It’s not about you

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.

One thought on “It’s not about you

  1. Thank you for this post on creative networks. All of these books sound interesting and will be added to my summer reading list.

    We’re working on a creative network of our own, what we refer to as a ‘global nation of creatives.’ We’re doing this because we’ve found that many of the best ideas and innovations are the result of collaboration and drawing upon experiences and observations from many different things. Some of the best idea generators are ones that can take seemingly unrelated things and ‘connect the dots’ so to speak.

    I look forward to making your blog part of my regular reading.


    Jocelyn Ring

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