Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I'm Reading: Jonah Lehrer's Imagine

I know Jonah Lehrer has been getting some bad press lately for recycling his writing, but he's still one of the most gifted science & psychology writers I know of. So I'm not going to worry about it.

Imagine is about creativity - not just artistic creativity, but productive creativity. How do people come up with good ideas? And how do they turn those good ideas into finished products, like inventions or albums or websites? These are the questions that Lehrer addresses in this book, with a combination of psychological research and individual stories.

I found it to be a fascinating read. As I said, Lehrer is a gifted writer, and the book reads quickly and smoothly. I learned that caffiene is helpful when we need to focus on refining and perfecting an idea, but that it impairs the "remote associations" that allow us to germinate ideas and come up with novel solutions to problems. Because of those same remote associations, we are more likely to have an "aha!" moment when we're relaxed, and thinking about something else. And in order to change our thinking, it helps to change our scenery - travel really does help get you out of a creative rut!

Mostly through anecdotes and case studies, Lehrer also covers group creative processes - the things that help us be more creative and productive as teams. I found these chapters to be especially interesting. I was inspired to think about the way my office/group works at the library, and about whether we really operate in the best way to encourage our creativity and productivity.

The next post will be some quick tips based on this book for encouraging creativity in your library or organization.

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