Imagine – The New Science of Creativity; A Must Read

Imagine – The New Science of Creativity; A Must Read

By Jill Mendoza: Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the color blue can help you double your creative output? From the New York Times best-selling author of How We Decide; comes a sparkling and revelatory look at the new science of creativity. Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,” Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. A quote from eighty year old, Milton Glaser, an artist still working in a small studio on East Thirty-Second Street in Manhattan, summarized his creative philosophy and the main theme of this book; “There’s not such thing as a creative type,” he says.  “As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up.  As if it were that easy.  I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb.  It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real.  And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process.  If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like work.” Above the front door of Glaser’s studio, chiseled into the glass, is the slogan of the studio; ART IS WORK. In his book, Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing the rut, thinking like a child, daydreaming productively, and adopting an outsider’s perspective (travel helps). He unveils the optimal mix of old and new partners in any creative collaboration, and explains why criticism is essential to the process. Then he zooms out to show how we can make our neighborhoods more vibrant, our companies more productive, and our schools more effective. My personal favorite tidbit of this book is about how in June of 2001, Alpheus Bingham, a VP at Eli Lilly & Company in charge of research strategy, helping to manage thousands of scientists working on hundreds of different technical problems launched a website called InnoCentive.  The structure of the site was simple; Eli Lilly posted its hardest scientific problems online and attached a monetary reward to each challenge.  If the problem was successfully solved, then the solver got the reward.   Today, the site is used by numerous Fortune 500 companies like Eli Lilly, Kraft Foods, SAP, Dow Chemical and General Electric – companies with research budgets in the billions of dollars.  Yes, these innovative companies use amateurs to answer questions that have their own experienced scientists frustrated.  When studied further, the secret was outsider thinking; the problem solvers on InnoCentive are most effective when working at the margins of their fields. You’ll also enjoy meeting a Manhattan bartender who thinks like a chemist, and an autistic surfer who invented an entirely new surfing move. You’ll learn why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar’s office space is designed to spark the next big leap in animation. In regards to the design strategies used at Pixar, as designers, this information is not new.  We have seen a rapid convergence of home, work and social space into many of our clients’ environments.  The sociologist, Ray Oldenburg, refers to the so called social space or gathering spots as “third places,” where he defined as any interactive environment that is neither the home (the first place) nor the office (the second place).  What makes the Pixar studios so unique is that these social spaces (the third places) have become part of the office itself.  There are cubicles and desktops, of course, but there are also whiskey lounges and espresso bars.  It is interesting to note that one of IDO’s corporate clients happens to be, Eli Lilly & Company, who is preparing to open a new building this month that features; a resturant bar & lounge.  Imagine that! Imagine reveals the deep inventiveness of the human mind, and its essential role in our increasingly complex world. I hope you’ll check this book out.  It’s a great read for any long weekend or holiday vacation!

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