Imagine: How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer

Imagine: How Creativity Works

The profound mysteries of creative thought have long intimidated the world's finest brains. How do you measure the imagination? How do you quantify an epiphany? These daunting questions led researchers to neglect the subject for hundreds of years. In Jonah Lehrer's book, we go in search of the epiphany. Creativity, he argues, is not a 'gift' that only some possess. It's a term for a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Some acts of imagination are best done sipping espresso in a crowded cafe, while others require long walks in a quiet park. Lehrer helps us fit our creative strategies to the task at hand. The journey begins with the fluttering of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, before moving out to consider how this new science can also make neighbourhoods more vibrant, companies more productive and schools more effective. We'll learn about Bob Dylan's writing habits and the drug addiction of poets. We'll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar designed its office space to get the most out of its talent. 3.6 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Imagine: How Creativity Works

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry, Science & Nature
Format Hardback
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication April 2012
ISBN 978-1847677860
Publisher Canongate
 

The profound mysteries of creative thought have long intimidated the world's finest brains. How do you measure the imagination? How do you quantify an epiphany? These daunting questions led researchers to neglect the subject for hundreds of years. In Jonah Lehrer's book, we go in search of the epiphany. Creativity, he argues, is not a 'gift' that only some possess. It's a term for a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Some acts of imagination are best done sipping espresso in a crowded cafe, while others require long walks in a quiet park. Lehrer helps us fit our creative strategies to the task at hand. The journey begins with the fluttering of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, before moving out to consider how this new science can also make neighbourhoods more vibrant, companies more productive and schools more effective. We'll learn about Bob Dylan's writing habits and the drug addiction of poets. We'll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar designed its office space to get the most out of its talent.

Read an extract from the book | Telegraph

The Decisive Moment by Jonah Lehrer

Reviews

The Observer

Alexander Linklater

… Lehrer makes a very impressive fist of nailing even this most nebulous of concepts … "Once we know how creativity works," he writes, "we can make it work for us." That second claim may be overreaching. Lehrer's self-help prescriptions — embrace risk, fail big, innovate innovation — appear somewhat thin next to his richly nuanced accounts of creative people at work. But it is quite an achievement to have answered the first proposition convincingly.

01/04/2012

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The Times

Murad Ahmed

Regardless of whether you are fully convinced of Lehrer’s theories, you will be left with plenty of anecdotes to wow dinner-party guests … Imagine [is] the must-read book of the year for chief executives and wannabe entrepreneurs everywhere, a modern business bible for the enlightened boss.

14/04/2012

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The Sunday Times

Ian Critchley

Some of his findings are surprising. Brainstorming, for instance, is virtually useless … Lehrer is as adept at explaining the scientific basis of the imagination as he is at describing how artists utilise their abilities. His book is both a superb synthesis of science and art and an impassioned plea for society to embrace creativity.

22/04/2012

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The Washington Post

Michael S Roth

... his book is an excellent example of how a dynamic storehouse of captivating information feeds creative thinking and writing ... Despite the fancy terminology, I found the anecdotes about scientific experiments less interesting than the anecdotes about poets, artists, surfers and inventors. That’s partly because the science stories seem to overreach, pretending to offer explanations for creativity by finding precise locations for the multitudinous connections that the brain generates. In an organ with the networking plasticity of the brain, location might not explain so much.

23/03/2012

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The Economist

The Economist

This is an inspiring and engaging book … Mr Lehrer concludes with a call for better policy to “increase our collective creativity”. He suggests allowing more immigration, inviting more risk and enabling more cultural borrowing and adaptation (by stemming the flood of vague patents and copyright claims). He also warns that the work demands a lot of time, sweat and grit.

17/03/2012

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The Financial Times

Stephen Cave

Fascinating … the distinction at the core of Imagine between two divergent and sometimes opposing ideas of creativity is itself not new. Friedrich Nietzsche, as Lehrer acknowledges, traced this distinction back to ancient Greece … But it does not undermine the value of Imagine that many of its messages are ancient wisdom repackaged. Each generation benefits from having these truths recast in the language of their time — and the language of our time is that of brain scanners.

14/04/2012

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The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani

Illuminating … The book’s breezy methodology makes for some problems — it’s often difficult to tell just how representative a study or survey, cited by the author, might be — but Mr. Lehrer largely avoids the sort of gauzy hypotheses and gross generalizations that undermined Mr. Gladwell’s 2008 book, “Outliers.” Much as he did in his earlier books “How We Decide” and “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” Mr. Lehrer shows how adept he is at teasing out the social and economic implications of scientific theories while commuting easily among the realms of science, business and art.

02/04/2012

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The Guardian

Steven Poole

As any good neuroscientistic believer should, he regularly insults the preceding centuries of thought on his topic, dismissing it all as "completely wrong". Lehrer has a rage, indeed, to insist on the novelty of his extrapolations from the research, which usually means misrepresenting conventional wisdom. "It's commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus," he writes, but people have always known that going for a walk or sleeping on it — or, like Archimedes, taking a bath — can help. Nor did we need to wait for colourful neuro-pictures to learn that people sometimes have good ideas during daydreams, or on holiday.

21/04/2012

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