Cracking creativity

“Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius” by Michael Michalko is a roadmap for practical creativity.

Edward De Bono is the most famous author in the field of creative thinking with more than 30 books. But with one book Michalko provides the best book in the field of creative thinking. His first book, “Thinkertoys,” is the best resource for creative thinking techniques.

How do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced both the Mona Lisa and the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Edisons, Mozarts and Picassos of history? Michalko’s new book “Cracking Creativity” tries to answer these questions.

In the first part of his book, Michalko presents the strategies of geniuses who look at problems in unconventional ways.

The first strategy is knowing how to see. Genius often comes from finding a new perspective that no one else has taken.

The second strategy is making your thought visible. The explosion of creativity in the Renaissance was intimately tied to the recording and conveying of a vast amount of knowledge in a parallel language; a language of drawings, graphs, and diagrams — as in, for instance, the renowned diagrams of da Vinci and Galileo.

In Part II, “Thinking what no one else is thinking,” Michalko presents seven creative thinking strategies that geniuses use to generate their breakthrough ideas and creative solutions.

Thinking fluently and productively is an extraordinary way to improve creativity. Geniuses like Edison used personal quotas for creative ideas. Edison’s personal quota was one minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months. Bach, Mozart and T.S. Elliot were also productive people who used time efficiently.

Making novel combinations and connecting the unconnected are at the heart of creativity. Creativity is the ability to combine two different things in an extraordinary way. Artists and advertising gurus frequently combine ordinary things in extraordinary ways. The Coca-Cola commercial with two polar bears is one of the most well-known examples of this.

Looking at other worlds is another strategy for creative thinking. Michalko writes that Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, believing that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence was a person with special gifts. Bediü Zaman Said Nursi was the leading Islamic thinker who used metaphors to explain Islamic concepts.

Finding what you are not looking for is the accidental way of thinking creatively. The history of inventions is full of accidental discoveries. Psychologist B.F. Skinner emphasized this principle of scientific methodology: when you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. People have millions of wonderful accidents that provide insight but they don’t focus on what they experience and lose these opportunities.

The last strategy Michalko presents is awakening the collaborative spirit. The collective intelligence of a group is larger than the intelligence of an individual. In a business setting people should establish dialogue rather than fight with each other.

Cracking Creativity is full of interesting stories of geniuses, as well as practical techniques for creativity. It is a guide for generating new ideas.

2012-02-19