21 WAYS TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Review by Arn Bernstein
John Adair, one of the leading authorities on leadership, and the world’s first professor of leadership studies, begins The Art of Creative Thinking: How to Be Innovative and Develop Great Ideas with something many authors might consider literary suicide. He fully acknowledges that while creative thinking is important in the fact that it can improve your business and personal life, the realistic concept of creative thinking –– what he calls the “creative activity of the unconscious mind” –– isn’t anything new. Nor, he notes, is his the first book to discuss it. What’s different, he allows, is his presentation of it.
What makes his book so different? Adair places it within “a framework of mental activity.” He writes, “Creative thinking cannot be reduced to a set of sequential steps. Imagine the chapters as being spokes on a wheel or pieces of amber strung on a necklace. You do not necessarily have to start at the beginning. Find a chapter that interests you and work outward.”
Piece by Piece
Adair communicates his instruction by breaking things down into 21 easily digestible chapters, each touching on a point of creativity and creative thinking. His chapters range from “Reading to Generate Inspiration” to “Practice Serendipity.” In the chapter titled “Use the Stepping Stones of Analogy,” Adair discusses the notion of being inspired by something completely out of the league of what you might create. He uses the example of Soichiro Honda, who got the idea of the design of his first motorcycles from a statue of Buddha during a trip to Kyoto, Japan.
The title of chapter six, “Chance Only Favors the Prepared Mind” stems from Louis Pasteur’s famous quote of similar wording. Here, Adair explores the variety of inventions that have stemmed from chance occurrences. Unexpected events or accidents can lead to great discoveries, if we pay attention to them and note how they affect outcomes. Examples from history include the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, the idea of offset printing by Ira. W. Rufel and vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear.
Adair’s thirteenth chapter is perhaps the backbone of the book. He instructs readers that in order to truly unlock potential creativity, they must first make better use of their “Depth Mind” –– a term he coined to describe the dimension of the mind that plays a role in problem solving, creative thinking and decision making. This is the idea of using our subconscious mind fully and not ignoring intuitions or hunches.
“The Depth Mind has its own capacity for analyzing, synthesizing and valuing,” he writes. “And when it has done its work, it sometimes, not unlike a computer, prints out its findings or solutions into our consciousness.” He also informs readers that certain professions require increased Depth Mind activity than others –– specifically artists, authors, composers, scientists and inventors.
Finding a Place for Creativity in Life
Adair fully recognizes that not everyone has a career that steers them down a creative path; nonetheless even an accountant, manager or CEO can take the time and think creatively about their lives. With the keypoints of all 21 topics being thoroughly covered at the end of each chapter, the idea of creative thinking is made accessible to the reader. Adair reminds his audience: “A person who thinks creatively will never look upon life as finished. ‘I have no objection to retirement,’ Mark Twain once said, ‘as long as it doesn’t interrupt my work.’ We can all learn from creative thinkers to see life as essentially a series of beginnings. ~
Why We Like This Book
While it’s indeed a primer on creative thinking, it’s miles apart from the others out there because rather than simply instruct, Adair challenges the reader to enable him or herself to think creatively via a process that, when reduced to manageable pieces, suddenly seems perfectly possible as opposed to an oblique concept we can only make attempts at.
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