Book Review: “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer

Sadly this book has been pulled off distribution after I read the book due to falsified quotes by the author. But I don’t think it’s a total waste of time. One always need to take this kind of book with a grain of salt as the examples tend to be sensationalized to attract readers. Some of the approaches seem to make sense and may be considered as nuggets:

Ways to increase creativity:

Alpha waves: relaxed state of minds and positive mood. Sharing of ideas. Consider the irrelevant. Day dreaming.

The unconcealing: Use of drug? (release of dopamines) Stick with a problem until it surrenders. See through the clutter by relying on the knife and conscious attention – focus on the “right” questions. State of depression may bring out creativity; bipolar people may have an edge. The ability to calculate progress tells you that you’re making progress.

Letting things go: Search for emotion instead of perfection like Yoyo Ma. Made a mistake – shrug it off and smile. Go with the flow like Improv. Draw from frontotemporal demential patients, who have an urge to create close to their deaths – their prefrontal cortex – inhibits imaginative murmurs – is being destroyed. Play like a kid and with pleasure like Yoyo Ma.

The Outsider: Being an outsider or “passionate amateur” has an advantage – he doesn’t know any better. InnoCentive’s posting of hardest scientific problems to solicit ideas from the outsiders with prize money – crowd sourcing of ideas. Young people don’t know enough to be insiders, cynical with expertise; they come with creative advantage. It’s a state of mind; we may need to be unshackled by the familiar and leave behind everything by traveling, new colleagues, and career change.

The High Q: Q is a measurement of density of connections or social intimacy. High Q = great degree of closeness in collaboration – Pixar’s central bathroom near the attrium.

Urban Friction: Biking around allows him to “listen” to the city. Vertical culture of Boston makes it less innovative than San Jose (Silicon Valley), where lots of casual exchanges in “clubs” form weak ties like Israelis’ mandatory military service. The crowded places force us to interact; human friction creates sparks.

The Shakespeare Paradox: The excess of geniuses is not an accident – the access to the a vast number of new stories and old texts in a friend’s bookstore, and stealing the plots of previous literature and making into his own, and a legal environment that encourage creative risk taking without offending royal family, the availability of public education to most of the citizens.