If you’re trying to make yourself more creative, maybe you’re focusing too much on yourself. The way to become more creative is to look outwards, to embed yourself more effectively in innovative social networks that I call “collaborative webs”.
That’s the message emerging from an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, cognitive scientists, and computer scientists. They have different names for what happens when groups generate ideas–distributed cognition, embodied cognition, or social cognition. In my 2006 book Explaining Creativity, I called this perspective “socioculturalism”; it represents the most important new approach to understanding creativity in years.
And my new book Group Genius is inspired by these insights, too.
I’m now reading Richard Ogle’s new book, Smart World. His title is a clever term that captures the key message of distributed cognition–that the world itself makes us smarter. Ogle’s book is about what he calls “idea spaces,” a concept similar to what Thomas Kuhn long ago called a paradigm–a way of thinking about the world, a way of perceiving data, a way of asking questions. Ogle’s line of argument is consistent with my new book Group Genius; in fact, both of our books were quoted in a recent U.S. News & World Report story about collaboration and creativity (June 18, 2007). What I really enjoy about Ogle’s book is the detailed stories about the real historical processes behind innovation; in this, his book continues in a tradition that includes Basalla’s The Evolution of Technology and Andrew Hargadon’s How Breakthroughs Happen. With this amount of detail, it takes some sustained effort to read this new book, but it will be worth the effort.