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Imagine: The Science of Creativity
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Imagine: The Science of Creativity

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  21,534 ratings  ·  1,581 reviews
Note: This book has been withdrawn from publication (July 2012) by its publisher due to falsified quotations and factual inaccuracies.

Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the color blue can help you double your creative output?

From the New York Times best-selling author of How We De
Paperback, 279 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Text Publishing
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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
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:

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
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 ...more
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:

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
I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air ( 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!
Jun 25, 2014 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Elizabeth Theiss
Shelves: business, psychology
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
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.
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
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 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 ...more
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 ...more

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.
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 produc
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:
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
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
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
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
Christa Vogelius
If you're a sucker for popular-neuroscience/psychology (I am!) and/or liked Lehrer's earlier book _How We Decide_, (I did!) you'll probably read this in a couple days, enjoy it, and then forget about it. It's a fun read, but most of the conclusions that Lehrer comes to are not that surprising or that well -supported.

One reviewer called Lehrer "the Malcolm Gladwell of the mind" and that seems right. The writing is fluid and readable, but bases broad generalizations about different types of creat
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
I was very prepared to not like this book. I was also very prepared to write a scathing review of it.

Before I read it.

Why would I read a book I thought I wouldn't like? Read the second sentence up there. I thought it would be fun to rip it to shreds. It's always good to get stuff like that out of the system. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword.

But it's so darn well written. It's so danged informative. It's written with tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what yo
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
Mary Hackett
Excellent book on how creativity works (and doesn't). Jonah Lehrer's articles always make science interesting, but this "extended article" of sorts is hands down my favorite one of his. Well written, researched and filled with handy anecdotes to illustrate his points, it is well worth the read. Now, I just have to move to a huge city, surround myself with a collection of people who don't think like I do (but a decent amount of people who do), get inspired by the noise of life (Like Talking Heads ...more
Blake Charlton
3.6 stars. well written and entertaining non-fiction a la malcolm gladwell about what can be studied about creativity and imagination. a very fun read. however, i do have major reservations about many of the studies cited and the emphasis lehrer places on them. at times, i felt that he was over stating his case and that--given the books stated aim to focus on science--more cautious deductions and arguments were warranted. even so, and given that popular science writing must seek some amount of s ...more
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“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.” 27 likes
“And so we keep on thinking, because the next thought might be the answer.” 16 likes
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