A blend of old and new—and sometimes original—informs this pop-science piece on creativity and its discontents.
Grant (Wharton Business School; Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, 2013) has a flair for the novel and the outwardly puzzling, though the writing is merely capable and the book likely to have “negligible impact” against leviathans such as Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell. Unkind words, but Grant sets them up, observing that negative book reviews sound 14 percent smarter than positive ones, so we’re being self-serving in our negativity. Self-service is to the point, since, by Grant’s account, institutions that are friendly to innovation are also generous of spirit, creating “strong cultures of commitment” and building an atmosphere of love and collegiality, even familiarity. Along the way to discussing how creativity flourishes—and it does indeed hinge on nonconformity, as the subtitle promises, which is by way of saying that it requires risk—Grant lands on such things as how parents encourage children just the right amount: a parent who successfully encourages a child to be independent, an explorer of the world, has to step back and allow that child to find greater models than himself or herself. As Grant puts it, provocatively, “Parents aren’t the best role models.” Interestingly, the author turns back to the old birth-order hypothesis, in which firstborns and later-borns have different approaches to risk and thus different creative abilities; he finds it to have validity, “a better predictor of personality and behavior than I had expected.” Grant sometimes gets tangled in jargon, but he turns up some fascinating tidbits, including the observation that “our intuitions are only accurate in domains where we have a lot of experience”—an insight worth the cover price alone.
A mixed bag but of interest to readers looking to jump-start their creative powers and raise quick-witted children.