Saturday, June 2, 2012

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer *****

If you read one non-fiction book this year ... this should be it. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer explains creativity in ways useful to artists, scientists, and parents. Creativity is the mystery behind progress and happiness. With non-humans using tools, computers winning chess tournaments, and insects, plants, birds, mammals, and everything in between, communicating in complex ways, creativity might be the final human advantage.

   As in traditional in books on creativity, the author starts with a problem requiring some insight or creativity for its solution, in this case: "matchstick" math. How do you make this mathematically true?
   Is is not surprising that this problem is accompanied with the traditional discussion of creativity with the traditional paeans to relaxation, free association, and the benefits of ADHD. After, praying at the alter of chaos, the author discloses the solution for the slower readers.
   At this point, Imagine uncovers such "think out of the box" creativity discussions to be the superficial hoaxes they have always been. The real personality for creativity is not the manic ADHD, but the more complex bipolar, manic-depressive.
   Productive creativity is so much more than just the initial epiphany. This must be followed by the work of refinement, editing, improving, and finishing. With examples as diverse as poetry by W.H. Auden and movies by Pixar, the author elucidates and supports the ignored side of creativity: "ART IS WORK."
  It is this work that keeps processing a problem even after it is "solved," the process that transforms draft in art, prototype into product, and good into great.
  Beyond this yin and yang of creativity, the author also updates the subject from the traditional domain of individuals to the modern environment of groups.
  While the book covers much that has been written about so much that it is close to cliche in business books ... 3M Corporation, Steve Jobs ... much is new and insightful. If you read one non-fiction book this year ... this should be it.

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