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The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity

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The powers of creative thinking can be yours if you're willing to laugh and learn in this concise, cliche free and memorable short book. With challenging chapters on topics like creative confidence, making bold decisions, and separating the need for feedback from the desire for encouragement, even if you've read other books on the subject or if this is your first, The Dance of The Possible will surprise you, make you think, laugh and perhaps even dance when you get back to work

248 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 13, 2017

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About the author

Scott Berkun

21 books298 followers
Scott Berkun is the author of four popular books, Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker and Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds. His work as a writer and speaker have appeared in the The Washington Post, the New York Times, Wired, the Economist, Fast Company, Forbes, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio and other media. His many popular essays and entertaining lectures can be found for free on his blog at http://www.scottberkun.com, and he tweets at https://twitter.com/berkun.

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5 stars
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103 (42%)
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52 (21%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews
Profile Image for Diego Pino.
64 reviews12 followers
March 8, 2018
Fourth book I read from Scott Berkun, first book I've read on creativity.

The book's subject is to demystify the creativity process. Too often in popular culture creativity is seen as something magical. We tend to believe geniuses such as Picasso or Kafka were creative because they were granted a special gift or because they were inspired by an external source (a muse or an eureka moment). Then people who aspire to create something spent their time aimlessly searching for these external sources of inspiration or hoping to be gifted someday.

The truth is that the creative process is a more mundane activity, and there's nothing magical about it. When we consider a work of art we see it as a final product, but we ignore that to get to that result an artist may have gone through tons of iterations. That applies not only to art but to any creative process (a book, a film, a software project, etc). If you want to create something, you just need to put time on it in a consistent manner. The result might be good or might be bad, it doesn't matter. If you're committed to your idea, you will eventually produce something valuable, in this or in a future project.

This is a short summary of the content of this book. You'll find more perspectives and stories on it. Many of the essays in this book are reworked articles from Scott Berkun's blog. If you're an regular reader of his blog they might already sound familiar to you.

If you like what Scott Berkun writes about, you'll definitely enjoy this book. If you have never heard of Berkun, but are looking for a book about creativity and ideas, I'd also recommend it.
Profile Image for Vladimir Tarasov.
43 reviews7 followers
September 7, 2017
Twisted experience. I love Berkun's style and his ability to express condensed wisdom with the simple words. And it's not the first essay I've read. From the other hand, there was nothing new for me to learn from this book, but it is mostly because I am interested in this part of human nature and already read a lot. To sum it up: this book will definitely stay pretty close to my working place to be able to remind me some vital basics.
Profile Image for Tomáš.
290 reviews28 followers
April 30, 2018
Got this book for free from Amazon to my Kindle and it´s my third one from Scott - this time about creativity. The book itself is a solid collection of ideas, but don´t expect much, if you´ve already read something else about it.
Profile Image for Goth Gone Grey.
1,010 reviews46 followers
April 28, 2018
A fun read on refreshing creativity

This is a quick, refreshing read with tips on how to cultivate creativity. Not to spoil it, but it seems to involve a lot more practice, and a lot less excuses. Could catch on!

The author really likes fun socks - that's an important detail that cannot be missed. The book shares examples of creative people in a number of fields and some things they've found to be successful, as well as gentle reminders throughout to practice. Write, sing, play, paint, dance, whatever makes your creative heart sing is the only way to nourish it and expand your repertoire.
Profile Image for Ravi Gangadat.
6 reviews
March 10, 2017
If you’ve ever wanted to be more creative or make something for the world then you must read “The Dance of the Possible” by Scott Berkun. Scott made the following promise to us: “If I have written it well, you will soon want to work on something where you can apply your creativity”.

The author sent me an early reviewer’s copy of the book which only took me 3.5 hours to read. Upon completion of the book, I started working on a small feature for an open source project which I had on the back burner for three months. So, Scott kept his promise to me, he provided sufficient insight and pragmatic techniques that helped me get out of my rut.

My main problem is that I’m obsessed with trying to solve problems by searching for the best technique or approach. I have spent hours searching google to find the best possible answers or solutions. I’ve read many other books on problem solving and creativity but I haven’t been able to change my thought process for long periods of time. I’ve tried failed fast techniques, brainstorming, A/B testing, etc…. I can add “The Dance of the Possible” to my short list of books that helped put a dent into my though process and attitude for solving problems.

With enough practice, we can all develop a variety of skills that can help us become better problem solvers. Scott’s guide has helped me update my out-dated skill stack for generating ideas and staying committed to my craft. There were many techniques and insights provided by the author but this is what worked for me.

“We get the majority of our creative powers from our subconscious mind.” If this is the case, then, how do we nurture a more healthy relationship with our subconscious mind? I use to write my ideas down in a journal but would eventually stop because I would get lazy or distracted. Scott mentioned that one of the most important relationships you can have is between your subconscious and creative instincts. I realized that for me to continue to nurture this relationship I need to slow down and write my ideas down.

“Finding good ideas is one thing. Developing them into finished works is another.” I tried two of the eight mentioned techniques for idea exploration: Kill False Constraints and Switch Modes. One of the issues that I continue to face with problem solving is that I am too pessimistic and kill ideas too quickly. When I made a list of practical and psychological constraints, I realized that I was not exploring enough solutions to my problem. The other technique which I found helpful was the switch mode technique: trying another approach to express ideas. Typically, I sketch my ideas or write them down. The tip of trying to explain a project to someone who knows nothing about it worked well.

“No matter how great your idea is, there will be energy you have to spend, often on relatively ordinary work, to deliver it to the world.” “To get off the couch and do something interesting requires confidence.” I realize that sometimes I lack patience or lose confidence when trying to solve a problem and can be disappointed when my solution fails. The author provided vivid examples of the discovery of the Post-IT note, Edison, The Wright brothers and how they dealt with setbacks. I found it inspirational and have added several biographies and documentaries to my list for motivation. Also, I’ve blocked out time in my calendar when I’m “most energetic” to work on my projects.

“The longer you work at creating things the greater the odds you’ll eventually have a day where you don’t feel like doing it anymore.” “It takes effort to keep going when feeling unmotivated, but that’s the difference between commitment to a craft and a fantasy.” I realized that surrounding yourself with friends and mentors that are nurturing, laughing at yourself, and create more situations that bring me joy can help reduce creative burnout and help me stay motivated. Yes, sometimes I forget to have fun and this advice is common sense. But, sometimes common sense is uncommon.

I highly recommend “The Dance of The Possible” to anyone who wants to follow a pragmatic guide to make something. This is a terrific hands-on guide that will help you stay committed to your craft.
Profile Image for Noah.
29 reviews12 followers
March 24, 2017
Summary: A Satisfying, Convincing, and Actionable Initiator on Creativity

It's not uncommon that when we finish a book, we feel something lacking. Sometimes it's because it starts strong and wears out at the end (like most bestsellers); sometimes because it facilitates thoughts beyond the scope (philosophy or mathematics); other times because it's inspiring enough to provoke thought, but not practical enough to provoke action (positive psychology).

Scott Berkun's The Dance of the Possible (DoP) goes farther and beyond. It’s one of the most satisfying, convincing, and actionable initiators on creativity.

1. It’s Satisfying

Many bestsellers are actually best-fillers, inflating one chapter (or less) worth of materials to a dozen-chapter balloon, which eventually shrinks to the bare and bald.

Scott’s book is bestseller-worthy with no compromises. With his characteristic fluency and just-enough humor, Scott’s book is dense with insights, to-the-point with examples, and is intentionally kept concise for the most impatient. There’s no reason you can’t or shouldn’t read it.

2. It’s Convincing

Over the years I’ve also, just like the author, read quite some books on the topic of creativity. Blended with my own experiences and lessons, many of the books’ major points are resonant and are often finer and summarized better. Only solid research leads to sound reasoning, which is evident in the book.

Misconceptions, myths, and blindspots about creativity are all well addressed, barely leaving any space for further doubt. The author does a great job in anticipating and answering your questions along the way. Major concerns are usually addressed on-location, in a logical, practical manner.

You end up connecting all the fuzzy dots in your own experiences and reasoning about the topic, and, along with the author’s, shape a far better understanding and opinion. It’s not magical. It's just incredibly intelligent.

3. It’s Actionable and Inspiring

The understanding, the steps, and the encouragement are all right in the book. You can easily see yourself doing all the things suggested, with most of your skeptical or anxious questions about taking action answered.

4. Conclusion

This should be your first book on creativity, and hopefully the last (because it’s just so action-provoking).

Eventually, there's no magic at all when it comes to creativity. It's always in the details. And attending to the details of the mind and the action requires a higher calling, established by intelligence, curated by will, and implemented by habitual commitment.

Scott's book guides you to that calling. And the rest is, well, not easy, but finally in sight, probable, and most importantly, approachable.

Highly recommend!
5 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2017
This book reminds us that create is a verb. It is the process of bringing something into being. Having creativity is, therefore, having the ability to create … and this, more often than not, is about hard work. Deciding what to create is influenced by the Dance of the Possible: the expansion in the number of ideas that are possible and shrinking this set enough to be able to get things done. This latter process is a key point I took from the book, summarised in the following: “You can only call a pursuit important if you identify what is less important and what you are willing to give up”.

Scott Berkun has provided a handy, concise guide for anyone trying to bring something into existence: whether it be a book, a piece of software, or a fund raising event. Recommended for anyone trying to get something done and out the door.
2 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2017
Inspiring book

Anyone wanting to work or is already working on some projects should read this bolk. You will get inspired and motivated to continue.

Author lays out practical ideas on how to improve creativity. For me the most valuable information was that creativity is not only strike of genius but mostly dedicated effort. Not that I did not know about this but the arguments Scott uses make me finally believe what I thought before. Well written, easy to read and full of practical tips.

Thanks Scott for writing this book.
Profile Image for Luboš.
407 reviews53 followers
September 1, 2018
I like Scott Berkun, especially because of his great book Confessions of a Public Speaker, so I am reading his blog and newsletter (I guess that`s why I got this book for free). It is not a bad book, but nothing eye-opening for me. Kind of a longer blogpost.

For me, the most interesting were stories about famous creators such as:
Yes, Ray Bradbury did write 25,000 words of Fahrenheit 451 in just a few days. But what’s often not told about that amazing burst of productivity is that he later revised the book several times over the course of a year, expanding its length and heavily editing it, before it reached its final published form.
182 reviews62 followers
March 15, 2017
I read a fair number of books about creativity, and some that are business-oriented leave me cold and unchallenged to pursue creativity. I expected this one to be a book about creativity in the business world. I'd think it was well written, but wouldn't find anything to take away from it. The idea of "don't be precious" made me think of my fellow writers who find the process of finishing a creation daunting and never get around to "shipping" it (in the words of the esteemed Seth Godin, another author's work on creativity that gave me much to take away).

He says people who become creators have good taste, and at the beginning we're disappointed with our own work because "it's trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it's not that good." Since our taste is still good, we're disappointed because it's the work isn't to our good taste--it's a disappointed in the work, not ourselves. If we can get through this phase of learning to create by creating a lot, we can bridge the gap between how good we want our work to be and how good it is. I never thought of it that way, and it was kind of a revelation.

I'm so glad I read it. I got an early review copy from the author.
Profile Image for Srivardhan.
106 reviews
May 14, 2018
The book is small and I like it. The author has taken great pain to edit it sharply, so there is not much boring stuff. The author is to the point and tells what he needs to tell in a concise and precise manner.
However, I felt it's all known! Just another book which tells what is already known. Perhaps you can use this to remind yourself the things you've forgot!
1 review
August 24, 2018
The book will let you see things from different perspective

In this book, Scott breaks the conventional approach of creating things and shows us how to find creative ideas by ‘dance of possibles’ and be motivated to actually finish the project. I really enjoyed the read and highly recommend every creative professionals.
361 reviews
September 24, 2018
I like Scott Berkuns work and this one was no different for me. Concise, to the point with a lot of great ideas. The major premise is that creativity is less of a gift and more the product of hard work. That if we really want to produce something of value then get working and turn those ideas to reality.
40 reviews
October 23, 2021
There are definitely some gems in there.

I opened this book at a traditional bookstore, and it's the page: if I did things for money, and I didn't get the money, then I have nothing...

There are other gems on creativity as well, but this remains the turning point /light bulb moment. Thanks universe for showing me this paragraph when I needed it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
104 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2017
Another short and efficient book from S. Berkun. Creativity is nothing magical, and he explains it clearly. It also helps to define / develop your creative process and give some interesting insights (not a list of methods but an overall methodology).
Profile Image for Josh Rensch.
46 reviews3 followers
July 2, 2017
This is one of the best books on creativity I've read. It has practical actions as well as just thoughts. It doesn't try to tell the reader how to be creative. Read this book right now if you are trying to be creative.
Profile Image for Shannelle.
158 reviews79 followers
November 29, 2017
I honestly wanted to just tear out a lot of pages and then plaster them all over my desk to remind myself about the importance of creativity and distance from an audience and all the things. I agreed with so many things in this book that you can say I’m biased, but oh well
Profile Image for Bar Franek.
21 reviews
January 5, 2018
This is a good short book about creativity with some sage wisdom you might find in similar books, and some usable ideas. As an example, he recommends taking an improv class. Never in my life have I thought that would be a good idea, but I did it and really enjoyed it.
392 reviews4 followers
July 29, 2018
A very quick read with lots of ideas about how to get out of your own way to actually create something. I was very entertained that, in addition to books about creativity and storytelling, Amazon recommended "Circular Knitting Workshop" as something others who bought this book purchased.
4 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2018
Imagine doing the impossible.

Concise and quite hot to the point with lots of clear examples to help improve your understanding on the matter that is probably so common that people just overlook the issue.
Profile Image for Liz Barclay.
83 reviews
April 14, 2020
I will be using this book in an intro undergrad creativity class. It provides a good overview of many of the topics we'll be discussing and also gets students to reassess creativity in entrepreneurial effort.
Profile Image for Nikolay Theosom.
169 reviews6 followers
October 15, 2019
more of a collection of random ideas that worked for the author, rather than an attempt to understanding how it works
21 reviews
May 8, 2020
Simple and short but I got some good takeaways.
Profile Image for Steve Brown.
132 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2021
quick easy read, but didn't provide any new insights.
Felt like the author used familiar stories and the bottom line is create a routine and work hard if you want to be creative.
Profile Image for Rebekah Price.
6 reviews
March 14, 2017
Concise. Easy to read. Engaging. Packed with psychological hacks to help you navigate your way through the creative process, from concept to fruition.

A) Debunks some of the ideas about creativity that disengage the average person (like me), from rolling up sleeves and taking a crack at things. For example, Scott highlights that creativity is just applying thinking to solve problems in interesting ways. He also points out that creativity arises from your sub-conscious splicing existing ideas together and to be patient with that process.
B) There are a bunch of tools and techniques to help you sift through lots of ideas and to focus on the ones to move forward with.
C) He provides sage guidance on being more self aware when in the process of creating, so that you can avoid getting bogged down by ego, or accidental burn outs.
D) There are multiple reminders to write ideas down, as humans have terrible memories and to never throw an idea away!

It takes approx 3 hours to read, unless you are like me and take 13 A4 pages of notes in the process!

Highly recommend.
Author 18 books1 follower
March 9, 2017
The Dance of the Possible is a beautiful metaphor of the creative thinking activity. Ideas are combined into other ideas. Divergent thought converges into a complete and (what's most important) impactful artifact. Discovering something is never efficient. What's a good idea? It depends: being creative doesn't mean that you are moral. Perfectionists are too precious with their ideas. Creators make the ordinary into the interesting. The book is full of such insightful and inspiring memes. I will not spoil how the book suddenly ends, but will rather point out that the author may be planning to launch a new line of socks for creative people.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is a reflection on where ideas come from, how to find them and develop them into something good. Part two starts from the realization that coming up with ideas is relatively easy, what's difficult is doing something practical about them. It takes discipline, confidence and lots of iterations.
In Part three I particularly liked how Scott Berkun debunks the myth of the ephiphany with lots of real world examples on how much effort and how long it took to go from ideas to innovations.
And yes it takes guts to write a book on creativity without ever using the "innovation" word, or maybe it's because Scott Berkun already wrote another excellent book about that.

This easy to read book will be enjoyed by Silicon Valley folks looking for the next world-changing disruption; by designers that need to be nudged in the right direction while solving problems worthy of their time; by students struggling to come up with some original research topic; and of course by all artists and writers that would like to find out how Berkun does it.
Profile Image for Cassie.
84 reviews
March 19, 2017
A quick read that will have you looking at creativity in a new and practical way.

I appreciated that the author included actionable advice and exercises as well as well-sourced research. Some of the concepts have inspired me to change my approach to my creative work before I even finished the book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews

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