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Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Creativity has long been thought to be an individual gift, best pursued alone; schools, organizations, and whole industries are built on this idea. But what if the most common beliefs about how creativity works are wrong? In this authoritative and fascinating new book, Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, tears down some of the most popular myths about cr ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is intriguing. Genius and innovation rarely, if ever, happens as a result of a single person acting alone. Sawyer brings to light many examples of "genius" that seemed to happen alone, but didn't. Bell, Edison, Einstein and others who in reality acted in concert with others, not alone. This idea that people working together always generate the greatest innovation. Sawyer can get bogged down in a bit too much detail for me, but the topic, and his grasp of it, keep me in. ...more
Maarten Volders
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Chapter 2 is what the book should have been all about. Although he's only skimming the surface of his research it provides some unique insights into the Collaborative Mind. Unfortunately he tries to map his knowledge about the mind to the connected age and anything that can be defined as innovation. From that point on the book is all about well-known stories that are nice to read but no real evidence in what them make unique. Being a lean / agile practitioner his idea of 'leaning organizations' ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely leaps and bounds better than The Global Brain by Howard Bloom. Still, it's very clear this was written in 2007. This is a *really* great book for 2007, but there are more exciting books out there now. I would definitely read something new by Sawyer. He has 2 newer books that I will try to read soon. ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sawyer explores collaborative creativity in this monograph and breaks down the crucial elements of a successful creative, collaborative environment. He discusses the importance of listening, keeping an open mind, combining/fusing ideas, improvisation, and flow. He provides a lot of examples of successful companies and not so successful collaborations. He also includes a lot of helpful secrets or hints to successful collaboration.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
To be perfectly honest, I was expecting more from this book. There really wasn't anything "revolutionary" about it, and I found that I ended up skimming through a lot of it. Nonetheless, it brings to light the importance of people working together, and how, when like-minded people come together, amazing things can happen. I think the key take away from this book is the importance of like-minded people with similar ability and without too much social anxiety, working together. ...more
Amir Hossein Fassihi
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book contains a very interesting and thorough research about the way a group can be creative. This is mostly included in the first half of the book. The second half focuses mostly on creativity itself while relating it again to the effect of collaboration and communities. The fact that this book focused on the effects of collaboration for creativity was rather fresh for me.
Scott Wozniak
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Solid book on the benefits (and challenges) of getting groups to be creative together (and not slide into mob mentality). It has solid research, good examples, and some practical applications. It's best for leaders who get to organize people into groups, a little less useful for people who are in the group but not in charge--still useful, though. ...more
Alberto Lopez
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
What an awesome book! It packs plenty of depth to the point of perhaps being a little too technical to many. Nonetheless, I feel that ANYONE needs to read it. Mr. Sawyer's concepts are very relevant to both our jobs and our lives; so I read it twice! ...more
Doris Maklewska
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An eyeopening story on how we can be better in what we do when we invite others to do it with us. I felt a bit sad for my one-person business and understood how important is my input in a business I support (ego-talking here ;) ). Lots of great examples. I really enjoyed that book.
Rio Limadinata
Yeakss, very unclear explanation
Guy Posts
May 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Group Genius written by Keith Sawyer, challenges commonly held beliefs about the path to creative innovation. Sawyer draws upon historical, as well as current day, events and practices to illustrate his belief that “the lone genius is a myth.” There is no inventor sitting in his room toiling away at creative thought, but rather creative thought stems from people’s experiences in life and the influence others have had upon it. Relevant to anyone wishing to bolster creativity in their business pra ...more
Jon Thompson
Fascinating, mind-expanding, many “are you kidding me?” moments… Sawyer presents what he has found to be the “real truth” (226) about creativity: improvised collaboration generates innovation. The concept of the “lone genius” is myth because, as Sawyer argues, “innovation always emerges from a series of sparks - never a single flash of insight”(7). Sawyer provides examples of innovations widely considered to be products of incredibly talented individuals – such as the telegraph, the light bulb, ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Admittedly a quick read through, starting with part 2, moving to part 3 and going back to part 1.

Part 2 is perhaps the meatiest of the sections. But it was in part 1 that I gleaned that I should be thinking about this in terms of verbal (versus visual) brainstorming and group work. So that was pretty important.

Lots o' examples which I skimmed, being familiar with many of them. Nice development of taxonomies. Useful. Because of that, the four (instead of three) stars.

Oh, yes. The long description
Robert Bogue
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you look behind the curtains of any genius you’ll usually find hidden ways that they were propelled forward by previous discoveries or through their work with others to create something that they couldn’t have thought of on their own. Whether it’s the remarkable advances of the renaissance kicked off by the Medici family bringing together great minds (See The Innovator’s DNA for more) or the “individual contributions” of the folks (Mozart, Freud, Woolf, and Gandhi) that Howard Gardner discuss ...more
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was a book I read for work (provided by my manager) about innovation and how it is groups that are truly creative, not individuals. Most of the book is very interesting. It is pretty clearly contrived in many cases (how often are there exactly 10 reasons something is true?), is very obviously tilted toward companies that obviously prove his points (shock), and goes a little too crazy in trying to generalize his ideas to humanity (apparently we must innovate optimally to survive -- I'm certa ...more
Leah Wescott
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A scholar who immerses himself in improv comedy, jazz and intellectual creativity? My kinda guy. Keith Sawyer's style is easy to read, understand and implement. Unfortunately for my students, as I read Sawyer's book, I simultaneously rewrote the classes I was teaching in order to accommodate Sawyer's ideas. Lucky for me, my students were brave enough to let go of their assumptions and fears in order to strive for transformative group flow experience. As a result, divergent, kooky and brilliant i ...more
Don Knapp
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Not the most scintillating read, but I've been checking out a lot of these books to bolster my understanding of Web 2.0 business collaboration, since I've been doing a lot of magazine writing on the topic over the past year. The biggest take-home of this book is that great ideas and inventions aren't the products of individual genius, and they don't take place in a single blazing moment of inspiration; they happen collaboratively, through small, connecting sparks of innovation, and continual tri ...more
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book blew me away. It condenses and distills much of what various other books hint at in terms of economic transformation. Dr. Sawyer covers a lot of ground, has many, many case studies but does so in a easy to comprehend manner. You can tell he has been an good educator, he writes clearly and concisely and does not talk too much in "business speak". For anyone hoping to make some sense of the "new" economy we are finding ourselves in, this book will either exhilarate you or depress yo ...more
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
This book gives many examples of how most inventions are the result of a collaborative effort. Most individuals are building on the ideas of many others. One person may make the final breakthrough at times, but many others have helped to lay the groundwork. Creativity increases when a variety of personalities/backgrounds are involved. People think that they are more creative under pressure, but that is not true. People working alone and then pooling their ideas are generally more creative and pr ...more
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have long been a proponent of the concept of group genius long before it was defined by Keith Sawyer. However, to see this corroborated was both inspiring and validating. Let this be an eye opener to those whose can only move when all is mapped out. Nurturing creativity to provide solutions will come more readily to those who understand the process. This is a must read for anyone who needs to work with people for any purpose from community functions to corporate goals.
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
this book was a bit uneven for me... it starts strong with lots of insight into how creativity works, especially focusing on the power of informed brainstorming and the key role of conversation in creativity. i found the anecdotes about how famous inventions really happened to be very interesting. later in the book, the author starts to give prescriptions about how companies can organize for improved productivity and i found this part much less useful. still a good book on creativity.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Anybody using Web2.0 technologies will appreciate the examples. But just like books on creativity that focussed to much on the individual, this one goes to the opposite corner of looking at creativity emerging from the action of groups. The reality is that both are really important.

For the Open Science crowd this is worth at least a good skim.
Petter Wolff
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Wanted to know how to build and foster creativity but got too little I'm afraid. A few antipatterns, but nothing close to a coherent theory. I admit I might have expected too much in that department because of a friend's recommendation. If you love a multitude of anecdotes loosely connected to something the author decides to call 'creativity', this is a book for you. ...more
Nov 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comm-coll
This is an interesting take innovation and the power of group collaboration. The main idea is that innovation is not a solitary creation, but the building of sparks together over time from many people into extraordinary ideas.
Richard (Rick)
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is what my current research is on, so no doubt hat is why I like this book so much. But Sawyer does such a good job of making the science behind group creativity understandable and engaging. He's coming to visit us at BYU in the fall, and I'm rereading this to refresh my memory of his ideas. ...more
Chip Hopper
Dec 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-books
The first half of this book was a bit slow. It picked up in the second half. I'm not sure it gave me any great "insight", but it reminded me of a number of things that are important to keep "top of mind".
Devin Partlow
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Yes! A very good book on innovation via collaboration. It makes an excellent argument against the 'lone genius' myth and spells out the key features you'll need if you're the type that likes to go about being innovative with a team. ...more
Jeff Lampson
In a world where individualism, lack of creativity, and bad meeing process is often prominent, this book provides insights, experiences, and methods that offer hope. If read and applied it provides some pathways for us to create a more promising future through creativity and collaboration.
Pam Hoffman
Dec 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the curious & those in business
Recommended to Pam by: i forget
I learned that Brainstorming isn't done best the way we all think it should be... ...more
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r. R. Keith Sawyer, a professor of education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, studies creativity, learning, and collaboration. After receiving his computer science degree from MIT in 1982, he began his career with a two-year stint designing videogames for Atari. His titles included Food Fight, Neon, and Magician. From 1984 to 1990, he was a principal at Kenan Systems Corporation ...more

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