Schmacko's Reviews > Imagine: How Creativity Works

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
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Apr 11, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

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!
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy Thanks for the review. I don't think I will read the book but from what you say about it, I am on the right track with a personal philosophy I call Optimistic Anarchy.


Schmacko Judy wrote: "Thanks for the review. I don't think I will read the book but from what you say about it, I am on the right track with a personal philosophy I call Optimistic Anarchy."

:-) Now the book also says that getting different perspectives is vitally
important. Just that working out the details is best done alone.


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