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June 12, 2012 / Kuan

Reading Notes: Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

Before the book arrived on the shelf in my local library, I was the 88th in line to get a hold of the first copy. I’ve waited and read good reviews, and finally a week ago, it came to me. Here, I’ve quoted some of my favorite sentences and ideas on how creativity works, as reminders in the future. “Art is work,” Milton Glaser says. And fail harder.

  1. The reality of things is naturally obscured by the clutter of the world, by all those ideas and sensations that distract the mind. The only way to see through this clutter is to rely on the knife of conscious attention, which can cut away the excess and reveal “the things themselves.” Paraphrasing German philosopher Martin Heidegger, page 73
  2. “I distrust styles,” he says. “To have a style is to be trapped.” Quoting Milton Glaser on styles, page 73
  3. “If you’re at the cutting edge, then you’re going to bleed.” Quoting Nancy Andreasen on suffering and perserverance, page 79
  4. “Waves are like toys from God. And when I’m out here. I’m just playing.” Quoting surfer Clay Marzo, p. 99
  5. We can continue to innovate for our entire careers as long as we work to maintain the perspective of the outsidersParaphrasing Dean Simonton, p. 124
  6. One of the most surprising (and pleasurable) ways of cultivating an outsider perspective is through travel, getting away from the places we spend most of out time. On travel and creativity, p.125
  7. The only way to cultivate this kind of collaboration … was to have everyone in the same building, and not scattered among various spinoffs and independent entities. On human interaction, p. 149
  8. The only way to maximize group creativity – to make the whole more than the sum of its parts – is to encourage a candid discussion of mistakes. In part, this is because the acceptance of error reduces its cost. When you believe that your flaws will be quickly corrected by the group, you’re less worried about perfecting your contribution, which leads to a more candid conversation. We can only get it right when we talk about what we got wrong. On constructive criticism, p.159
  9. …the reason criticism leads to more new ideas is that it encourages us to fully engage with the world of others. We think about their concepts because we want to improve them; it’s the imperfection that leads us to really listen.” Paraphrasing Charlen Nemeth, p.161
  10. The power of dissent is really about the power of surprise. On how to escape clichés, p.163
  11. There’s no textbook for ingenuity, no lesson plan for divergent thinking. Rather, they must be discovered: the child has to learn by doingOn developing mental talents, p.236
  12. “…even then you give away the trick – you hide nothing – the magic is still there. In fact, the illusion becomes even more meaningful, because you realize that it’s all in your head. … The magic is coming from your mind.” Quoting Penn and Teller on magic performances and freeing creative secrets, p.251
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