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Old 06-17-12, 08:10 PM   #1
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Post "Imagine" a society that fosters creativity

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer


Many of us have some creative aspect to our lives, whether it's in our jobs, in our domestic activities, or in our hobbies. If we don't restrict "creativity" to the narrow realm of the traditional Fine Arts, we find creativity in many unusual places. Creativity isn't always encouraged, and often is disparaged, especially in educational settings, but its importance as a human endeavor can't be overstated. Not everyone will be or needs to be a Creative Genius'whatever that means'but nurturing that side of our mental makeup is an important part of life.

If you get past the idea that creativity lies solely in the realm of divine inspiration, reserved for a precious few of us, then perhaps creativity can be studied, learned, and taught. That's the premise of Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine, subtitled "How Creativity Works": understanding it as a process means it can be nurtured. Imagine is a broad-ranging book, covering a bit of neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and more than a touch of corporate brown-nosing. The cast of characters includes musicians, playwrights, writers, scientists of various persuasions, and graphic designers. It's a well-written, wonderful, sometimes frustrating book'one that rewards the thoughtful reader with plenty to ponder.

Inside the Corporations, Outside the Mindset

First, let me get my major criticisms out of the way. Lehrer spends a lot of time in corporate settings (3M, Procter and Gamble, Pixar) and runs the serious risk of taking their PR as unvarnished fact. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but if these companies were as uniformly wonderful places to work as the pictures he paints, I suspect every company would emulate them: the combination of financial success and ideal working conditions would be as catnip to CEOs. (One of Lehrer's gigs, at least at the time of his book jacket biography, is writing for the Wall Street Journal, so perhaps his biases are opposite to mine.)

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