Imagine: How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer, Author
Jonah Lehrer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-547-38607-2
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Hardcover - 978-1-84767-786-0
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-84767-787-7
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-547-72583-3
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Journalist and pop-science phenom Lehrer (How We Decide) muses on the development of "our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed." Arguing that "the standard definition of creativity is completely wrong," he reveals the ways in which innovative thinking is a profusion of processes rather than a singular element of cognition. Stories of groundbreaking artists, ideas, and inventions are interwoven with discoveries from the forefront of modern neuroscience to support the notion that moments of great insight are always preceded by long slogs of hard work. The science offers new ways to understand the various methods humans have used to prepare their minds when confronted by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Conditions that we've long understood to enhance creativity (e.g., urban mingling, drug consumption, travel), but whose mechanisms escaped us, are explored in detail, on both the individual and group level. Other seldom-acknowledged elements come into play, too, like possessing an amateur's ignorance, letting go of the fear of failure, or the benefits of a "drowsy brain." Along the way Lehrer also debunks the myth of brainstorming, and demonstraties how companies like 3M and Pixar have become so successful. He concludes with a discussion of several "meta-idea[s]"—such as intellectual property, education, and a willingness to take risks—which Lehrer deems crucial to fostering a culture of imaginative innovation. (Mar. 19)
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