How do individual and collective creativity work:

Jonah Lehrer - ImagineIMAGINE, HOW CREATIVITY WORKS – Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer has made a brilliant synthesis about the state of research on creativity: neuroscience, social psychology…

The book is only available in English, and following a dispute with the publisher, hard to find so I gave you a brief summary here below. But you might also be able to find it at your local library…


Some key ideas:

Individual creativity:

Our brain works at the same time in 2 different ways: in order to see the forest (right hemisphere) and at the same time to see the trees (left hemisphere)

In front of a problem, the left brain is looking for answers in the memory, in the analysis of similar situations and when it comes to a dead end, the right hemisphere takes over with an intense activity of alpha waves that promotes new ideas and neuronal connections. To promote alpha waves: relaxation, hot shower, dreams…

A loop is set up between the 2 types of thinking:

  • Divergent thinking: new ideas are linked to the imagination, to relaxation, to the confrontation of different types of knowledge… but this can take time, so perseverance is also necessary.
  • Convergent thinking: to work on these new ideas, the left brain takes over, filtering and reworking. Focus on the task is then necessary.

To stimulate divergent thinking: break free of your inner ‘censor’ and from your expertise: pretend to be 7 years old, foster dreaming, change your working environment or area of expertise regularly (Quetelet curve), travel…


Collective creativity:

Combining the expertise of different people coming from different disciplines gives the best results.
Example of the architecture of the buildings of Pixar to promote meetings between employees of all services.

Similarly, big cities that promote various “urban friction” and the sharing of different points of view are more creative.
Example of the decline of route 128 around Boston vs Silicon Valley in the 80’s-90’s.

When we have a wide network of contacts, we are more creative. But electronic contacts are less effective than face-to-face exchanges (examples of research teams / publications)

Current paradoxes:

  • When organizations are growing in size, hierarchies and the size of the teams prevent horizontal exchanges
    > perverse effect of the current merger race to build giant corporations.
  • Creativity is born from the exchange of ideas and borrowing or adaptations of already existing ideas
    > negative effect of the lengthening of a patent duration.

This is just a glimpse of this fascinating book!

New copies are no longer available > you might find if some 2nd hand copies following those links:

And if you’re looking for other ideas for reading… follow these links:

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