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Imagine: The Art and Science of Creativity PDF, ePub eBook Imagine debuts at Number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List Creativity: It’s singing the song that has never been sung and solving the problem that seems impossible. It’s the free verse poem and the mathematical equation, the abstract painter and the patient inventor. It’s the ability to see the world as it is, and then to imagine how it might be. Jonah Lehrer is o Imagine debuts at Number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List Creativity: It’s singing the song that has never been sung and solving the problem that seems impossible. It’s the free verse poem and the mathematical equation, the abstract painter and the patient inventor. It’s the ability to see the world as it is, and then to imagine how it might be. Jonah Lehrer is on a mission to unlock the mysteries of creativity and invention, starting at the source: inside our head. Discover why humans are the creative species, where original ideas come from and how we can learn to generate more of them.  Leaping agilely from anecdotes to scientific theories, from Bob Dylan to modernist furniture design and from the benefits of office ping-pong tables to how magicians come up with new tricks, Imagine brings clarity and insight to the most mysterious function of our brain—creativity. ‘Jonah Lehrer’s new book confirms what his fans have known all along—that he knows more about science than a lot of scientists and more about writing than a lot of writers.’ Malcolm Gladwell

30 review for Imagine: The Art and Science of Creativity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    The short version: Lehrer draws together some interesting ideas, but I feel like his rhetorical flourish sometimes gets in the way of the point he's trying to make. His main point here is that creativity and innovation arises when we freely mingle within diverse ideas, but sometimes it seems like he's too busy boosting for entrepreneurs and big cities, and he lets that get in the way of his central thesis. (Side note: I waffled between 2-stars and 3-stars.) ---- In Imagine: How Creativity Works, J The short version: Lehrer draws together some interesting ideas, but I feel like his rhetorical flourish sometimes gets in the way of the point he's trying to make. His main point here is that creativity and innovation arises when we freely mingle within diverse ideas, but sometimes it seems like he's too busy boosting for entrepreneurs and big cities, and he lets that get in the way of his central thesis. (Side note: I waffled between 2-stars and 3-stars.) ---- In Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer presents a series of experimental findings and narratives, and draws them together to into an optimistic thesis on creativity and innovation. But there are two books here: there's the successful book, the book where Lehrer is a capable wordsmith with a knack for describing and synthesizing these scientific findings and their implications in a way that is accessible to a lay-audience; and then there is the mediocre book, the book where Lehrer substitutes anecdotes for evidence, where he lets latter points undermine positions formerly established, where he allows his rhetorical flourish to obfuscate the point he is trying to make. And it is with that in mind that I closed the covers with mixed feelings. Lehrer's optimistic thesis in a nutshell: Creative Genius [1] is not some rare gift that only a remarkable and privileged few are born with; instead, Creative Genius is the product of exposure to diverse ideas, [2] the synthesis of those diverse ideas to form novel innovations, and the diligent pursuit of those novel innovations in the face of challenges, setbacks, and outright failures. For most of us, this is fantastic news. We don't have to win the genetic lottery to be Creative Geniuses. We're still at the mercy of other privileges (e.g., we still need to be situated such that we can be exposed to diverse ideas; we still have to have the financial and emotional resources to withstand the failures that stand between our ideas and seeing them to fruition; we still need to live in a culture or society, and live under the aegis of a government that does not have draconian intellectual property laws and/or censorship laws and/or lots of other apparatuses set up for maintaining the status quo at all costs) but assuming all those other things line up, we may all be poised to become Creative Geniuses and change the world. Imagine contains a lot of evidence (anecdotal, scientific, and in between) to support this thesis. Lehrer talks about the research that went into the development of the Swiffer, and about the almost-random inspiration that led to its conceptions. He talks about how a burnt-out Bob Dylan retreated to Woodstock, NY, with the intention of never again picking up a guitar, only to write the best music of his career literally days later. He writes about how 3M has been doing "that Google thing" [3] with their engineers for over 70 years. He writes about Broadway productions and what the right mix of "old friends" and "new blood" is necessary to make a hit. He talks about when to take a project and put it in the drawer for a year. He surveys studies (some shrewd, some dubious) from neuroscientists, and on the next pages there are yarns spun through interviews with advertising professionals, urban planners, musicians, magicians, graphic artists, and everyone in between. And all the while, Lehrer's narrative style weaves this all together, and makes it easy for just about anyone to comprehend. But... An accessible narrative style, the style required to reach a broad lay-audience, too often becomes... reductionist? Overly simplified? That kind of style can muddle some of the nuance that is otherwise necessary for a meticulous scientific discussion. [4] Some have argued that Lehrer is drawing conclusions that simply aren't there, [5] but I don't know if I fully agree with that. It's more subtle than that. It isn't that he doesn't have a point, or that his conclusions are unfounded or banal, or even that he is interleaving scientific evidence and colloquial anecdotes with equal significance. That's not the problem. The problem is that he keeps slipping (ever so slightly) and undermining his own prior arguments as he enthusiastically works himself up to support whatever argument he is shaping in that chapter and on that page. The problem is that he tends to contradict himself. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the book's penultimate chapter. Lehrer fetishizes big-city-living [6] so much that he begins to celebrate this concept more than anything else [7] [8] and in doing so, he comes close to compromising many of the points he made before. In the preceding chapter, he beats the drum of travel as the critical path to gaining diverse experiences and gaining exposure to diverse ideas, but when he gets around to talking about big cities... Well, you may as well just move to New York City and call it a day; who needs to travel when you can just live in the place where everyone is going to (or through) anyway? Granted, this is not explicitly stated, but therein lies one of my gripes--that this seems to be such an obvious conclusion and such a clear cognitive path between the two discussions, that I am led to believe that he did not fully explore the implications of some (many? most?) of these critical concepts he was exploring to benefit his thesis. If he did not make the link between those two points, then what else did he miss? what else did he gloss over? what other connections were not made? [9] [10] Worse, there is a clear case of reverse causality happening here. Given the research cited, there is clearly an intriguing feedback mechanism taking place in these large and vibrant metropolises, but to say that the city itself causes the creativity is spurious and misleading. These criticisms aside however, Lehrer's thesis remains strong, and it is refreshing to see someone grapple with the subject matter in such an optimistic fashion. It seems that we too often treat the "creativity" of "innovators" as this scarce natural resource. There is romance in the mystery of Creative Geniuses, but it is not a helpful romance. You need not be born "that way"; being a Creative Genius (or even just Sufficiently Innovative) is something that you can work toward. All we need is the right climate: We need to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions, surround ourselves with people who don't know what we're talking about. We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise. The right kind of stubborn temperament helps, too: In fact, most of us see perseverance as a distinctly uncreative approach, the sort of strategy that people with mediocre ideas are forced to rely on. Lastly: Lehrer isolated this brilliant quote from Yo-Yo Ma: If you are only worried about not making a mistake, then you will communicate nothing. ...which just about sums up everything in the book, and everything I feel about the book. Update: (7/31/2012) on Jonah Lehrer's resignation. ---- [1] "Creative Genius" being a phrase that I do not recall being called out (nor Initially Capitalized) explicitly in the text, but it was used rather prominently in Matthew Francis' review on Ars Technica, so I've decided to incorporate it similarly here. [2] And we use "ideas" here in a very broad sense. "Ideas" are challenges, concepts, customs, dilemmas, facts, hypotheses, memes, problems, stories, superstitions, suspicions, theories, traditions, words, and every other thing that you might pick up from interacting with another person. [3] "That Google thing" being that their engineers get (by anecdotal accounts, at least; I couldn't find anything official) upwards of 20% of their time to spend working on pet projects. [4] Granted: I was raised in a household where scientific rigor was de rigueur... And as such, my bias tends to lean toward "more rigor and less rhetoric". Take that as "full disclosure"; take that for what you will. I just always assume that everyone else is looking for that same kind of exactness in the text. [5] I'm thinking in particular of Isaac Chotiner's piece, "The Curse of Knowledge" (The New Republic), which features lines like this: More worryingly, Lehrer’s weightier confusions cast doubt on his glib interpretations of brain experiments. And the comment thread is filled with similar indictments. (Though you're not missing much if you skip the comment thread on the Chotiner article.) [6] He really enjoyed using the word "superlinear". [7] Why else would they positioned in the text as they are? if not to culminate with entrepreneurs in big cities? [8] There is also some fetishization of entrepreneurs going on in that chapter, which made me bristle a bit--but I can't say that that undermined his point. There was plenty of room left-over for engineers and artists. [9] At which I note: there is some embedded irony there. [10] Yes, I should have kept better track of these contradictions. But by the time I'd gotten to this point, I wasn't about to go back and start cataloging them for the sake of this lowly document. ---- See also: • The Curse of Knowledge by Isaac Chotiner (New Republic) • Defending Jonah Lehrer by Bradley Voytek • "Imagine" a society that fosters creativity by Matthew Francis (Ars Technica) -- maybe a little bit flip, but fairly even-handed (and short) review in its own right

  2. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Hilarious. I've had pointed out to me that the author just got sacked from The New Yorker for making up the Dylan comments in this book. Story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/us-ne... Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has resigned after admitting to falsifying quotes. After earlier disputing claims made by a magazine writer, Lehrer admitted on Monday that he had been guilty of making up and misattributing quotes about Bob Dylan in his best-selling book, Imagine: How Creativity W Hilarious. I've had pointed out to me that the author just got sacked from The New Yorker for making up the Dylan comments in this book. Story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/us-ne... Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has resigned after admitting to falsifying quotes. After earlier disputing claims made by a magazine writer, Lehrer admitted on Monday that he had been guilty of making up and misattributing quotes about Bob Dylan in his best-selling book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Never get in the way of an obsessed Dylan fan, Lehrer. I hope you are no relation to the great man.... The big issue here is not even that the prat made up some Dylan, in an ignorant and arrogant way thinking he'd get away with it. The problem is that it makes everything he does unreliable. It's easy to discover that he has made up the Dylan bits, but what about all his other 'sources'. They are completely discredited now as well. Where does that leave his book? Maybe somebody who has read it can answer that for me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    July 31 update: Lehrer is exposed as a big fat liar and this book is removed from the shelves! (because of fake Dylan quotes). see NY Times article: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com... What is sad is that no one in the publishing world seems to have a high enough degree of scientific literacy to tell that Lehrer has just been b--sh---ing the whole time. Dylan quotes--someone is an expert on that. But science--we'll just believe whatever the cute dork says. Original review below. This is an e July 31 update: Lehrer is exposed as a big fat liar and this book is removed from the shelves! (because of fake Dylan quotes). see NY Times article: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com... What is sad is that no one in the publishing world seems to have a high enough degree of scientific literacy to tell that Lehrer has just been b--sh---ing the whole time. Dylan quotes--someone is an expert on that. But science--we'll just believe whatever the cute dork says. Original review below. This is an entertaining book because its ideas are counterintuitive. The problem is that the reason the ideas are counterintuitive is that they are wrong. Take for example, the chapter on how "brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea." (This is the chapter that was probably most mentioned in reviews.) The reader would be much better served watching a short Nightline video on the design firm IDEO to see how brainstorming does work in the real world to produce many of the real products that surround us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66ZU2.... Lehrer's book does not mention IDEO--let alone explain how he deals with this inconvenient contradiction to his thesis. This is a suspiciously conspicuous hole. The fact that a giant design firm not only uses brainstorming but actively evangelizes for it is sort of a problem for the case that brainstorming is a myth. Lehrer himself acknowledges the success of IDEO in his New Yorker article on this same topic. Lehrer's evidence for his surprising claim bashing brainstorming is a psychology study with groups of 4 or 5 undergrads, and no facilitator or special tools, working on an assigned topic they probably don't care about. This is a biased, unfair test of brainstorming because: the group is too small, there is a certain skill to managing a brainstorming session so that people follow the rules and kids just being told to do it will not have this expertise, and the point is to share ideas about a problem that people want/need to solve. Despite these monkey-wrenches, the "brainstorming" group still did do better than the controls! A third group did even better by "debating" but this is another straw-man argument because in practice the idea generation of brainstorming is always followed by some kind of winnowing process. Nobody anywhere is proposing that one should implement all of the hundreds of ideas generated by a brainstorming session. Nor would one reject new good ideas that come up during the winnowing. The value of brainstorming is as a means of sharing ideas in environments where that does not happen spontaneously. If your workplace consists of geniuses casually wandering around and chatting with each other about all their brilliant thoughts, then brainstorming is probably not necessary. But for everyone else, it can be extremely powerful. To baselessly bash something useful just so one can come up with something surprising to say is irresponsible.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marzie

    I'm more than half-way through and maybe it's just my left-brain (even though tests show I'm sort of more right-brained?) getting in the way but I'm rather frustrated about how every chapter seems to say no, it's not just what we said in the previous chapter, it's this! Like relaxation is essential unless you're productive when you're under stress. Then stress! ADHD sufferers excel, except here, take some amphetamines and focus intently, except, hey, you lost all that right-brained disparate inp I'm more than half-way through and maybe it's just my left-brain (even though tests show I'm sort of more right-brained?) getting in the way but I'm rather frustrated about how every chapter seems to say no, it's not just what we said in the previous chapter, it's this! Like relaxation is essential unless you're productive when you're under stress. Then stress! ADHD sufferers excel, except here, take some amphetamines and focus intently, except, hey, you lost all that right-brained disparate input. Perhaps it's a sign of just how complicated the subject matter is but, it's rather frustrating picking through this book and saying, "but wait a minute, back here you said this, and now your saying not-this?" In the end, I've enjoyed it, but I feel as if it is living testimony to how little we understand about imagination, innovation's spark in the mind, and how one person's creatively stifling situation is another's crucible of innovation and insight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    While this is a fun book, much of it seems to be quite obvious, and covered in numerous other books. This is especially true for the first half of the book, which is titled "Alone". I did not need to read, for the umpteenth time, how an engineer at 3M invented post-it notes. Likewise, it is so obvious that some of the most creative people are those whose expertise spans multiple areas. The second half of the book, titled "Together", was more interesting to me. For example, I did not know that the While this is a fun book, much of it seems to be quite obvious, and covered in numerous other books. This is especially true for the first half of the book, which is titled "Alone". I did not need to read, for the umpteenth time, how an engineer at 3M invented post-it notes. Likewise, it is so obvious that some of the most creative people are those whose expertise spans multiple areas. The second half of the book, titled "Together", was more interesting to me. For example, I did not know that the area of San Jose was highly innovatives long before the inventions of electronics. Even when the area was agricultural, for the past hundred years it scored high in terms of the number of patents per capita. I'm not sure this can be explained; unfortunately, the book does not really explore the reason for this. On the other hand, the book does explain why Silicon Valley became innovative after the development of electronics. There are a couple of reasons, all having to do with the sharing of information among engineers there. They tend to have after-work drinks at a small number of watering holes. Non-compete clauses are not enforced there. And, there is a high rate of turnover among the technically skilled engineers. While it seems obvious, it is worthwhile mentioning that creative people feel less inhibited to take risks. And, with risks comes frequent failures. So, it appears that creative people are less afraid to fail, and they are persistent in the face of a string of failures. The style of this book is similar to that of of Malcolm Gladwell. It is packed with plenty of interesting anecdotes, which then are used as a springboard for speculation. This makes it a fun, feel-good book--it's just not a definitive work.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air (http://www.npr.org/2012/03/21/1486071...) and was utterly fascinated! He told so many interesting stories, such as every researcher at 3M gets an hour a day (of their workday) to do whatever they want ... take a nap, go for a walk, play a game, etc. 3M knows that that time creates creativity! He also told the story of how Swiffer was invented. Interesting!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Sparks

    well...I did think this book was great. Until I found out that he fabricated quotes in the Bob Dylan chapter and then lied to cover it up. It seems likely (the investigation is still ongoing) that more of the book is fabricated. He's creative all right but I really have no respect for him anymore--he's a journalist after all and his behavior violates the basic ethics of journalism.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Dickemper

    In light of recent developments, I feel the need to rewrite my initially positive review. Fabricating sources to support your thesis is plagiarism of the worst sort and something I struggled against while teaching composition to undergrads. I did enjoy the book, but now that the quotes are in question, as a reader, I have to wonder what else was invented or ripped from context to support Lehrer's ideas. The book was still thought-provoking, though, and perhaps Lehrer can reinvent himself as spea In light of recent developments, I feel the need to rewrite my initially positive review. Fabricating sources to support your thesis is plagiarism of the worst sort and something I struggled against while teaching composition to undergrads. I did enjoy the book, but now that the quotes are in question, as a reader, I have to wonder what else was invented or ripped from context to support Lehrer's ideas. The book was still thought-provoking, though, and perhaps Lehrer can reinvent himself as speaker on intellectual honesty to college and high school students and to outline how a well-respected, smart guy gets sucked into thinking that it's acceptable to make stuff up and pass it off as factually true in a published book. And on Bob Dylan, no less. Wow. No one's going to catch that.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    FASCINATING!!! Well researched and well written. Some things seem like 'well duh' but they really aren't. If you are creative, if you aren't creative check this book out. It will enhance your creative powers, and validate HOW you get to your creative state. If you aren't creative, or don't THINK you are creative, you may quite possibly be surprised.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James Q. Golden

    I just answered a question on Quora and recommended this book, and because I didn't want to feel stupid for recommending it, because it has a low score and is quite controversial, I started reading some of the negative reviews, and all I can say is this: I get it. It's almost certain that the man misquoted Bob Dylan, and that some of the stories and paradigms in this book Do drag on before they actually make a point, and there's a whole desert of things in this book that after you've read it and I just answered a question on Quora and recommended this book, and because I didn't want to feel stupid for recommending it, because it has a low score and is quite controversial, I started reading some of the negative reviews, and all I can say is this: I get it. It's almost certain that the man misquoted Bob Dylan, and that some of the stories and paradigms in this book Do drag on before they actually make a point, and there's a whole desert of things in this book that after you've read it and try to recall them they just slip down your fingers like dust. That's all true, I concur. BUT (and this is a big but for me because I've actually experienced what I'm going to tell you) there's a tiny gem in this book, which is backed-up by neuroscience, a fact which makes it shine Even brighter, and for the man or woman--or better, for the kids who'd love to enhance or polish or retrieve their lost creativity, this tiny gem is a true treasure. This tiny and Bright and so talked-up gem, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing else but Depression . Now, I know this may sound odd at first, but depression—although a scary and depressing word in itself—is a wonderful feeling, *WHEN* used as a tool for creativity. The root of every emotion is its opposite and, for me, the opposite of Spontaneous, child-like, out-of-this-world, innovative, wild-colors-on-ever-changing-canvas creativity, is dark, gloom, I-want-to-kill-myself-with-all-my-heart-but-I-won’t-actually-do-it-because-I’m-not-stupid, depression. Of course, you don’t have to take it that far; I’m just pointing out the extremes here, but, yes, if you want to tread the journey named creativity, the carrot is not sufficient; you have to add the stick too, unfortunately. The good news however is that you do these things willingly, so at the end of the road, when you look back, you can know and Feel that it was a *FUN FUN FUN* ride. And this is something I've experienced first-hand, all because of this book, because it made me, at a period of my life in which I was really depressed, to realize the OPPORTUNITY of using this depression and turning it into CREATIVITY. I have so many things written on my notebook--seeds that were planted during that period--that you wouldn't believe, and which, after years of being content and happy with my life, never cease to amaze me, for I know for a fact that I would never come up with this crazy stuff feeling as I'm feeling right now without using Depression as a tool first. So, anyway, my point is, as a Dragon once pointed out, to not confuse the moon with the finger pointing at the moon. Yes, the writing isn't perfect and the writer isn't perfect either, as we all aren't, but the gem remains. Why don't you allow yourself to Focus on that and go GRAB IT!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This audiobook kept me rapt en route to school and home again for about two weeks. Lehrer does a fascinating job of discussing, presenting, and analyzing creativity in many forms, and his information and insights have value for us personally, as communities, and, of course, as teachers. I am thinking of recommending this book to my department as a summer read--highly recommended. Two quibbles, one audio-related, one not. Audio: Lehrer is not a great reader. While regional accents are terrific, h This audiobook kept me rapt en route to school and home again for about two weeks. Lehrer does a fascinating job of discussing, presenting, and analyzing creativity in many forms, and his information and insights have value for us personally, as communities, and, of course, as teachers. I am thinking of recommending this book to my department as a summer read--highly recommended. Two quibbles, one audio-related, one not. Audio: Lehrer is not a great reader. While regional accents are terrific, his repeated pronunciation of "shouldn't" and "couldn't" as "shoon't" and "coon't" just seems like something that an editor or he himself should have addressed. Secondly, and more damningly, the book is so male-oriented that it inspired the kind of frustration I haven't felt since the bad old days of teachers "jokingly" telling the girls they couldn't do or be something or other. Virtually every creative person, virtually every researcher Lehrer cites is male. Two particular examples: Lehrer mentions the upsurge of creativity in Elizabethan England due to a particular alignment of events and laws (read and find out), but except for a passing mention that the sons of all kinds of work class families could now learn to read, he never even notes the loss of the potential creativity of thousands of sisters, daughters, wives, all left uneducated. Since a subtext of his book is that we need creativity now more than ever and should seek it out and encourage it, that blindness seemed a huge flaw. My second example is funnier. When I had just begin to notice that unflagging emphasis on "he, he, he," I finally heard a "she"! A woman had invented something creative and enduring! My ears pricked up. Yes! She persevered! She kept urging her husband (okay) to follow the idea she'd come up with from watching her kids (okay, fine. . . )--but the joke was on me: this one major example concerned the woman who invented--you got it--Barbie. I wish some editor could've noticed this fault, because it certainly undermines the book's message that we need to "think different," that we need to see our world through a different lense in order to really inspire and benefit from creativity. I'd love to hear comments from other readers--maybe we could encourage a second edition, or maybe you'll all tell me to get over myself. However, read the book--it's fascinating, despite its flaws.

  12. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    I have a friend whose husband is a book rep - she passes me the books that she thinks I'll find most interesting, so I lucked into a galley copy of this book. I consider myself a creative type and have often wondered why sometimes the ideas flow easily and other times it feels like trying to squeeze a hammer through a tube of toothpaste. Lehrer gives a good, scientific basis for why the brain works the way it does. Interesting, but I can't really do anything about how my brain works, can I? The g I have a friend whose husband is a book rep - she passes me the books that she thinks I'll find most interesting, so I lucked into a galley copy of this book. I consider myself a creative type and have often wondered why sometimes the ideas flow easily and other times it feels like trying to squeeze a hammer through a tube of toothpaste. Lehrer gives a good, scientific basis for why the brain works the way it does. Interesting, but I can't really do anything about how my brain works, can I? The genius of this book is the way he explains how other people are creative. How Bob Dylan dropped out and experienced some of the most creative times of his life. Why cities are such hotbeds for new ideas. How the Pixar team created a space where people have chances everyday to "run into" their co-workers and discuss the work. Why Elizabethan England gave us so many great playwrights. Is 3M one of the most creative companies because they give their employees the time and space to "make connections"? By looking at how others are creative, Lehrer provides a kind of road map on how you could make more creative space in your own life. Imagine gave me hope that I don't have to wait for a muse to hit me over the head. I can take steps that will open the tap of creativity in my head and keep it flowing. That it's not just a matter of talent but a mixture of planning, work, and perseverance that will allow me to create the life I want to live - both professionally and personally. This is another of those books that you can't speed read through. I read it a chapter at a time and let it sink in. I almost handed the book to my boss, he needs to read the chapter on the "Q" factor (the idea that you have to bring in new people every now and again to juice up everyone on the team). I can think of several other people who will get something out of Imagine - they'll be getting copies as well. Well worth reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I can't say I agree with everything presented in here but I do think this book is interesting and worth reading. Jonah Lehrer is a good writer, though his prose gets a bit overwrought at times when he's talking about literature. It's funny. His writing mimics the subject matter he's talking about. When he's talking about science, his writing is direct, clear and succinct. But add the element of art, especially literature, and his prose gets more florid and he begins to add more clauses; in other I can't say I agree with everything presented in here but I do think this book is interesting and worth reading. Jonah Lehrer is a good writer, though his prose gets a bit overwrought at times when he's talking about literature. It's funny. His writing mimics the subject matter he's talking about. When he's talking about science, his writing is direct, clear and succinct. But add the element of art, especially literature, and his prose gets more florid and he begins to add more clauses; in other words, the prose heats up a bit. I found that inflamed prose a little annoying. It sounded out of place, like the unmitigated fervor of an undergraduate paper. I found it distracting. His ending thesis, especially, recalled the harried dash for the end of an undergraduate paper: WE NEED TO FOSTER THE MAGIC OF CREATIVITY OR WE ARE DOOMED. The end. Pretty good read, though single minded and a bit repetitive. I dislike that one piece of scientific research on which Lehrer heavily leans gives the measure of creativity and productivity as the number of patents and trademarks submitted. There's no mention in that study of purely artistic creativity or productivity. F that. Anyway, I'd still recommend reading this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Schmacko

    Lehrer does something fascinating here. He talks about creativity from a personal and medical perspective (what your brain does when it’s stuck). Then he molds this creativity model to an organizational structure, showing us how the same process works for business. Finally, he fits the same findings to to a social structure. I recently read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, which used the same idea - going from personal to business to social - but seemed flimsy. So how does Lehrer succeed? He Lehrer does something fascinating here. He talks about creativity from a personal and medical perspective (what your brain does when it’s stuck). Then he molds this creativity model to an organizational structure, showing us how the same process works for business. Finally, he fits the same findings to to a social structure. I recently read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, which used the same idea - going from personal to business to social - but seemed flimsy. So how does Lehrer succeed? He constantly refers back to his earlier writing, either in mythological examples or in scientific fact. There is a clear sense of connectivity from the ideas of the individual to the organization to the social. The bridge is strong enough to see the comparisons between all three types of creativity. His surveys are always fascinating, though I wondered how “true” they were; he never quite offers statistics to show that his ideas are universal. He offered single stories. However, his examples are awesome: - A murderer facing a firing squad helped an advertiser come up with Nike’s slogan “Just Do It.” - The company 3M – the inventors of masking tape Scotch tape, and Post-It Notes - shows how mixing experts from different fields is important. Yet, letting problem solvers have time alone to figure out the details is also vital. - Pixar shows how ineffective brainstorming – only accepting positive ideas without criticism – can be. They initiate a critical plan where they also offer solutions to problems they see. - My theater friends will love this: Lehrer talks about the Q effect, a mathematical equation that says that the right mix of compatriots and strangers working together can guarantee a Broadway hit. Too many strangers and the thing fails because of conflict. Too many people always working with the same team means the dissenting voice or the new idea is never introduced. - A company found that offering rewards on the Internet solved a lot of scientific problems their multi-million-dollar labs full of “experts” were stumped by. Often the outsider has the most powerful solution to a problem, because the outsider isn’t locked into “how it should be done.” I would love to see more statistical – instead of just incidental – work done on this. But I still think this was a fascinating read!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    Very much of the journalism-based, story telling, popular science style, there is no doubt that this is a very readable book from an enthusiastic writer. As someone who has trained people in business creativity for over 15 years, it was also very interesting seeing a degree of scientific basis for what we've known pragmatically for a long time about ways of being creative. As often is the case with brain-based popular science, the scientific backup is primarily through studies of how the brain a Very much of the journalism-based, story telling, popular science style, there is no doubt that this is a very readable book from an enthusiastic writer. As someone who has trained people in business creativity for over 15 years, it was also very interesting seeing a degree of scientific basis for what we've known pragmatically for a long time about ways of being creative. As often is the case with brain-based popular science, the scientific backup is primarily through studies of how the brain acts using fMRI and EEG. So far, so good. But I do have some issues. For me the 'practical' creative aspects of the book work much better than the 'arty' side. In the end, to an extent, this is inevitable because the arty side is so subjective. Jonah Lehrer (any relation to the very creative Tom? the bio doesn't say) positively drools over how wonderful and creative Bob Dylan is. I find Dylan boring, pretentious and anything but creative. So that's a whole chunk of the book that turns me off. You can't argue about the creativity of a new product or invention - you certainly can about art. There are, nonetheless, some very interesting observations - and it's certainly not all as commonplace as 'it helps to go and have a walk if you're trying to come up with an idea'. (This may seem trivial, but it's one of the most powerful aids to creativity.) I was really interested in the aspects of the influence of cities over productivity, and how electronic versions don't deliver the same effect. Unfortunately, Lehrer does get one thing totally wrong. He slags off the great Alex Osborn, because his idea 'brainstorming' doesn't really deliver. This is a classic misunderstanding that tends to come if you don't actually read Osborn's books. He never intended brainstorming to be used in isolation to generate ideas. It's an idea collection technique, not a generation technique - it's supposed to be used alongside a generation technique, which Lehrer doesn't mention. He also collapses the creative process, usually at its best consisting of at least four stages, into a single event and so totally fails to understand it. Despite this, though, there a fair amount of useful material in a book that is generally an easy read. It just isn't the masterpiece that it seems to think it is. Review first published on www.popularscience.co.uk and reproduced with permission.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Rochelle

    07/30/12 -- I forgave Lehrer for basically recycling his own works. But then to find out he MADE STUFF UP in this book...not OK. So my four star rating is going down to a three for now. It might go lower if we learn that more than just the Bob Dylan quotes were fabrications. 07/11/12 -- I feel like I should begin by saying I started listening to this after listening to Scott Brick narrate The Passage and SB is pretty much the greatest narrator on the planet (or so I've been told). When I started 07/30/12 -- I forgave Lehrer for basically recycling his own works. But then to find out he MADE STUFF UP in this book...not OK. So my four star rating is going down to a three for now. It might go lower if we learn that more than just the Bob Dylan quotes were fabrications. 07/11/12 -- I feel like I should begin by saying I started listening to this after listening to Scott Brick narrate The Passage and SB is pretty much the greatest narrator on the planet (or so I've been told). When I started listening, I was not pleased. Jonah Lehrer narrates his own book, which can be a lot of fun. However, Mr. Lehrer is not a professional narrator like Mr. Brick, so I'm trying not to be too harsh. But here's the thing, at times it felt like maybe he had a cold or forgot to swallow so he simply had excess saliva in his mouth. Eventually I got past that because the content really was interesting. My favorite chapter was definitely the one about excess genius (which we DO NOT have in Phoenix), Shakespeare (a genius that had opportunity to be a genius), and patents/copyright (Shakespeare didn't have to worry about no freakin' Mickey Mouse law). Perhaps I enjoyed this chapter so much because I despise our current copyright situation and it was nice to hear someone who agrees that it's stifling creativity. Or perhaps because it got me thinking about "excess genius" in certain fields of study. Honestly, I think it just brought the entire book together for me. This definitely fits right in with the other nonfiction with a side of self-help books I've listened to lately. So if you enjoyed Quiet or The Power of Habit then I think you'll enjoy this one, too. (And the last bit in the acknowledgments made me tear up a little...I'm such a sap.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chad Post

    I have such mixed feelings about this book. I'm a sucker for neuroscience books, and for Jonah Lehrer, and there are a lot of interesting bits in here (the part of the brain that inhibits improvisation, the unique schools described at the end, the suckery of brainstorming sessions, etc.), but it's also a deeply flawed book. First off, there's not as much scientific research on creativity like there is on decision making. (Which is what Lehrer's last book is about.) So nothing really adds up and I have such mixed feelings about this book. I'm a sucker for neuroscience books, and for Jonah Lehrer, and there are a lot of interesting bits in here (the part of the brain that inhibits improvisation, the unique schools described at the end, the suckery of brainstorming sessions, etc.), but it's also a deeply flawed book. First off, there's not as much scientific research on creativity like there is on decision making. (Which is what Lehrer's last book is about.) So nothing really adds up and synthesizes the way it does in How We Decide. Instead, there are a ton of (sometimes trite) anecdotes serving as "evidence" of how creativity functions and discoveries are made. These ideas tend to be rather contradictory and, in some ways, not useful at all, in spite of the overarching self-help-y tone that the book has as a whole. And that's the other big issue I have with this: It's like Lehrer sold out and became a corporate shill. I can see big companies giving this to all their execs to use in helping become more efficient in innovating and encouraging their employees to become more creative. And that just doesn't sit right with me. This all said, I read this book in combination with Ender's Game. Not that I thought the two went together in any way, I just wanted to read both, and tend to have three or so books going at the same time. Anyway, what's interesting is that all of the things Ender does to try and improve at the game--devising the small toons and giving them a lot of freedom to act, getting Bean to do as much stupid shit as possible to try and devise new strategies--all of it matches all of the techniques Lehrer depicts in this book. It's both weird and entertaining when coincidences like this happen . . .

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joshum Harpy

    I was desperately looking forward to reading this book. I am an avid musician of 20 years, a working Illustrator and I do rehab work with adults with traumatic brain injuries. The subjects of neurology and creativity are dear to my heart and some of the most profound and moving mysteries with which I consistently find myself preoccupied. Unfortunately, however interesting the subjects and studies referenced in this book may be, it is a disturbingly heartless book about "creativity" that reads mo I was desperately looking forward to reading this book. I am an avid musician of 20 years, a working Illustrator and I do rehab work with adults with traumatic brain injuries. The subjects of neurology and creativity are dear to my heart and some of the most profound and moving mysteries with which I consistently find myself preoccupied. Unfortunately, however interesting the subjects and studies referenced in this book may be, it is a disturbingly heartless book about "creativity" that reads more like a workplace productivity seminar than anything with the slightest shade of depth. Lehrer is a technophile, not a neurologist, who writes about the creative process as the golden ticket to "success" today, and the Disneyland tomorrow where the whole fucking world is paved and stuffed to the brim with novelty and gadgets to keep us distracted from our hollow, empty lives. I'd suggest reading Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut instead. Vonnegut certainly knew a great deal more about creativity than this jackass and the book is a top notch satire about how stuffed-shirt stooges like Jonah Lehrer took over the whole fucking world. Sound angry? Lemme tell ya, the only thing that got me through the second half of this book was sheer contempt. BAAAAAARRRRFFFF.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Probably actually between 3.5-4.0. While the writing is fairly pedestrian, it is easy to follow. Lehrer is communicating sometimes complex information about the creative process in a simplified form that makes it reader-friendly. Creativity often seems mysterious, a gift some people have and some just don't. Lehrer argues that creativity is far more common than we may believe, it just flourishes under some conditions more than under others. For example, cities stimulate creativity because of the c Probably actually between 3.5-4.0. While the writing is fairly pedestrian, it is easy to follow. Lehrer is communicating sometimes complex information about the creative process in a simplified form that makes it reader-friendly. Creativity often seems mysterious, a gift some people have and some just don't. Lehrer argues that creativity is far more common than we may believe, it just flourishes under some conditions more than under others. For example, cities stimulate creativity because of the close proximity and constant interaction with other people. Creativity seems to be a process that, contrary to popular ideas, that is sparked by even trivial interactions with others. It is a communal process, often a collaboration. Ideas are spread and elaborated upon, which leads to the explosion of new ideas. For this to happen, Lehrer argues that there are some meta-ideas, prevailing societal conditions that lead to more creativity. Richness of language, horizontal connections rather than vertical (e.g., across companies rather than within one) are two conditions. Lehrer presents a strong case against brainstorming and for criticism which spurs on more thinking, refinement of ideas, a challenge that leads to new and better thinking. Just affirmation isn't enough, critical reception appears to be vital. Sadly, many of Lehrer's suggestions are counter to what is happening currently in our society (outside of, for example, Silicon Valley or Pixar Studios). Education is particularly flawed. The one thing we know people will increasingly need in our complex world is creativity. Yet schools have turned away from encouraging creative thinking to reward answering questions on a standardized test, responding to questions with canned answers. This is particularly sad and ominous in preschools that are focusing more and more on "sit down and study" curriculum and curtailing free play. But research has consistently showed that a young child's "play" leads to stronger critical thinking, social skills, and self-regulation than a curriculum focused on skill acquisition. Reading this book made me feel both optimistic about our potential (including my own) to become more creative while also finding the many suggestions overwhelming. The lesson I learned from this book was that while there is no simple way to increase creativity, there are some simple methods that lead to being more creative as well as societal structures that also support the process. An interesting, thoughtful work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    “At any given moment, the brain is automatically forming new associations, continually connecting an everyday x to an unexpected y. This book is about how that happens. It is the story of how we imagine.” That’s how Jonah Lehrer frames his wide-ranging romp through the world of creativity, touching down briefly on practitioners as diverse as Bob Dylan, the 3M Corporation, Broadway producers, Shakespeare, and Procter and Gamble. By examining the ways and means of the creative “geniuses” who produ “At any given moment, the brain is automatically forming new associations, continually connecting an everyday x to an unexpected y. This book is about how that happens. It is the story of how we imagine.” That’s how Jonah Lehrer frames his wide-ranging romp through the world of creativity, touching down briefly on practitioners as diverse as Bob Dylan, the 3M Corporation, Broadway producers, Shakespeare, and Procter and Gamble. By examining the ways and means of the creative “geniuses” who produced “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the Post-It Note, West Side Story, Hamlet, the Swiffer (mop), and numerous other examples of successful innovations, Lehrer illuminates the principles he draws from extensive reading of scholarly research papers on neuroscience and his interviews with their authors and lays the groundwork for a set of observations about how a company or organization, or a government, can foster creativity. For example, Lehrer notes that creativity is by and large a product of cities — places where people are typically forced to encounter those who have different values, represent different cultures, or simply have different ideas. It’s the interplay of ideas in unexpected ways that give rise to creative breakthroughs. Interestingly, Lehrer points out that a city’s productivity (as measured by the number of patent applications) grows with size. The bigger the city, the more it serves as a springboard for creativity. But the same is not true of corporations. “Companies exhibit the opposite trend,” he writes — basically because nobody’s really in charge in a city (certainly not the mayor!), so there’s no one who can suppress dissent, but in a large corporation, hierarchical management and the self-preserving habits of bureaucrats so often prevent innovation. One of the book’s most interesting points is that “human geniuses aren’t scattered randomly across time and space. Instead, they tend to arrive in tight, local clusters.” Lehrer gives the examples of Athens from 440 B.C. to 380 B.C., home of “Plato, Socrates, Pericles, Thucydides, Herodotus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Xenophon” — astonishing, isn’t it? — and of little Florence between 1450 and 1490. “In those few decades, a city of less than fifty thousand people gave rise to a staggering number of immortal artists, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Ghiberti, Botticelli, and Donatello.” Then he turns to the late 15th Century in England under Elizabeth I, featuring not just Shakespeare but also Christopher Marlowe, “Ben Jonson, John Milton, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Fletcher, Edmund Spenser, Thomas Kyd, Philip Sidney, Thomas Nash, John Donne, and Francis Bacon.” This last list is not quite so impressive as the others, but it helps make the point. Examining the ways and means of genius and the bunching together of brilliant minds under particular circumstances, Lehrer spotlights the policies and procedures he believes can be put to work in schools, in corporations, and in city government to produce new generations of creative minds to solve the ever-more difficult problems humanity faces as the 21st century unfolds. Jonah Lehrer, 31, is a Columbia University graduate and Rhodes Scholar who writes about psychology and the intersection of science and the humanities. Imagine is his third book, a best-seller just like its predecessor, How We Decide. (From www.malwarwickonbooks.com)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gale

    In the mid-80s I stepped out of the shower and wrote the basic structure Bette Ammon and I used for the handbooks and guides we wrote for teachers and librarians over the next 15 years. I met with a lawyer the next day and Beyond Basals, Inc. was launched. Since then I’ve been surprised over and over again when a really good idea seems to fall from the sky or when I’m suddenly aware of an art piece that took on its own life. Needless to say, I was eager to read Imagine when I first heard about it In the mid-80s I stepped out of the shower and wrote the basic structure Bette Ammon and I used for the handbooks and guides we wrote for teachers and librarians over the next 15 years. I met with a lawyer the next day and Beyond Basals, Inc. was launched. Since then I’ve been surprised over and over again when a really good idea seems to fall from the sky or when I’m suddenly aware of an art piece that took on its own life. Needless to say, I was eager to read Imagine when I first heard about it. How does creativity work? Well, long warm showers are a known stimulus, but so is some daydreaming, working across disciplines, travelling, taking risks, being serious about education, and any other number of things. Lehrer brings together the modern neurological research and the case histories of the industrial engineer developing Post-It-Notes, what happens at Pixar’s studio, Bob Dylan’s songwriting, the playing by Yo-Yo Ma, the drinks an amateur bartender creates in NYC, the Silicon Valley folks, etc. They are as diverse a group as you can get with only one thing in come- they are creative! There is no formula for stimulating creativity, but Lehrer makes it clear we can all be as creative as the people he writes about. This is a wonderful book for parents, teachers… for everyone to create a better world.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christine Edison

    How can people become more imaginative? Through numerous amusing anecdotes and analysis of plenty of scientific studies, Jonah Lehrer shows how people as diverse as Bob Dylan, the man who created the “Just Do It” slogan and the inventor of the bacon-infused Old Fashioned made creative breakthroughs. Learn why Steve Jobs put the only bathrooms at Pixar in the atrium to force people to bump into one another and how travel really does broaden your mind. Here are just a few tips I picked up: -- Move How can people become more imaginative? Through numerous amusing anecdotes and analysis of plenty of scientific studies, Jonah Lehrer shows how people as diverse as Bob Dylan, the man who created the “Just Do It” slogan and the inventor of the bacon-infused Old Fashioned made creative breakthroughs. Learn why Steve Jobs put the only bathrooms at Pixar in the atrium to force people to bump into one another and how travel really does broaden your mind. Here are just a few tips I picked up: -- Move to a large city to boost your creative productivity 15 percent on average. This is due to the increased number of random encounters with all kinds of people. -- If you need a flash of insight, try a hot shower or a walk. This gives your brain a chance to make new connections and get into the alpha wave state, priming you for insight. -- If you think you’re getting close to a solution for a nagging problem, knuckle down and concentrate. Sometimes you have to work hard to get through the problem, but the brain has the ability to sense when you're getting close, like when the word you need is on the tip of your tongue. I have read that some of Lehrer's quotes were fabricated, so take what you read with a grain of salt. But I still found the book entertaining.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ownbymom Ownby

    The University of Utah has adopted this book for the year, which I admit is what prompted me to read it. So glad I did. It's a fascinating examination of the creative process for individuals, and for groups. The one thing I will take away is the idea that we need to put ourselves in places where we will experience diversity in all of its richness. Those kinds of encounters, even if they are seemingly insignificant, are the ones which prompt us to think in new ways. Sometimes the nonexpert is the The University of Utah has adopted this book for the year, which I admit is what prompted me to read it. So glad I did. It's a fascinating examination of the creative process for individuals, and for groups. The one thing I will take away is the idea that we need to put ourselves in places where we will experience diversity in all of its richness. Those kinds of encounters, even if they are seemingly insignificant, are the ones which prompt us to think in new ways. Sometimes the nonexpert is the person who can make a creative breakthrough because he looks at the problem in an entirely different way. And, it's much more stimulating to share ideas with many people, rather than hoarding them in the privacy of one's brain. UPDATE: So very sad that Lehrer has resigned and admitted that parts of this book were made up, in particular quotes from Bob Dylan. Difficult to know what else is made up in the book. My rating still stands, because the diversity/creativity relationship rings true to me. But the luster is off.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    I loved this book! A mix of concrete examples and science exploration into how creativity works, this book has loads of implications for the classroom. There are tons of ideas and quotes that I've highlighted throughout this book, such as daydream walks, horizontal interactions, color coded paper based on the kind of tasks that we are asking them to do, collaboration. This book really got me thinking about how I will set up my classroom in the next year. Here's a great quote: "The mystery is this: I loved this book! A mix of concrete examples and science exploration into how creativity works, this book has loads of implications for the classroom. There are tons of ideas and quotes that I've highlighted throughout this book, such as daydream walks, horizontal interactions, color coded paper based on the kind of tasks that we are asking them to do, collaboration. This book really got me thinking about how I will set up my classroom in the next year. Here's a great quote: "The mystery is this: although the imagination is inspired by the everyday world- by its flaws and beauties- we are able to see beyond our sources, to imagine things that exist only in the mind. We notice an incompleteness and we can complete it: the cracks in things become a source of light. And so the mop gets turned into the Swiffer, and TIn Pan Alley gives rise to Bob Dylan, and a hackneyed tragedy becomes Hamlet. Every creative story is different. And every creative story is the same. There was nothing. Now there is something. It's almost like magic."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Holmes Espineira

    Thoroughly enjoyable and insightful exploration of creativity and the conditions necessary to produce it. Great read for writers, teachers, anyone interested in innovation and creativity.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chaymâa

    It was a real pleasure reading this book. The way this young writer Jonah Lehrer, dealed with the subject fascinated me so much he’s well documented once treating every single idea. However, the awe I was in when I finished this book started to disappear once I read that he made-up Bob Dylan’s quotes for his book and that he also lied about the context in which some non-existent quotes were given. I think the book could still have been good even if it wouldn’t have Bob Dylan as one of his multip It was a real pleasure reading this book. The way this young writer Jonah Lehrer, dealed with the subject fascinated me so much he’s well documented once treating every single idea. However, the awe I was in when I finished this book started to disappear once I read that he made-up Bob Dylan’s quotes for his book and that he also lied about the context in which some non-existent quotes were given. I think the book could still have been good even if it wouldn’t have Bob Dylan as one of his multiple examples. But that’s not the point of my review, the book still deserves to be read and enjoyed. So this book demonstrates that our best ideas doesn’t come from somewhere else. It’s all in our head. All we need is to know how creativity works to make it work for us. The book starts by stressing on the fact that every creative journey starts with a feeling of frustration, when we give up trying and stop searching for the answer. Jonah Lehrer says that at this specific stage, the insight comes. But how? To answer this question, he resorts to neuroscientist explanations. Like when he explains that the right-hemisphere has a crucial role in creativity or why sometimes the epiphany comes after taking a hot shower or daydreaming. I also found it beneficial when he talked about the letting go and that when we are worried and stressed, we are less involved in what we do and all we communicate to our surrounding is just nothing. Here is a quote from the ingenious cellist Yo-Yo Ma which once I read it I was sure I would always think about it every time I have a stage fright: "People always ask me how I stay loose before a performance," Ma says. "The first thing I tell them is that everybody gets nervous. You can't help it. But what I do before I walk onstage is I pretend that I m the host of a big dinner party, and everybody in the audience is in my living room. And one of the worst things you can do as a host is to show you’re worried. Is the fish overcooked? Is the wine too warm? Is the beef too rare? If you show that you’re worried, then everybody feels uncomfortable. This is what I learned from Julia Child. You know she would drop her roast chicken on the floor, but did she scream? Did she cry or panic? No, she just calmly picked the chicken off the floor and managed to keep her smile. Playing the cello is the same way. I will make a mistake on stage. And you know what? I welcome that first mistake. Because then I can shrug it off and keep smiling. Then I can get on with the performance and turn off that part of the mind that judges everything. I’m not thinking or worrying anymore. And it's when I’m least conscious of what I'm doing, when I'm just lost in the emotion of the music, that I'm performing at my best." It was also very lightening when he showed how can social intimacy makes a big difference when it comes to the performance of a group and how random conversations can be a constant source of good ideas (and that’s when he would talk about the key of success of Pixar). And then there were chapters on how social networks can affect the imagination and why some places became such a center of geniuses while others didn’t. This is a very fascinating book. For the first time in human history, we can now learn how imagination actually works which is very useful since it allows us to see if we’re thinking in the right way but especially would encourage us every time we would feel down and depressed because it turns out that our feelings (good or bad) have a big influence on our ability to generate great ideas. I learned from this book, that we all can be creative and artists, the question is whether we choose to be or not.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Really enjoyed this book - something interesting about putting conscious thought around what is often a subconscious process. Some of my favorite quotes... -"The concept is only the start of the process. The hardest work always comes after, when you're trying to make the idea real." -Frustration - the act of being stumped - is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer - before we probably even know the question - we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced a sol Really enjoyed this book - something interesting about putting conscious thought around what is often a subconscious process. Some of my favorite quotes... -"The concept is only the start of the process. The hardest work always comes after, when you're trying to make the idea real." -Frustration - the act of being stumped - is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer - before we probably even know the question - we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. -Find subtle connections between seemingly unrelated things. -If you're stuck in a difficult problem, set an alarm clock a few minutes early so that you have time to lie in bed. We do some of our best thinking when we're half asleep. -Conceptual blending: the ability to make separate ideas coexist in the mind; a crucial creative tool -The point is that it's not enough to just daydream. Letting your mind drift off is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative thought. -Be more disciplined about letting your mind wander. Intentional daydreaming. -Dionysian Innovator: divergent thinking - the kind of thinking essential to a remote association problem; the thought process of warm showers & blue rooms. -Apollonian Artist: convergent thinking - all about analysis and attention; focus on the necessary information, filling our mind with relevant thoughts. -"The struggle of maturity is to recover the seriousness of a child at play." -Nietzsche -"I welcome that first mistake. Because then I can shrug it of and keep smiling. then I can get on with the performance and turn off that part of the mind that judges everything. I'm not thinking or worrying anymore. And it's when I'm least conscious of what I'm doing, when I"m just lost in the emotion of the music, that I'm performing my best." -Yo Yo Ma -"Instead, one needs to constantly remind oneself to play with the abandon of the child who is just learning the cello. Because why is that kid playing? He is playing for pleasure. He is playing because making this sound, expressing this melody, makes him happy. That is still the only good reason to play." -Knowledge can be a subtle curse. When we learn about the world, we also learn all the reasons why the world cannot be changed. We get used to tour failures and imperfections. We become numb to the possibilities of something new. In fact, the only way to remain creative over time - to not be undone by our expertise -is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don't fully understand. -The highest performing employees - those with the most useful new ideas - were the ones who consistently engaged in the most interactions. -The only way to maximize group creativity - to make the whole more than the sum of its parts - is to encourage a candid discussion of mistakes. when you believe that your flaws will be quickly corrected by the group, you're less worried about perfecting your contribution, which leads to a more candid discussion. -Whenever work is criticized, the criticism should also include a plus, a new idea that builds on the flaws in a productive manner. -The most creative ideas, it turns out, don't occur when we're alone. rather, they emerge from our social circles, from collections of acquaintances who inspire novel thoughts. Sometimes the most important people in life are the people we barely know.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Lehrer comes at this topic with a goal: to see what we can and should be doing to improve the innovation successes in the United States in the future. He tries to explain moments of inspiration and examples of ongoing innovation and uses anecdotes to illustrate. He has an easy style, tackles a very big subject, and comes at it from many angles. It’s interesting. Best of all, his work can be discussed, refuted, and improved upon. That’s where he was leading us all along. There is something very se Lehrer comes at this topic with a goal: to see what we can and should be doing to improve the innovation successes in the United States in the future. He tries to explain moments of inspiration and examples of ongoing innovation and uses anecdotes to illustrate. He has an easy style, tackles a very big subject, and comes at it from many angles. It’s interesting. Best of all, his work can be discussed, refuted, and improved upon. That’s where he was leading us all along. There is something very sexy and energizing about the topic itself. We all like to think of a moment or two when we had a creative breakthrough. Some people have a lot more of them than others. Some actually take their moments to the bank. What does it take, and do we have it? I grew up in a time when it seemed prudent to be cautious about talking about one’s great ideas. This book says that in fact, we’d do better to share our ideas as much as possible, since interactions improve the product and/or chance of success. Our great idea might lead someone else to make the breakthrough product or service, but hopefully our interactions with others might fine tune our idea to better serve its purpose. So Lehrer’s main point is that interactions and collaboration are essential to a flowering of inspiration and innovation. Companies that force interaction by their layout, or studies collaborated by several authors in face-to-face interactions, improve the creative atmosphere and may develop a product more likely to be widely accepted. On a larger scale, cities force face-to-face interactions among all kinds of people we wouldn’t ordinarily run into in our daily routines, and thus foster a creative atmosphere that cannot be replicated. Lehrer takes a stab at a subject bound to create some controversy. He posits that Shakespeare was a great playwright, but his particular genius was only possible at the time when he wrote: playwriting was flourishing, and there was much Shakespeare learned from his contemporaries and from audiences. He writes that Shakespeare stole from many and often, but he usually improved upon the works he targeted. From here Lehrer makes a case that copyright laws in the U.S. should be loosened so that people can improve upon out-of-date patents or patents that slightly missed their target audiences. Finally, he deals with failure. Every creative person fails. It’s part of the process. If eighty percent of success is just showing up, the rest is perseverance. “Art is work” and breakthroughs often come when we give our brains a rest from rigor and give it time to process all it has taken in. The rigor is first, the idea second, the solution last. But in the end, there may still be a little bit of magic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    Evonne Goolagong, a stand-out women’s Grand Slam tennis player from Australia in the early 1970’s, was held back from greatness, by her own accounting, by her all too frequent mid-match “walk-abouts.” She used this Australian colloquialism to refer to her loosing concentration when the match was on the line. Like Evonne, Jonah Lehrer, despite my five stars, could have achieved even more with his wonderful “Imagine.” Unfortunately, in the middle of the first third of the book he went on a walk-ab Evonne Goolagong, a stand-out women’s Grand Slam tennis player from Australia in the early 1970’s, was held back from greatness, by her own accounting, by her all too frequent mid-match “walk-abouts.” She used this Australian colloquialism to refer to her loosing concentration when the match was on the line. Like Evonne, Jonah Lehrer, despite my five stars, could have achieved even more with his wonderful “Imagine.” Unfortunately, in the middle of the first third of the book he went on a walk-about by being inconsistent with his premise and somehow unintentionally underscoring the disconnect between mind altering drugs and meaningful creativity. But I digress. This is like perseverating on whether the model for the Mona Lisa was cross-eyed. The central point is that Lehrer has written a great book for those interested in knowing why and how man creates. The power of a new pair of eyes, whether they are an outsider’s or yours freed from the constraints of your own expert consistency, is perhaps the single strongest tool to innovation. In my work, this means bringing folks from all sectors together to think about education outcomes, for example. The power of “not knowing it can’t be done” should never be underestimated. “Imagine” is rich with examples – from the invention of post-its to the creative multi-part cocoon of Pixar. One of my favorite examples is the InnoCentive website. Founded by Eli Lilly in trying to understand which problems were unsolvable in its search for breakthrough drugs. With millions in R&D spending, how to allocate resources is key. But if technical issues your scientists said were impossible were actually possible (think education, poverty etc. where all the experts of the last generation seem stumped), then you could predict outcomes much more readily. To tap these outside eyes, they set up a website where Eli Lilly posted its hardest scientific problems online and attached a monetary reward to each problem. After a month of nothing, “the answers just started pouring in. We got great ideas from researchers we’d never heard of, pursuing angles that had never occurred to us.” Creativity means getting out of your own way – by either avoiding walk-abouts or the preconceived constraints of expertise.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Theiss

    Imagine made me want to redesign my university and my profession. When I look at the most exciting work being done in political science today, it is the result of cross disciplinary research. James Fowler teams up with a sociologist, uses an epidemiology database and learns that voting has viral properties. John Hibbing wanders into biology, sets up a physiology lab and finds that political orientation can be partially explained by hardwired genetic predispositions. In each case the political sc Imagine made me want to redesign my university and my profession. When I look at the most exciting work being done in political science today, it is the result of cross disciplinary research. James Fowler teams up with a sociologist, uses an epidemiology database and learns that voting has viral properties. John Hibbing wanders into biology, sets up a physiology lab and finds that political orientation can be partially explained by hardwired genetic predispositions. In each case the political scientist broke new ground by wandering out of the political science department and talking to people outside his narrow discipline. Jonah Lehrer would not be surprised. He suggests that rubbing elbows with people who are different leads to creative work. History is replete with periodic explosions of creative genius--Renaissance art, Greek philosophy and drama, Elizabethan playwriting. What they had in common was a fertile environment for creativity that included a rich, diverse culture where writers had access to many ideas and innovations. I remember a stunning art exhibition years ago at MOMA that perfectly illustrates Lehrer's insight. Paintings by Picasso and Braque during the highly creative invention of early cubism were placed in chronological order. You could then see how their works played off one another's ideas and innovations. Braque introduces a new element; Picasso restates it in his unique style. One paints a violin; the other breaks it into pieces or turns it sideways. Picasso would not have been Picasso without Braque. So back to political science. Perhaps we should all have one day a month to wander into another department to see what they have to tell us about the big questions we share. I suspect that music and anthropology together could tell us a great deal about social movements that have traction vs those that have not. Biology has much to teach us about dominance. We could learn a lot about altruism and institution building from psychologists. If we are to take Lehrer's ideas seriously, we would re-imagine the university by breaking down its silos and developing a broader intellectual discourse across a more vibrant academic commons..

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