Tag Archives: Imagine

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer – My Takeaways

At the end of each of my book synopsis presentations, I give a few of my takeaways for the books I present.  For Imagine:  How Creativity Works, I had a much longer list than usual – sixteen takeaways.  So, here they are.  If you want to be more creative, then take a good look, and ask, “what do I need to do differently – what changes do I need to make in the way I work?” 

• Sixteen “lessons” (some behaviors to adopt – a longer than usual list of take-aways): 

1)    Paint the walls blue (but hire an accountant wearing red)
2)    Make people interact
3)    Connect more.  Collaborate more.  A lot more.
4)    And, to connect, you need lots of face-to-face interactions.  There is no substitute for face-to-face! (proximity matters a lot!)
5)    If the idea has not come at all, get off task – way off task
• take walks; take showers; have a drink or two…
6)    If the idea has come, get focused – very focused… (until you need another idea – then get off task again)
7)    Embrace – insist on – debate!  (traditional brainstorming, focusing on the positive only, does.not.work!)
8)    Get outside.  Way outside! – and collaborate with outsiders; lots of outsiders.
9)    Play a little (or a lot) – At least, look with new, outsider, child’s eyes…  (familiarity/jargon – these are enemies of creativity)
10)  Only after expertise is developed can you stray from the traditional, and improvise… (think Yo-Yo Ma).  Thus, expertise precedes great breakthroughs…
11) Travel – far away from home… (and pay attention when you travel)
12) And, aim for diversity (and weirdness) in your connections
• embrace the city
13) Walk faster…
14)  Treat breakthrough performers more like athletic superstars
15)  Get much better at your powers of observation
16)  Provide “15 percent time” (or its equivalent) – use your 15 percent time to play around with new ideas……

Creativity is a Verb, and feels like Hard Work – insight from Jonah Lehrer, Imagine

I have now read enough about creativity to know that we have our work cut out for us.

What we think, what we wish, is that creative ideas just fall from the sky in blinding moments of inspiration.  That does happen, but…  But, just as Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Habit, and Jonah Lehrer confirms in his thorough study of creativity, creative breakthroughs are the result of specific practices (“habits”), serious attention to work places, and work styles, and many, many interactions and connections, and work discipline…

Yes, breakthroughs may come suddenly, but they come at the end of some very hard and serious work.  And then, when the breakthrough arrives, there is much more hard work to do to turn the idea into something real.  Here’ s a key quote from the Lehrer book:

I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like work.”

Our future depends on our creative work leading to those creative breakthroughs.  So, we all need to get to work…


If you are in the DFW area, come join us this Friday, May 4, at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  I will present my synopsis of Imagine:  How Creativity Works, and Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden.  7:00 am at the Park City Club.  Click here to register.

From Yo-Yo Ma, Your Communication Tip of the Day – “Make People Care What Happens Next”

I’ve finished reading Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.  It is a treasure, with story after story worth pondering.

Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

One of his exemplars of creativity is Yo-Yo Ma.  Here is a brief excerpt.

For Ma, the tedium of the flawless performance taught him that there is often a tradeoff between perfection and expression. “If you are only worried about not making a mistake, then you will communicate nothing,” he says. “You will have missed the point of making music, which is to make people feel something.” Instead, he reviews the complete score, searching for the larger story. “I always look at a piece of music like a detective novel.” My job is to retrace the story so that the audience feels the suspense. So that when the climax comes, they’re right there with me, listening to my beautiful detective story. It’s all about making people care about what happens next.” (emphasis added).

“Make people care about what happens next.”  Now this is your communication tip of the day.  In your speeches, your presentations, your blog posts, your articles, even your emails, make people care about what comes next. Always.

Coming for the May 4 First Friday Book Synopsis – Imagine: How Creativity Works & Take the Stairs

Recently, a sharp entrepreneur told me that she consistently hears that the First Friday Book Synopsis is one of the top 5 networking events in the Dallas area.  I believe this is true, and you can sense it whenever you walk into the room at one of our monthly sessions.  The quality of the people, the content of the book synopsis presentations, the great food, the respect for the clock…  What more could you ask for?

We begin at 7:00 am, and you can always walk out between 8:05-8:07.  And you leave with two handouts, genuinely comprehensive takeaways with key quotes and the most useful transferable principles from the two books chosen for the morning.

And we’ve been providing these sessions every month for over 14 years.

For May 4, we have selected two books that you will find very useful.  I am presenting my synopsis of Imagine:  How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.  It is a terrific book!  I read a lot of business books that have very good information, but some books are also written by exceptional writers.  This is one of those books.  (So is my June selection, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg).  Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine, tells a story with such thorough detail.  And he tells stories in such a way that we see the insights just leap out in moments of “discovery.”  He is a really good writer.  (Click here to read the review of Imagine by our blogging colleague, Bob Morris).

Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of Take the Stairs:  7 Steps to Achieving True Success.  It is a book dealing with self-discipline.  So, if you have mastered self-discipline, you can skip this presentation.  (I suspect that you still have some work to do in that category – I sure do).

We meet at the wonderful Park City Club in Dallas, near the corner of Northwest Highway and the Dallas North Tollway, at 7:00 am – the first Friday of every month.  Come join us for the May 4 First Friday Book Synopsis.  You will be glad you did.

Click here to register.

From Celine Dion to OutKast – Melding the Brand New with the Familiar (insight from Charles Duhigg and Jonah Lehrer)

“People listen to Top 40 because they want to hear their favorite songs or songs that sound like their favorite songs.  When something different comes on, they’re offended.  They don’t want anything unfamiliar.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

How do you get someone to want to listen to these guys?

When her music feels so much more familiar?

Here’s a tidbit from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  The issue is how a radio station introduces a new song by an unknown artist.  He describes in detail the attempt to make a big hit out of a song called “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.  (My apology – I don’t know this song.  You can watch the music video of it here).”  The research that music folks do that can practically guarantee when a song will be a hit was clear – this song was going to be a monster hit.  But, when stations would play it, people would switch stations during the song.  Not a good sign!

Here’s what they discovered:  they found out that even a sure-fire monster hit, when it is new, has to be sandwiched between two “familiar” songs, in order to keep people from switching stations.  And they have to follow this practice until listeners decide that this new song now sounded “familiar.”  Fascinating.

So, this is what they did:  they played a Celine Dion song, and then immediately followed with Hey Ya!, and then immediately after, they played another familiar song by another familiar artist.  The key word in all of this is “familiar.”  Interestingly, people were “sick of” Celine Dion, but they would not change the station, because she sounded “familiar.”  From Duhigg:

“There were songs that listeners said they actively disliked, but were sticky nonetheless…  Male listeners said they hated Celine Dion and couldn’t stand her songs.  But whenever a Dion tune came on the radio, they stayed tuned in.  Within the Los Angeles market, stations that regularly played Dion at the end of each hour – when the number of listeners was measured – could reliably boost their audience by as much as 3 percent, a huge figure in the radio world.  Male listeners may have thought they disliked Dion, but when her songs played, they stayed glued.”      

So I was sitting in church yesterday, Easter Sunday, and we were singing the Wesley hymn Christ The Lord is Risen Today.  And, at the conclusion of the service, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus.  Both songs were written centuries ago.  Wesley’s hymn was first published in 1739, and it was based on a fourteenth century version of a Latin hymn.  Handel wrote the Messiah in 1741.  So, these are not exactly examples of new, modern sacred music.

It was wonderful – and wonderfully familiar.

I had just finished reading the Duhigg book, and thought about this experience, comparing it to the “Hey Ya!” challenge.  The last thing I want on Easter Sunday is some new, modern, never-heard-before song.  I want the familiar.

So, what do we do with all this?  This may explain why introducing and accepting change is so hard.  People want the familiar.  Even the “familiar” that they no longer “want,” that they are “tired of,” they still want it because it feels “familiar.”

So, if you are proposing a change at your work, asking people to buy in to something they have not ever experienced, look for ways to either make if feel familiar, or, sandwich it in between other actions that are familiar.

No wonder change is so hard…

But, Part 2 – “On the Other Hand”:

But…  we live in an era when change has to be the name of the game.  So, how do we help people become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?

There are places where we do not want the familiar.  If we go to the annual auto show, we want the new and different to be on display.  And we are looking for the “cool” factor, the new and different and unfamiliar – the “I can’t wait to try that” factor.  Same with an electronics show.  We want to see the latest new gadgets and we look for those rare breakthroughs that will change our lives for the better.

So, maybe, in our work environments, we need some “what’s new and different” shows.  In Imagine, Jonah Lehrer describes Google’s CSI (Crazy Search Ideas) events:

“It’s like a middle-school science fair.  You see hundreds of posters from every conceivable field.  The guys doing nanotechnology are talking to the guys making glue.” 

Such events are “defined as” looking for the new – looking for the next, new, new change.  Maybe we need more of these, to get our change muscles the exercise they need, so that we aren’t offended with, and driven away by, the unfamiliar.