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Book Review: "Imagine" Argues That Creativity Is A Process

Shaina Eng |
March 19, 2012 | 8:53 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Jonah Lehrer's "Imagine" offers some surprising insights on creativity.  (jonahlehrer.com)
Jonah Lehrer's "Imagine" offers some surprising insights on creativity. (jonahlehrer.com)
Do you consider yourself a creative person?  Even if you don’t, Jonah Lehrer’s new book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” reveals some pretty surprising things about the science of creativity; namely, that anyone can learn to be more creative.

It’s a commonly held perception that some people are inherently more creative than others; however, Lehrer rejects this idea. Creativity is “a variety of distinct thought processes” that all people can learn to use.  

In the first half of the book entitled “Alone,” Lehrer discusses different techniques that can help boost your individual creativity. Taking a break from working at a problem, whether by taking a shower, playing a game of ping pong, or daydreaming, can lead you to the solution that had eluded you before.  You might also find unexpected solutions by looking at the problem through the eyes of an outsider or a child, or by simply letting go.  

Lehrer then goes on to discuss techniques that lead to a creative group environment in “Together,” the second half of the book.  The author emphasizes that group brainstorming sessions are ineffective and a waste of time, and he discusses the importance of constructive criticism, of interacting with a variety of different people in an urban environment, and of finding the ideal Q, or social intimacy, when working on a group project.

But Lehrer not only gives us these techniques; he shows us how people from all walks of life use them and, as a result, gain widespread fame and success.

From musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Bob Dylan to the inventors of masking tape and Post-its; from entertainment giants like Pixar to the theatre scene in London during the 16th century, the author recounts their stories and shows the reader how their sparks of genius tie back to a few simple tips and techniques. 

And while he offers anecdotes and techniques, the author does not neglect the more scientific side to creativity.  He brings up numerous scientific experiments that support and illustrate his assertions, and he describes how both the right side of the brain (the more “creative side”) and increased alpha waves can lead to moments of insight.

“Imagine” is a fantastic read about human creativity.  Lehrer gives an informative, compelling and entertaining look at how we imagine and provides the reader with the tools to become more creative—and more successful—in all aspects of life. 


Reach reporter Shaina Eng here.  Follow Shaina on Twitter.



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