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Imagine – Important Book on Creative Problem Solving

Cover of Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

I am in the process of re-reading one of the most inspiring and therefore important (especially for the YGPs) books that I have ever read. The book is Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. The main theme is creativity and how it can be applied to solving problems, in some cases very difficult problems that have gone unsolved by some of the smartest scientists in the world, but more on that in a minute.

Imagine focuses a lot on the brain and in particular on the fact that the brain has two hemispheres – the left and the right. The left is responsible for analytic problem solving and the right handles creativity.

Here’s just one example of the inspiration that Lehrer provides. When you are trying to solve a problem and find yourself stumped, that is exactly what you want to happen. Why, because until your left brain gets stumped the right brain will not assume control  and start supplying the creative solutions needed to solve the problem. Who knew getting stumped was a good thing?

In perhaps the most impressive example of this phenomena Alpheus Bingham, a vice president at Eli Lilly, one of the largest drug companies in the world made a high risk decision in the late 1990’s concerning a number of difficult problems that had gone unsolved for years. One day Bingham announced he was going public via a website with the problems and to make it attractive for people he was offering to pay a substantial fee for the solution to the problems that have gone unsolved by his scientists for years.

A few weeks went by without any response, but then one day like magic, there was the solution. Now here’s the best part, this website has been spun out from Lilly and over the past 20 years it has been responsible for solving thousands of similar problems. The name of the site is InnoCentive and if you, or your company has a problem that you can’t solve, click here.

What was the amazing lesson learned from this? The people who solved the problem were not experts in the specific field involving the problem. They had not been brainwashed by their peers into assuming that creative approaches should be dismissed out of hand. They were tangentially involved with the subject matter, but they brought their unbiased, creative approach to solving the problem.

Another important discussion involved brainstorming. I will blog about this in the future, but for now the quick insight is – brainstorming doesn’t work.


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1 Comment

  • Looked for the book on amazon based on your review and found this: “This book was pulled from shelves when it came to light that the author fabricated many parts. ISBN is 9780547386072.”

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