Books & Reviews

    Reading Widely Means More Dots to Connect

    UnknownPeople ask me what I read. I think this question is inspired by my citing some arcane fact or that I make a weird connection now and then. I am a voracious reader, but I think what I actually read might surprise. Most of it is NOT directly about creativity and innovation (that’s a way to guarantee you’re boring!)

    Reading widely provides more dots to connect. Broadly, I’m thinking I’m improving my database by reading a lot of varied and weird content. There is some science to this; one can make more conceptual blends if one has more to blend. And, concept blending, new connections, are where innovation comes from.

    So, this is a snapshot of what I’m reading, for your non-prurient interest, and in no particular order:

    • Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno — the most comprehensive thing I’ve read on the reclusive writer with the perfect enigmatic books and the hermetic dark side. I am particularly struck with the notion they pose that The Catcher in the Rye is a response to Salinger’s horrific World War II experiences. This is a whole new idea which I’m still digesting. Thinking of going back to read Catcher and yet again. Also never knew he was love struck with Oona O’Neil prior to her marrying Charlie Chaplin — the heartbreak was part of his creative drive, but also part of his need for seclusion.
    • Out of Our Minds, Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson — this 2001 classic is one that escaped my attention until just recently. It’s dense but it’s very thoughtful and well researched. His words need to be read by every educator and corporate leader in the world. Ken knows his topic, and learning here is broader than school.
    • Buddy Guy, When I Left Home, My Story with David Ritz — boy was this a fun read, like eating BBQ ribs, and raspberry ice cream with a shot of expresso. I’m a blues and guitar nut so this was right up my alley. Interesting to hear that this guitar God struggled like mad for many years, a rugged and courageous creative journey. Unexpected insights into his creative process are the payoff here — and this is very much in his own voice, very authentic.
    • Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon — I read Pynchon’s V years ago and to be honest it left me a bit dazzled. I haven’t gotten to this much shorter piece just yet, it’s next on the stack (thank you for the suggestion Doug Stevenson! @madcreative)
    • Talent Wants to be Free by Orly Lobel — the concept is “we should learn to love leaks, raids, and free riding”. I haven’t read it all yet, just started, and I agree, somewhat. Still not convinced that ripping off an artists copyright is a good thing or fair. As Chris Isaak once said “you can download my songs for free as long as I can come into your house and take food from your refrigerator.” However, the larger point of more access to information is well taken.
    • Charming Billy by Alice McDermott — a bittersweet novel about an Irish drunk. McDermott nails that weirdly stoic and romantic self-abusive Irish thing. Lovely and lyrical writing style, really enjoyed the ride if not the outcome of this sad story.
    • Will Rogers, a biography, by Ben Yagoda — it’s hard to imagine a more interesting life than the one Rogers’ lived. He was iconic for good reasons, absolute authenticity, humility, and perseverance. Lots of creative lessons to learn but the one I take from the book most is to be honest and to be as kind and neutral as possible. His short telegrams are American poetry, and possibly the fore-runner to Twitter.
    • Elsewhere, a Memoir by Richard Russo — Russo is a hero of mine, love his novels, especially Mohawk and Nobody’s Fool, so quite interesting to get a peek behind the curtain at his life. His life story, surprisingly, revolves around his relationship with his mother. I wish he’d talked more about his writing process but found his commitment to his writing in spite of all odds and obstacles to be inspirational.
    • Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley — This is a very good book which I plan to do a more extensive review of here. It’s a message close to my heart. I’ve often said creativity is a choice, and the idea of creative confidence is very simpatico. I’m not done, but I am inspired by the personal tone, easy readability, and real world application ideas and tools. These are the IDEO guys and they are huge advocates of Design Thinking for innovation. They make the case well here. If you are at all interested in personal effectiveness this is a great read, even for those of us jaded by dozens of self-help, creativity, or innovation books.

    So what are you reading? Tell me!

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    Luke Williams at World Innovation Forum (a review)

    The following is a review of Luke Williams talk at the recent World Innovation Forum. Roving reporter and colleague Dr. Orin Davis gives Luke high marks as both a speaker/entertainer, AND as an innovation expert, high praise indeed. I’d not heard of Luke Williams, apparently he’s a fellow at Frog Design, an author, and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. I’m putting his “Disrupt” on my reading list. Here’s Orin’s report: ************** Disrupt Yourself!  Luke Williams at the World Innovation Forum by Orin Davis, Phd I note in jest that what Luke Williams primarily proved at his WIF talk is that showing pictures of babies doing really cute things, like trying to dance to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies,” gets

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    The Value of a “Cross Domain” View

      Dr. Orin Davis (@DrOrinDavis) has written up two more short pieces — essentially his reflections from the talks of Rebecca Henderson and Dan Pink at the recent World Innovation Forum. His comments on Pink are somewhat provocative, so, be aware I do not share Orin’s views exactly. Orin is a well read academic (and practitioner as well) and he knows a lot about the wide array of literature that exists for creativity and innovation — that’s why I’ m publishing his insightful work here. His critique of Pink is interesting to me because I was not aware of who Pink borrows from, and, if he is borrowing faithfully to the original research. That said, I think there’s a real value for people

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    When Culture Matters…for Innovation

    Back in those glory days at the University of Cincinnati, I was assigned a lovely little textbook to read for Freshman English class called “The Elements of Style” (by E.B. White and William Strunk). In a nutshell it’s all about how to write clearly. It provides succinct advice with spot-on examples. It’s a smallish book which easily fits into your jacket pocket. I read it, used it, and have refferred to it hundreds of times over the years. I treasure that slim little book. I’ve just found a similar treasure — but having to do with cross-cultural communications.  It’s official title is When Culture Matters, the 55 minute guide to better cross-cultural communication, by Indy Neogy.* True to its title,

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    Amping Ideas, Two EZ Innovation Tools

    Guerilla Innovation Chapter Nine You have to amp those ideas before you start marketing and selling. If you are in before-start-up mode, even more reason to AMP like mad. The refined or amped up idea might just get you to that elusive Point of Difference we talked about. It’s not enough to have a great idea. I’m not making light of the effort one must make to get to a breakthrough idea, but if you’re an entrepreneur, really, a great idea is only what you need to get to the starting line. The early going in the business race is about “insanely great” ideas (thank you Steve Jobs). Good ideas are  normally “out of the medals” at the end of

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    Stimuli, Scaffolding, Seeing — for Innovative Ideas

    Guerilla Innovation Chapter Eight Everything is Stimuli for Scaffolding to Better Ideas In my last post I introduced you to the concept of “Scaffolding”. For those who are starting here, it’s essentially a thinking tool to take your mind to a new place — an aid in the objective of coming up with an innovative idea for your small business. It might even be The Innovative Idea that starts a new business (hopefully with the clear point of difference I talked about in Chapter One (Even a Pizza Shop Has a Point of Difference) of this online “blogged book.” In order to take your innovation thinking (particularly in this idea generation phase) to the next level, you need to combine

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    Scaffolding — Thinking Monkey Bars for SmallBiz

    Guerrilla Innovation Chapter Seven Scaffolding — Thinking Monkey Bars for Small Business Small business people, aka, Guerrilla Innovators, you’re now looking for a unique business idea. This ain’t brainstorming, it’s Scaffolding. Just for fun maybe we call it Idea Generation Monkey Bars for Small Business. It’s a method to get to great ideas one thinking notch up at a time. I’ve been told that the term “Scaffolding” is used in the psychology and education fields. I first heard the term used by my partner with regard to idea generation — and it immediately struck me as a helpful way to look at things. Let me explain how Scaffolding works. Innovators, get out your Notebooks and start Notebooking. Breakthrough ideas are

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    Ideas Aren’t Innovation

    Guerilla Innovation Chapter Six Ideas Aren’t Innovation Ideas are not Innovation — and it’s interesting how often “idea people” think that having a good idea is enough. Ideas need development and implementation — get that done and you’ve still got to run the business. If you’re a start-up you’ll need to hire a team of people, raise funds, market your idea, sell it, and somehow profit from it. Team building, fund raising, operations — these are all essential and they all contribute to the innovation puzzle. I’ll touch on them later in Guerilla Innovation (this online book) but, this book is primarily about innovation — that component of a business where value is created. And creation is an awful lot

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    Extroverts Need Love Too

    The buzz around Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The power of Introverts in a World That Just Can’t Stop Talking continues to build. Watching her speak here in London last week it’s clear she’s hit a cultural chord. As of today, #33 on the Amazon chart. Introverts clearly have a tough time making themselves heard. She’s also quite right that extroverts tend to dominate the group processes we see in various organizations. Cain emphasizes solitary work and reflection, and no doubt, there is not enough of either. I’m not sure she understands that with proper training and facilitation, and just good listening skills, a lot of the challenges she identifies for introverts can be overcome. The value of group work and collaborative

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    Collaborative Consumption is Creative

    I don’t plug a lot of videos on this blog — how many video’s are all that relevant to creativity and innovation? This is the exception, I have one I’d really like you to watch, after you read this Jay Leno style “set up”. Growing up in anti-communist America the world was black and white. You were either pro-democracy capitalist, or a commmie pinko. There was no middle ground (gee, not so different than now). The “Domino Theory” had the USA fighting a communist insurgency in a tiny country in south east Asia that had no strategic value. The Vietnam war tore the country apart. I’d also rather forget the McCarthy era and blacklists. Which is what makes this new

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