The profound mysteries of creative thought have long intimidated the world’s finest brains. How do you measure the imagination? How do you quantify an epiphany? These daunting questions led researchers to neglect the subject for hundreds of years. In Jonah Lehrer’s ambitious and enthralling new book, we go in search of the epiphany. Shattering the myth of creative ‘types’, Lehrer shows how new research is deepening our understanding of the human imagination. Creativity is not a ‘gift’ that only some possess. It’s a term for a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Some acts of imagination are best done sipping espresso in a crowded cafe, while others require long walks in a quiet park. Lehrer helps us fit our creative strategies to the task at hand. The journey begins with the fluttering of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, before moving out to consider how this new science can also make neighbourhoods more vibrant, companies more productive and schools more effective. We’ll learn about Bob Dylan’s writing habits and the drug addiction of poets. We’ll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar designed its office space to get the most out of its talent. Collapsing the layers separating the neuron from the finished symphony, Imagine reveals the deep inventiveness of the human mind and its essential role in our increasingly complex world.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2012: Combining cutting-edge neurological research with the age-old mystery of how and when inspiration strikes, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works is a fun, engaging study of creativity. Lehrer uses case studies like 3M’s and Pixar’s innovative corporate cultures and Bob Dylan’s songwriting habits to frame scientific findings about the brain and where creativity comes from. You won’t find exercises to help you think more creatively or ways to avoid creative blocks in this book. Instead, you’ll learn how and why creativity is stimulated by certain activities—like looking at the color blue, traveling, or daydreaming productively—and how these activities stimulate creativity in everyone, not just in ‘creative’ people. Lehrer’s focus is as wide and fascinating as his topic itself and there’s something to engage every reader, no matter where you rate yourself on the creativity spectrum. –Malissa Kent