What it means to be creative often eludes the greatest of minds. I had often found myself complaining about my lack of ingenuity, especially when compared to my witty best friend. But this book transformed my perspective on creativity as something that is acquired and not innate. Tina Seelig looks at creativity as a muscle that weakens without practice.
The bestselling author has been giving a course on creativity and innovation at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University for over a decade. In this book, she explores every single variable that influences creative output.
Tina's brainchild, 'The Innovation Engine', is one of the most succinct ways to put forth the most significant internal and external aspects influencing creativity.
Innovation Engine. Credits: Tina Seelig
She deconstructs the science behind brainstorming sessions and explains how each session must be conducted. She believes that no idea proposed during this phase is laughable, therefore judgements should be deferred. She also emphasises the need for open space and available materials to create prototypes as ideas emerge.
She goes on to demonstrate how each factor of space, including the colour of the walls, the height of the ceiling, and the view outside a window, dramatically affects "everything you do, how you feel, the way you work, how you learn, and how you play". For example, a red-coloured wall enables one to focus, while a blue wall - which resembles the vastness of the sky - enables imagination. She also proves with an example how music influences the taste of food.
Reframing general questions, challenging obvious assumptions and combining distinct ideas are other tools she explores in this book. "If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions," she quotes Albert Einstein.
Just like creativity, observation skills could be evolved with constant practice. The author urges her readers to engage all their senses to notice those things that people who pass by the same place every day don’t see. She explains this with the examples of magicians and comedians: “Most magic tricks rely upon magicians’ ability to distract us while they perform their sleight of hand,...On the flip side, humorists draw our attention to the things in our environment that we usually ignore.”
As per the creativity expert, one must start with small, daily experiments to build confidence for larger ones. She also asks us to make failure our dear friend by examining how failure is an essential cobblestone on the path to success.
Frequent feedback, according to her, is better than a once-in-a-year appraisal, and inaction should be punished while both success and failure should be encouraged. She also probed how "constraints in all habitats stimulate creativity" with examples.
The book teaches us that a positive mindset and the belief that we can solve problems helps us notice opportunities, and in turn, change many aspects of our daily lives. Redecorating my room after reading the book has tremendously influenced my energy. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to relook at their life through a creative lens.