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Creative Reading Matter #1


We read a LOT. Here’s the best stuff we’ve found recently:

From Eric Barker: How the most creative people get their ideas:

Keith Sawyer tells an interesting story about breakthrough ideas in his book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. Researcher Vera John-Steiner wanted to know “What nourishes sustained productivity in the lives of creative individuals?” She interviewed over 70 living creative geniuses and analyzed the notebooks of 50 dead ones (including Tolstoy, Einstein, etc.) to look at their work habits.

She assumed this was going to end up as a review of Eureka! moments in the greatest creative minds. She even planned to title her book “The Leap” because it would be about those giant flashes of inspiration that led to breakthrough ideas. But she was completely wrong. Eureka! moments turned out to be a myth. There was no inspiration moment where a fully formed answer arrived. Strokes of genius happened over time. A great idea comes into the world by drips and drabs, false starts, and rough sketches.

From OgilvyDo: The art of cultivating a creative workforce:

This New York based design studio arguably goes the furthest when it comes to cultivating creativity. Stefan Sagmeister closes the firm down every seven years and gives all of his employees an entire year off. The aim of this sabbatical is to enable the team to explore new things and return to work reinvigorated. If nothing else, this unique approach certainly promotes a relaxed working atmosphere – the Sagmeister & Walsh staff are known for posing naked in their official company photos.

From The New Yorker: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t?

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.

But technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

From Think Jar Collective: Embracing Unexpected Creative Collisions:

In June 2012, I came across an article about the legendary physicist Richard Feynman on The Creativity Post called Richard Feynman, Spinning Plates and Serious Play. Reading through the article, I solidified several ideas that had been building in my head over the previous weeks; namely, the importance of working diligently at a particular task and allowing oneself the time to relax and explore. In the Feynman article, for instance, the author writes “You need to periodically and regularly interrupt the brooding about a problem and do something totally differently.” Indeed, it is the combination of domain knowledge, focus, letting go, and serious play that leads to great ideas.

From Wiley Publishing: A free ‘creativity sampler’ of 5 great books, including excerpts from:

  • Josh Linkner’s Disciplined Dreaming, which draws on jazz improvisation as a metaphor for innovation and collaboration.
  • Keith Sawyer’s Zig Zag, in which our favourite creativity researcher maps out the 8-step creative process and contains over 100 fun exercises to enhance your creativity.
  • Shelley Carson’s Your Creative Brain, which draws on brain science to identify a core set of creativity “habits of mind” and also provides hands-on techniques.
  • David Burkus’s The Myths of Creativity, which challenges many of the common creativity misconceptions.
  • Ken Robinson’s Out Of Our Minds, which describes how to transform schools to foster greater creativity.

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