Imagine: How Creativity Works. Home · Imagine: How Creativity Works Author: Jonah Lehrer. 55 downloads Views Imagine. Read more · How It Works. Paul Arnold Consulting. STRATEGY – TRAINING – FACILITATION [email protected] Imagine – How creativity works by Jonah Lehrer. Editorial Reviews. Review. site Best Books of the Month, March Imagine: How Creativity Works - site edition by Jonah Lehrer.

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Jonah Lehrer's 5 Tips for Reaching Your Creative Potential IMAGINE demonstrates that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few. It's a variety of. IMAGINE: How Creativity Works (pdf) by Jonah Lehrer. “Jonah Lehrer's new book confirms what his fans have known all along – that he knows. Print Get a PDF version of this webpage PDF. 'Imagine: How Creativity Works' by Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; March 19, ).

The answer is one word. The joke is beginning to get old. In his science papers and PowerPoint presentations, Beeman now leaves off the final P. The puzzles go like this: A subject is given three different words, such as age, mile, and sand, and asked to think of a single word that can form a compound word or phrase with each of the three.

In this case, the answer is stone: stone age, milestone, sandstone. The subject has fifteen seconds to solve the question before a new puzzle appears. If he comes up with an answer, he presses the space bar on the keyboard and says whether the answer arrived via insight or analysis. When I solved puzzles with analysis, I tended to sound out each possible combination, cycling through each of the different words that went with age and then seeing if it also worked with mile and then sand.

When I came up with a solution, I always doublechecked it before pressing the space bar. An insight, by contrast, was instantaneous: the word felt like a revelation. Beeman was now ready to start looking for the neural source of insight.

He began by having people solve the puzzles while inside an fMRI machine, a brain scanner that monitors changes in blood flow as a rough correlate for changes in neural activity.

Active brain cells consume more energy and oxygen, which triggers the rush of blood. While fMRI gives scientists a precise spatial map of the brain, the technique suffers from a time delay of several seconds while the blood diffuses across the cortex.

A subject wears a plastic hat filled with greased electrodes — it looks like a bulky shower cap — each of which monitors a specific frequency of neural activity. Because there is no time delay with EEG, Kounios realized that it could be a useful technique for investigating the instantaneousness of insight. The first thing they discovered was that, although it seemed like the answer appeared out of nowhere, the brain had been laying the groundwork for the breakthrough. Because Beeman and Kounios were giving people word puzzles, they saw additional activation in brain areas related to speech and language.

In the CRA study, for instance, subjects quickly got frustrated by their inability to find the necessary word. They complained to the scientists about the difficulty of the problems and threatened to quit the experiment. Instead of relying on the literal associations of the left hemisphere, the brain needs to shift activity to the other side, to explore a more unexpected set of associations.

It is the struggle that forces us to try something new. Because we feel frustrated, we start to look at problems from a new perspective. Gamma rhythm is believed to come from the binding of neurons: cells distributed across the cortex draw themselves together into a new network that is then able to enter consciousness. Where does this burst of gamma waves come from? To answer this question, Beeman and Kounios went back and analyzed the data from their fMRI experiment.

This small fold of tissue, located on the surface of the right hemisphere just above the ear, became unusually active in the seconds before the epiphany. It remained silent when people solved the word puzzles by analysis. A few previous studies had linked it to aspects of language comprehension, such as the detection of literary themes, the interpretation of metaphors, and the comprehension of jokes.

Beeman argues that these linguistic skills share a substrate with insight because they require the brain to make a set of distant and original connections. Although most of us have probably never used age, mile, and sand in a sentence before, the aSTG is able to discover the one additional word stone that works with all of them.

Just think of the odds! The insight has gone incandescent. It took a few days to adjust to the quiet of Woodstock. He was suddenly alone with nothing but an empty notebook. And there was no need to fill this notebook — Dylan had been relieved of his creative burden.

Dylan told his manager that he was going to start working on a novel. But then, just when Dylan was most determined to stop creating music, he was overcome with a strange feeling. And so Dylan did the only thing he knew how to do: he grabbed a pencil and started to scribble.

It gives you the song and it goes away. Dylan had no idea where this narrative was going or how it was going to end.

What do these words mean? What is Dylan trying to tell us? He just needed to trust the ghost. This was a staggeringly strange way to create a piece of pop music. At the time, there were two basic ways to write a song. The first was to be like the Bob Dylan that Dylan was trying to escape: compose serious lyrics on a serious topic. One had to sing of injustice or a broken heart, chant wordy lines over a bare-bones melody.

There could be an acoustic guitar and a harmonica but not much else. The second way was essentially the opposite. Instead of wallowing in melancholy and complexity, one could imitate those cynical geniuses on Tin Pan Alley and compose an irresistible jingle full of major chords.

As soon as the first couplet is heard, the listener knows exactly what kind of song it will be. In retrospect, we can see that the composition — it would become the debut single on Highway 61 Revisited — allowed Dylan to fully express, for the first time, the diversity of his influences. Listening to these ambiguous lyrics, we can hear his mental blender at work as he effortlessly mixes together scraps of Arthur Rimbaud, Fellini, Bertolt Brecht, and Robert Johnson.

The song is modernist and premodern, avant-garde and country-western. During those frantic first minutes of writing, his right hemisphere found a way to make something new out of this incongruous list of influences, drawing them together into a catchy song.

What are you gonna do, chart it out? Bruce Springsteen would later describe the experience of hearing the single on AM radio as one of the most important moments of his life. Even John Lennon was in awe of the achievement. The constant need for insights has shaped the creative process. Just look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets.

At first glance, this writing method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes much more difficult.

Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints. And this is why poetic forms are so important. When a poet needs to find a rhyming word with exactly three syllables or an adjective that fits the iambic scheme, he ends up uncovering all sorts of unexpected connections; the difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process. Juiced in it? You break out of the box by stepping into shackles.

The song was invented in the moment, then hurled into the world. I mean, here was something that I myself could dig. In that lonely cabin, he found a way to fully express himself, to transform the fragments of art in his head into a new kind of song.

It begins in the summer of He spent a lot of time demonstrating the effectiveness of sandpaper in auto-body shops trying to convince mechanics to download his brand. He soon noticed that all of the mechanics shared a common problem. It occurred when the mechanics were applying two-toned paint to a car. The workers would begin by painting everything black. Then they would protect this new coat of paint with taped-on sheets of butcher paper and carefully apply the second shade — usually a sleek line of white or red.

Once the paint dried, the paper was removed. Here is where the process failed: the paper was usually attached to the metal with a strong adhesive, which meant that removing the paper and tape often peeled away the newly applied black paint.

And so the frustrated workers would begin on that section again, their labor undone. Sandpaper, after all, was simply a mixture of adhesive and abrasive. A tough paper backing coated in glue and then rolled in crushed minerals. If you left out the abrasive, then you were left with a moderately sticky paper, which is precisely what the mechanics needed.

When Drew got back to the office after this realization, he began exploring his new idea. The first thing he discovered was that the glue used in sandpaper was also too strong — it ripped the wet paint right off. And so he began experimenting with the adhesive recipe, trying to make the rubber resin a little less sticky. This took him several months.

He then had to find the right backing.

After two months of struggle, Drew was ordered by his boss, William McKnight, to stop working on the project. The company was in the sandpaper business; Drew should go back to selling industrial abrasive. But Drew refused to give up.

Although he was stumped, he still stayed past closing time at work, testing out different varieties of backing and recipes for glue. And then, late one night in his office, everything changed.

In the time it took to have an insight — that burst of gamma waves erupting in the right hemisphere — Drew grasped the solution to his sticky problem. The mechanics could unwind the necessary amount of sticky paper and attach it directly to the car, allowing them to paint without tack or glue.

Drew called it masking tape. Nobody knows where this revelation came from. Some say that Drew was inspired by the car wheels in the auto-body shop; others think he borrowed the idea from the large spools of paper that were shipped to the sandpaper factory. Drew himself had no answer. And yet, the insight happened. Drew was able to imagine a long roll of stickiness, a pressure-sensitive adhesive that could be applied to metal and then ripped off without damaging the paint.

Sure enough, the product was an instant hit in the marketplace, and not only among car mechanics. The corporate headquarters, just outside St. Paul, looks like a college campus, a sprawling five-hundred-acre landscape of lab buildings, grassy fields, and parking lots.

Although the company still sells sandpaper and tape, it has since expanded into an astonishing array of product categories.

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The company currently sells more than fifty-five thousand different products, giving it a nearly product-to-employee ratio.

A random list of 3M products includes computer touch screens, kitchen sponges, water-purification filters, streetlights, stain-resistant fabrics, lith- 27 IM AGINE ium ion batteries, home insulation, dental fillings, medical masks, and drug patches.

What do these products have in common? Nothing at all, except that they were pioneered by 3M. Basically, all we do is come up with new things. While most innovative companies are celebrated for a single innovation with a short lifespan — think of Netscape, AOL, or Atari — 3M has been inventing new products for more than seventy-five years.

The company was recently ranked the third most innovative company in the world, according to a survey of executives. It was beaten by Apple and Google. Furthermore, 3M products that are less than five years old typically account for 30 percent of annual revenue, a fact that captures the constant churn of innovation at the company.

Adhesives, it turned out, were much more profitable than abrasives. He hired dozens of researchers and gave them the freedom to pursue their own interests. That, after all, was the lesson of Dick Drew: even a salesman could invent an important new product. I want to understand how this corporate history of innovation has informed its culture.

Over the years, the company has learned a few essential tricks about creativity, and those tricks have been hard-wired into its research practices.

We know what works. Instead of insisting on constant concentration — requiring every employee to focus on his or her work for eight hours a day — 3M encourages people to make time for activities that at first glance might seem unproductive. Are you struggling with a difficult technical problem? Take a walk across campus. When I visited 3M, in the late winter, the fields were full of grazing deer and employees strolling in their puffy winter parkas.

Are you stuck on a challenge that seems impossible? Lie down on a couch by a sunny window. Play a game of pinball.

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While 3M demands a high level of productivity — the parking lot was full of cars at p. One important consequence of this approach was the invention of the 15 percent rule, a concept that allows every researcher to spend 15 percent of his or her workday pursuing speculative 29 IM AGINE new ideas. People at 3M refer to this time as the bootlegging hour.

The only requirement is that the researchers share their ideas with their colleagues. While bootlegging time has since been imitated at other innovative companies — Google, for instance, gives its software engineers the same freedom1 — the concept was first implemented at 3M. At first, people thought we were crazy. They said employees need to be managed. The essential element is a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from the right hemisphere.

While the precise function of alpha waves remains mys1. The Google program is officially known as Innovation Time Off. In fact, alpha waves are so crucial for insight that, according to Bhattacharya, subjects with insufficient alpha-wave activity are unable to utilize hints provided by the researchers. All of the women are still alive and none of them are divorced.

The man has broken no laws. Who is the man? Bhattacharya will let people struggle for up to three minutes before he starts giving them hints. However, unless the subjects are thinking in the exact right way — unless those alpha waves are visible on the EEG monitor — they will never have the insight: the man is a priest.

Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights.

This also helps explain the power of a positive mood. German researchers have found that when people are happy, they are much better at guessing whether or not different words share a remote associate. Even when the subjects in the German study did not find the answer — they were forced to guess after looking at words for less than two seconds — those in a positive mood were able to accurately intuit the possibility of an insight. In contrast, those feeling gloomy performed slightly below random chance.

They had no idea which remote associates were real and which were a waste of time. More recently, Beeman has demonstrated that people who score high on a standard measure of happiness solve about 25 percent more insight puzzles than people who are feeling angry or upset. In fact, even fleeting feelings of delight can lead to dramatic increases in creativity. After watching a short, humorous video — Beeman uses a clip of Robin Williams doing standup — subjects have significantly more epiphanies, at least when compared with those who were shown scary or boring videos.

Because positive moods allow us to relax, we focus less on the troubling world and more on these remote associations. Another ideal moment for insights, according to Beeman and John Kounios, is the early morning, shortly after waking up.

The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas. The right hemisphere is also unusually active. We suppress the very type of brain activity that should be encouraged. For instance, many stimulants taken to increase attention, such as caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin, seem to make epiphanies much less likely.

According to a recent online poll conducted by Nature, nearly 20 percent of scientists and researchers regularly take prescription drugs in order to improve mental performance. Looking at the data, Beeman and Kounios saw a sharp drop in activity in the visual cortex just before the insight appeared, as if the sensory area were turning itself off. But as they were struggling to decipher the data, Beeman watched Kounios cover his eyes with his hand. When the outside world becomes distracting, the brain automatically blocks it out.

Marijuana, by contrast, seems to make insights more likely. It not only leads to states of relaxation but also increases brain activity in the right hemisphere. A recent paper by scientists at University College, London, looked at a phenomenon called semantic 33 IM AGINE Consider an experiment that investigated the problem-solving abilities of neurological patients with severe attention problems.

Most of these patients had suffered damage to the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain just behind the forehead. Because of their injuries, these poor people lived in a world of endless distractions; their focus was always fleeting. Nearly 90 percent of the brain-damaged patients were able to correctly solve the puzzle, since it required a fairly obvious problemsolving approach: the only thing you have to do is change the answer. A group of subjects without any attention deficits found the answer 92 percent of the time.

This occurs when the activation of one word allows an individual to react more quickly to related words. Interestingly, the scientists found that marijuana seems to induce a state of hyperpriming, meaning that it extends the reach of semantic priming to distantly related concepts.

As a result, one hears dog and thinks of nouns that in more sober circumstances would seem completely disconnected. This state of hyperpriming helps explain why cannabis has so often been used as a creative fuel: it seems to make the brain better at detecting the remote associations that define the insight process. Most stared at the Roman numerals for a few minutes and then surrendered.

This bizarre result — brain damage leads to dramatically improved performance — has to do with the unexpected nature of the solution: rotate the vertical line in the plus sign by ninety degrees, transforming it into an equal sign.

The reason this puzzle is so difficult, at least for people without brain damage, has to do with the standard constraints of math problems. People are not used to thinking about the operator in an equation, so most of them quickly fix their attention on the Roman numerals.

They are forced by the brain injury to consider a much wider range of possible answers. Or look at a recent study led by Holly White, a psychologist at the University of Memphis.

How We Decide PDF Summary

White began by giving a large sample of undergraduates a variety of difficult creative tests. Surprisingly, those students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD got significantly higher scores.

In every single domain, from drama to engineering, the students with ADHD had achieved more. Their attention deficit turned out to be a creative blessing. The unexpected benefits of not being able to focus reveal something important about creativity.

‘Imagine: How Creativity Works,’ by Jonah Lehrer

Although we live in an age that worships attention — when we need to work, we force ourselves to concentrate — this approach can inhibit the imagination.

Occasionally, focus can backfire and make us fi xated on the wrong answers. Kounios tells a story about a Zen Buddhist meditator that illustrates the importance of these alpha waves. It was an unprecedented streak. According to Kounios, this dramatic improvement depended on the ability of the meditator to focus on not being focused so that he could finally pay attention to all those fleeting connections in the right hemisphere.

Just consider the invention of masking tape. This led William McKnight, the executive who turned 3M into an industrial powerhouse, to insist on sharing among scientists as a core tenet of 3M culture. Before long, the Tech Forum was established, an annual event at which every researcher on staff presents his or her latest research.

An accessible narrative style, the style required to reach a broad lay-audience, too often becomes Overly simplified? That kind of style can muddle some of the nuance that is otherwise necessary for a meticulous scientific discussion. It's more subtle than that. It isn't that he doesn't have a point, or that his conclusions are unfounded or banal, or even that he is interleaving scientific evidence and colloquial anecdotes with equal significance.

That's not the problem. The problem is that he keeps slipping ever so slightly and undermining his own prior arguments as he enthusiastically works himself up to support whatever argument he is shaping in that chapter and on that page.

The problem is that he tends to contradict himself. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the book's penultimate chapter.

Lehrer fetishizes big-city-living [6] so much that he begins to celebrate this concept more than anything else [7] [8] and in doing so, he comes close to compromising many of the points he made before. In the preceding chapter, he beats the drum of travel as the critical path to gaining diverse experiences and gaining exposure to diverse ideas, but when he gets around to talking about big cities Well, you may as well just move to New York City and call it a day; who needs to travel when you can just live in the place where everyone is going to or through anyway?

Granted, this is not explicitly stated, but therein lies one of my gripes--that this seems to be such an obvious conclusion and such a clear cognitive path between the two discussions, that I am led to believe that he did not fully explore the implications of some many?

If he did not make the link between those two points, then what else did he miss? Given the research cited, there is clearly an intriguing feedback mechanism taking place in these large and vibrant metropolises, but to say that the city itself causes the creativity is spurious and misleading. These criticisms aside however, Lehrer's thesis remains strong, and it is refreshing to see someone grapple with the subject matter in such an optimistic fashion.

It seems that we too often treat the "creativity" of "innovators" as this scarce natural resource. There is romance in the mystery of Creative Geniuses, but it is not a helpful romance. You need not be born "that way"; being a Creative Genius or even just Sufficiently Innovative is something that you can work toward. All we need is the right climate: We need to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions, surround ourselves with people who don't know what we're talking about.

We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise. The right kind of stubborn temperament helps, too: In fact, most of us see perseverance as a distinctly uncreative approach, the sort of strategy that people with mediocre ideas are forced to rely on. Lastly: Lehrer isolated this brilliant quote from Yo-Yo Ma: If you are only worried about not making a mistake, then you will communicate nothing.Most cognitive skills have elaborate biological histories, so their evolution can be traced over time.

In contrast, patients who were forced to rely on the right hemisphere tended to focus on the overall shape of the structure. But by the time I'd gotten to this point, I wasn't about to go back and start cataloging them for the sake of this lowly document. Instead, Uzzi found that the most successful Broadway musicals were the ones that had an intermediate level of Q: The first group was given no specific instructions, but were instead allowed to confront the problem in any way that they chose loc.

It is about our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed. And then, once they come up with a set of refined predictions about how the world works, they translate these predictions into emotions.

Given that this is the case, urbanites tend to be exposed to a much wider spectrum of information and ideas: The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas. In fact, the product scored higher in focus-group sessions than any other cleaning device Procter and Gamble had ever tested.