Imagine: How Creativity Works

A recent Economist article discussed author Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer opposes the assumption that human creativity is a chance gift reserved only for the lucky few. His main argument is that “innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged.”

Lehrer drew from several different examples of firms that employ a host of methods designed to spur innovation among its employees. 3M, one of the companies the author looked into, encourages employees to engage in recreation at the workplace. Playing pinball and taking breaks can help the mind overcome mental blocks or devise a creative solution to a problem. Employees are also pushed to take risks by “spending masses on research” and by spending “15% of their time pursuing speculative ideas.”

Lehrer believes that exploring unfamiliar ground is crucial to innovation because outsiders are less restricted by the norms of that field. This is one reason why younger, and thus less experienced, people tend to be more creative. Understanding our creative potential can then give us insights into how to better harness it through various policy changes, such as easing immigration laws and “enabling more cultural borrowing and adaptation” of intellectual property.


Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: The Economist, Jonah Lehrer

Photo Credit: How Creativity Works. By Jonah Lehrer. 304 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $26.


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