10 Powerful Insights from the book “Imagine: How Creativity Works”

If you wonder how and when inspiration strikes, New Yorker staff writer Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, is definitely worth a read.

Here are 10 insights I found fascinating.

1. Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with the feeling of frustration, having worked so hard, but yet hitting a wall. We have no idea what to do next. When the breakthrough comes, we tell that part of the creativity story and neglect to mention that we had almost quit. That’s because failures contradict the romantic version of events, so we skip to the happy ending first. However, the act of being stumped, is an essential part of the creative process.

2. The Bootlegging Hour: 3M pioneered the idea of allowing its employees to spend 15% of their time pursuing speculative ideas. (While Google often gets praised for something similar, 3M started doing this decades before Google’s existence).

3. Insight often arrives only after you stop looking for it. Therefore, you must allow yourself to relax at times. The imagination has a wicked sense of irony.

4. The key is persistence. Graphic designer Milton Glaser’s process for creating the “I Love NY” campaign is a testament of persistence. First, he created the campaign. Second, he got it approved. Third, he continued to refine it.

5. The importance of decompressing: When we are struggling with seemingly impossible problems, its important to find time to unwind, to eavesdrop on all those remote associations coming from the right hemisphere. Instead of drinking another cup of coffee, indulge in a little daydreaming, take a warm shower or walk on the beach.

6. Red for Alert: Studies have shown that certain colors in an environment can sharpen certain skills. People in a red room, for example, had sharper skills requiring attention to detail, like catching spelling errors. The scientists explained that those people associated red with danger, so they were more alert.

7. The color blue carried a completely different set of psychological benefits. People in the blue room performed better in skills requiring imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children’s toy.

8. Milton Glaser’s philosophy: There’s no such thing as a “creative type.” As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it’s that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb.

9. Fostering a culture of spontaneous meetings. “[Steve Jobs] really believed that the best meetings happened by accident, in the hallway, or parking lot. And you know what? He was right. I get more done having a bowl of cereal and striking up a conversation or walking to the bathroom and running into unexpected people than I do sitting at my desk.” – Pixar executive Darla Anderson.

10. Pixar realized that its creativity emerged from its culture of collaboration, its ability to get talented people from diverse backgrounds to work together.

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  1. Robyn2012-09-03 15:48:40

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kevin Ferguson2012-09-03 23:49:56

    Thanks Robyn!

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