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How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,697 ratings  ·  238 reviews
As a technology pioneer at MIT and as the leader of three successful start-ups, Kevin Ashton experienced firsthand the all-consuming challenge of creating something new. Now, in a tour-de-force narrative twenty years in the making, Ashton leads us on a journey through humanity’s greatest creations to uncover the surprising truth behind who creates and how they do it. From ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Doubleday (first published September 1st 2014)
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Heidi The Reader
How to Fly a Horse takes many of the myths that I believed about creativity or the creative process and methodically takes them apart. Any perceived creative blocks are revealed for the fallacies that they are.

It is one of those great non-fiction books that educates the reader while simultaneously encouraging her to improve herself.

From the creation of a South Park episode to Coca-Cola, Kevin Ashton covers all sorts of ways the average person can, does, and should contribute to mankind through
Elena Platonenko
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I talked to my mom the other day. She asked me to be prudent, because “we live in this terrible time, you know”. It’s a pity she doesn't read in English. Because I wish she could read this book and see we are amazing. Creativity is a unique trait inherent in every human being. It binds us and always drives us forward. “The human race’s niche is the niche of new.”

“How to Fly a Horse” is a book that debunks common beliefs about creativity and shows what really leads to inventions and discoveries.
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Kevin Ashton includes a lot of quirky stories in his How To Fly a Horse, about overcoming long odds, overcoming failure, overcoming ridicule, to come up with new products, inventions, and art. As a history, or a "secret" history, as the subtitle says, it's a bit of a jumble. On the other hand, as inspiration, it's not bad.

The book reminds me of books for writers, such as Stephen King's On Writing, which has little practical advice, but leaves you eager to sit down and write a novel right away. A
Josh Friedlander
Jan 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
The thrust of this TED talk-like business school pablum is "anyone can be creative", and this (almost surely false) point is hammered in over and over by a series of repetitive anecdotes.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Disclosure: I won a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.
I was so intrigued when I saw the title of this book, and then even more so when I read the summary. I don’t know about you but it takes the right kind of writing to make non-fiction enjoyable for me. Ashton does a great job of making me a smarter person without me having to work at it. Inventors and the stories behind their creations make for very interesting subjects in this book. Many of us have fleeting moment
Jonathan Jeckell
It made a convincing (though anecdotal) argument that action, not natural talent, leads to success. It was refreshing to see all the bullshit about creativity blown away, particularly that creativity is a reserved activity for a few or that creativity requires some kind of mystical, unquantifiable techniques to work. There was a lot of great stuff in this book, but it used a lot of narratives and anecdotes that occasionally conflicted.

[Edit-> new material]
He makes a good case that everyone has
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
Some of mankind’s greatest creations and inventions have not been discovered in the way that people think; rather than the ‘eureka’ moment where something suddenly makes sense, the process is a series of small steps and failures as the design or idea is refined. In this book, Ashton, draws on various examples and anecdotes to bring us the history of invention.

The orchid that produces the vanilla pod is a wonderful thing, the exotic flavour from the pods are used in so many things now, ice cream
Candice Landau
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The last time I enjoyed a work of nonfiction this much was Creativity Inc.

'How to Fly a Horse' is more than a history of Creativity. it's a guide to mastering it and noticing it in every day life. It's a book suited to every man who considers himself creative and every man who doesn't - scientists and non scientists alike. Why? because the truth is, we are all creative.

If you like learning about a subject through the medium of stories, each of which has a nugget of take-home advice and which f
Megan Hall
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
The basic premise for this book was engaging and interesting: that creativity is not a thing that magically happens, but rather the product of much work and trial and error. The book could have been half the length though, which would have allowed for much less repetition - after two chapters I already felt I'd been beat about the head by the author's argument. I skimmed the stories that seemed most interesting, but couldn't bring myself to closely read most of the book. The most enjoyable part ...more
Carl Rannaberg
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good book about how creativity works, how to encourage it in yourself and in an organization. Has many great stories from history for context.
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is so interesting! It has me reconsidering the way I think and how I approach ideas, problems, projects, and feedback. While I don't agree with everything Kevin Ashton writes here, it has a lot of fascinating history and valuable insights that debunk common misconceptions about the creative process and how it applies to individuals and societies. I will definitely be reading this again sometime.
Mukesh Emes
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brooke Barnhardt
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is no magic or myth to creation or discovery. It's just ordinary people taking ordinary steps - trial and error to get to greatness. There is no such thing as a genius – in fact Ashton believes they do not exist. And for him, there is no eureka moment either – most, if not all, inventions and discoveries have come from a process of refinement or inheritance. For Ashton, there is no secret, only hard work – and he gives interesting examples like building
the first US fighter jet, James Dyson
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a book I'd enjoy listen too again. Lots of antidotes and explanations on the logic behind how creativity happens, pushing through it and getting a result.

The two best sections for me were: 1: The artist who painted the same canvas 20+ times until he got the pattern of applying the colors in the consistency needed to get the colors desired. 2: The description / perception around writers block. Never thought of writers block in the manner presented and found a great way to get over it.
Sarah Smith
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I might have a literary crush on Kevin Ashton. In all seriousness, it is rare to find writers that simultaneously capture deep knowledge across a range of topics and industries and do so in a cohesive manner. Kevin Ashton has done so in eloquently organized and fascinating chapters on the creative process in "How To Fly A Horse."

The level or research needed to weave the chapters of this book is an impressive endeavor to say the least, and unlike many business books Mr. Ashton's dispels the myths
Rakib Jahan
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
History teaches us a lot about mankind. The author drives book through different lanes of the history to prove certain points. The main message is simple, Find your passion and devote yourself to work. Creativity is not magic. It is simply the result of consistent trying and thinking. The author nailed to send the message clearly. Do not expect it to be some magic book which will unlock your creativity. It is not. That is on you
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Megan by: My uncle
Creation is not extraordinary, even if its results sometimes are. Creation is human. It is all of us. It is everybody.

My uncle gave me this book to read, offering me any amount of money to read it, and I told him I'd read it free of charge. After discovering that it was nonfiction, I regretted my comment a little. Nonfiction is not something I reach for. You can probably tell that considering this is my first book on my nonfiction shelf. This isn't because it's not good but because I
Laura Martinelli
This ending up being a “Let’s just skim through the last few chapters beause really this isn’t doing anything for me.” I don’t think that overall this is a terrible book, but definitely not really what I’m particularly interested in and not for me. It’s basically a business book disguised as pop psychology/sociology, and I don’t think that a lot of the arguments made for creativity are as insightful or as in-depth as it thinks it is. For example, the chapter on scrapping ideas and bringing up th ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
How to Fly a Horse is a good dive into the world of creativity research and the origins of where ideas come from. This book targets human creativity in general and doesn't attempt to answer what makes an idea accepted, important, or innovated but simply addresses where the bulk of ideas come from in terms of raw human creativity.

The first act the author does is poke irreparable holes in the canon of how creativity "is supposed to work". He quickly dismantles the scaffolding of tying it to intell
Becky Taunton
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in two days flat, and loved it so much that it gave me energy! I spent the whole thing torn between reading on and immediately putting it down and going off to create, fail and create something all over again for myself.

How To Fly A Horse is a wonderful mix of psychology, sociology and anecdotes of personal struggles and triumphs made by creators throughout history. Creators that range from scientists to puppet makers.

The main aim of the book, in my eyes, is to reassure the read
Zaki Shaheen
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book started off as really good, establishing the premise which I hold very close to my heart: There is no such thing as genius and 'eureka' - its all a process and we build up on what others have done. It takes an anecdotal path towards the point and gives several examples. Yet I feel that the author takes it too far with anecdotes that it starts to get boring. At one point during chapter 5 or 6, the author goes at lengths about women's inclusion in universities and then later at lengths ab ...more
Allison Ball
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I could hardly put this book down. I loved all the back stories to inventions and innovations that are hardly thought about.
Kevin's style of writing was very fluid; he presented so many interesting facts and correlations that what could have been a boring read, was actually very entertaining.
As a side note, I found it a bit annoying that evolution was thrown into the book so many times and yet everything Kevin had to say sounded so very Christian. I'm surprised he did not have some sort of ep
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Ashton has a glorious video online for this book. In less than two minutes, the video nicely sums up what he's trying to say about creation in How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery. His main message is: "Creating is not magic but work." In his opinion, anyone can create. As he states: "Creating is not rare. We are all born to do it. If it seems magical, it is because it is innate. If it seems like some of us are better at it than others, that is becau ...more
Femina Ernest
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
"How to Fly a Horse" - Summation of fascinating stories and motivational thoughts, via proved successful person's history as witnesses. Really we need to appreciate Kevin Ashton, for the home work what he had done, for this book. It's awesome. Starting with Edmond's Vanilla Ice creation invention, this book grows with stunning historic facts & success strategies. Few thoughts which inspired me are, * Creating is not magic but work. * We need Love like we need Air * Open all veins and bleed it - ...more
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abilash Amarasekaran
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a really great book. It touches on the points which personally I have thought of and gives rational explanation for each of them. eg I learned from personal experience that when stuck on a problem to seek help from people who are not at all related to the problem I am working on. This is explains why freshers have the most creative idea.

I have been working towards to developing myself to not be one tracked mind ie do one thing over and over again like a machine. Branching out and doing
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-books
The author, Kevin Ashton, made a point that creativity and invention are not the products of rare geniuses but a result of hard work. They are not magical but built from the results of previous work in the current generation and usually many generations before. He argues that being creative and always trying to make things better are the innate traits in all of us. Kevin made his points through interesting stories in creativity, inventions and discoveries that many people might not have heard of ...more
Vikram Kalkura
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Don't believe in luck. It might favour you at times but not always. It's hard work that brings you the results and not luck. Hard work with creativity and dedication can get you to great heights and achieve what you are looking or aiming for.
Loved all the stories and examples he gave and also were unique. I have heard most of those examples the first time. Kevin Ashton explains all of these in a lovely manner and made me feel that even I am capable to do anything and also successful. I had to
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"How To Fly A Horse" is an entirely different kind of book. It’s one of intrigue and inspiration, of creation and revolution. The book tells stories in a manner unmatched by any book of its kind. It’s a conception about creation, the history of innovation’s progress, which may be redundant.

I loved the stories. I loved the messages. I loved the sheer enormity of it all. I loved it’s simpleness. I loved how easy he made creating sound, but also saying it is hard work, and getting that message.

Tabitha Donaghue
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is amazing. The stories are engaging, and while you can generally tell what the overall ‘moral’ will be, often the insights are presented in such a simple, open hearted way that I cried a couple of times. It returns something of the magic of childhood to the dry old adult brain, reminds you to breathe, prods you to be creatively courageous and tenaciously devoted to your work. It is a work of encouragement.
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Kevin Ashton led pioneering work on RFID (radio frequency identification) networks, for which he coined the term "the Internet of Things," and co-founded the Auto-ID Center at MIT. His writing about innovation and technology has appeared in Quartz, Medium, The Atlantic, and the New York Times.

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