Think you’re not creative? Think again. The take-home message from this multifaceted inquiry is that creativity is hard-wired in the human brain and that we can enhance that quality in ourselves and in our society.
Wired and Wall Street Journal contributor Lehrer (How We Decide, 2009, etc.) explores creativity from the inside out, looking at the mechanics of the brain and the effects of mental states from sadness to depression to dementia. He takes readers to laboratories where neuroscientists and psychologists are conducting controlled experiments on creativity, and he gets inside the talented minds of songwriter Bob Dylan, graphic artist Milton Glaser, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and engineer/inventor Arthur Fry. Lehrer examines how social interaction and collaboration promote creativity within a company, using Pixar studios as an example, and how these factors operate in communities, citing Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv as places that foster innovation by enabling people to interact, converse with strangers as well as colleagues and encounter new ideas. Shakespeare's London was just such a place, and the author presents factors that made it so, such as a critical density of population and an explosion of literacy. Lehrer also explores what he calls the outsider factor, showing how newcomers to a field or people working in tangential areas generate new approaches to old problems. America, he writes, can increase its collective creativity if it so chooses. The author points out that our schools already do so with athletes, encouraging and rewarding them from a young age, and the same steps can be taken to nourish our brightest, most imaginative children, as demonstrated by the success of schools like the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and San Diego's High Tech High. Further, Lehrer argues for policy changes to enhance our nation's creativity: immigration reform because immigrants account for a disproportionate number of patent applications in the United States, and patent reform, in order to reward and thereby promote innovation.
Lehrer writes with verve, creating an informative, readable book that sparkles with ideas.