” students and faculty, experts and seekers bring together diverse perspectives to tackle ambitious projects; this book contains the experiences designed to help them do it. A provocative and highly visual companion, it’s a definitive resource for people who aim to draw on their curiosity and creativity in the face of uncertainty. Teeming with ideas about discovery, learning, and leading the way through unknown creative territory, Creative Acts for Curious People includes memorable stories and more than eighty innovative exercises.

Curated by executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg, after being honed in the classrooms of the d.school, these exercises originated in some of the world’s most inventive and unconventional minds, including those of d.school and IDEO founder David M. Kelley, ReadyMade magazine founder Grace Hawthorne, innovative choreographer Aleta Hayes, Google chief innovation evangelist Frederik G. Pferdt, and many more.

To bring fresh approaches to any challenge–world changing or close to home–you can draw on exercises such as Expert Eyes to hone observation skills, How to Talk to Strangers to foster understanding, and Designing Tools for Teams to build creative leadership. The activities are at once lighthearted, surprising, tough, and impactful–and reveal how the hidden dynamics of design can drive more vibrant ways of making, feeling, exploring, experimenting, and collaborating at work and in life. This book will help you develop the behaviors and deepen the mindsets that can turn your curiosity into ideas, and your ideas into action.

Author

Sarah Stein Greenberg View titles by Sarah Stein Greenberg
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school, was founded at Stanford University in 2005. Each year, more than a thousand students from all disciplines attend classes, workshops, and programs to learn how the thinking behind design can enrich their own work and unlock their creative potential. View titles by Stanford d.school

Excerpt

Getting Started

Think about the last time you tried to change, fix, design, or solve a problem in your life and you really didn’t know what the outcome would be. Maybe it was a challenge you took on following a promotion at work, the search for an apartment in a new city, or an effort to organize your neighbors to deal with a block-wide problem. You might have felt a mix of things—excitement, commitment, and nervousness—all at the same time. You might have been secure in your skills and prepared a creative approach, yet still felt like a beginner. This is really common: when faced with an open-ended challenge that doesn’t have one fixed, right solu- tion, we can all feel like beginners. And it’s true—we are inexpert in that particular problem. However, if we have practiced how to tackle an open-ended situation and learned how to handle all of the complicated feelings that arise while doing so, we can improvise our way through any challenge.

This is a story about a group of beginners facing a large, messy, creative challenge and bringing all they had to it. It’s a story about a big opportunity hiding in plain sight and about finding a signal within a noisy, complex system by listening to the clarion call of human suffering and fear.

It’s about resilience, inventiveness, improvisation, humility, and many leaps of faith.

It’s also a story about Edith Elliot, Katy Ashe, Shahed Alam, and Jessie Liu, four graduate students pursuing degrees in international policy, civil and environmental engineering, and medicine. Their lives took an unexpected turn when they met during a d.school class called Design for Extreme Affordability. As part of the class, they began to work with the Narayana Health Hospital chain of cardiac care centers founded by a charismatic surgeon, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, based in Bangalore, India. The team was asked to travel to India, find opportunities, and design solutions to improve the patient flow in order to help the hospital get closer to its mission to deliver high-quality, low-cost care on a wide scale.

When they started, the team had a lot of support and a willing partner, and they had already experienced a few of the assignments included in this book, specifically The Monsoon Challenge (page 89); I Like, I Wish (page 212); and Stanford Service Corps (page 264). But their biggest advantage was that they went into the situation without being fixed on the exact problem they would tackle. What the students thought might be the need and what they actually found turned out to be two very different things. No matter your skill level or the scope of the challenges you take on, approaching the unknown with the spirit and tools of inquiry will help you uncover bigger and better opportunities than you could imagine beforehand.

That’s just how design works. It can take you on a journey to learn not just how to solve a problem, but also how to identify what problem might be so worth solving that you reorganize your life around the endeavor.

That’s where we hope this story ends, anyway, but that’s not where it begins. Like so many great tales, this story starts with a miscommunication.

Guides

Educator Guide for Creative Acts for Curious People

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Praise

“In Creative Acts for Curious People, [Greenberg] guides you to build your own creative skills with a fun, often light-hearted approach. But make no mistake: [Sarah’s] enjoyable exercises are fully based in research and practice. Boost your creativity and learn to solve complex problems in new ways with Creative Acts for Curious People.”—Success

“Whether you’re an independent artist seeking new approaches to your work or a leader aiming to mentor and galvanize your people, this book has an experience for you. I plan to put it to use in my own nonprofit leadership and personal creative projects.”—Susannah Felts, BookPage
 
“Full of practical exercises designed to spark creativity in the face of uncertainty.”Fast Company

“Attending classes at the d.school changed my life. I learned that to build empathy and creativity, you have to break out of habits and patterns to see the world in new ways. This book is packed end to end with ways to do just that by taking any part of the design process to a new level, be it in the initial need-finding stage or deep into the execution phase. The illustrations are great too!”—Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram
 
“I’ve seen firsthand how the d.school thinks about creativity and design. Creative Acts for Curious People makes the genius of Sarah Stein Greenberg and the d.school available and accessible to everyone. The experiences inside this book teach both the hard and soft skills that we all need to navigate today’s world with agility, resilience, and imagination.”—Lorraine Twohill, chief marketing officer at Google
 
“Talent and intelligence are universal, but resources and opportunities are not. This book offers everyone what I experienced at the d.school—the realization that when you believe in your own creativity and support people in cultivating their own, together we can create a new future.”—Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income
 
“Mastering the skills of creativity, inventiveness, and improvisation may seem to be out of reach, but not if you are brave enough to read this extraordinary book. With memorable illustrations and compelling exercises, Creative Acts for Curious People clearly lays out practical ways to overcome any obstacle.”—Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School professor and bestselling author of Rebel Talent

Books for LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

In June we celebrate Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and highlights the accomplishments of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community, while recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by many across the world who wish to live as their most authentic selves. Here is

Read more

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

Read more

PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

Read more

PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

Read more