Top Books on Innovation

I’m excited to be on this new list of top innovation books, at www.medium.com:

Explaining Creativity by Keith Sawyer

If innovation were a religion, then creativity would be its clergy and this textbook, which collects all the latest scientific research on the topic, its bible. Sawyer does a masterful job of dispelling many myths surrounding the field, such as creativity is only about the flash of insight or rejecting convention. Finally, some (empirical) fundamentalism we can all embrace.

Other books on this list, by David Dabscheck:

Creative Intelligence by Bruce Nussbaum

Innovation as Usual by Paddy Miller & Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

Running Lean by Ash Maurya

The 7th Sense by William Duggan

Inside the Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg

101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar

The Art of Critical Making by Rosanne Somerson and Mara Hermano

Innovation in Korea

To prepare for my keynote talk on Thursday at the Global Leaders Forum in Seoul, I did some research on innovation in Korea. I was impressed to learn that Korea tops many international indices of innovation. In 2013, Korea was first in the European Union ranking:

2015 EU innovation rankings 2013And again in 2014, South Korea topped the EU annual innovation index.

It’s not just the EU, either; in 2015, Korea was ranked the number one innovative country by Bloomberg Business Week magazine.

But Korean leaders are still worried because of one big issue: They believe their schools aren’t educating for creativity. The current President has been supporting a huge initiative to shift Korea to an innovation economy. The country’s leaders realize that the manufacturing sector won’t grow Korea into the future, even though it raised Korea up over the past decades.

How to increase creativity and shift the country to an innovation economy? The solution lies in the schools. And yet, Korea’s schools are some of the most hierarchical, most anti-creative in the world. They’re excellent at drilling students in the type of memorization that results in success on standardized, paper and pencil tests. They score very high on international rankings. But creativity researchers and learning scientists know that this type of knowledge doesn’t support creativity.

Some international creativity indices, those that measure from the bottom up the creative potential of a country, rank Korea much lower. In Richard Florida’s creative cities index, Seoul Korea didn’t make the top 25.

That’s what Chosun TV invited me to talk about at their Global Leaders Forum. I’m optimistic about Korea, but I believe their schools need to change to foster greater creativity.

Sawyer Keynote at Korea Global Leaders Forum

I’m in Seoul, Korea, giving the closing talk at the 3rd annual Global Leaders Forum. They know me here because two of my books have been translated into Korean (see the cover photos below). This year’s theme:

Creative Code, 6 Revolutions Change Korea!

My closing keynote is “Education Revolution, Creative People Change the World.” In 2014, South Korea led the EU Global Innovation Rankings, and again in 2015, according to Bloomberg Business Week magazine. But Korea realizes that to stay on top, you have to keep trying to be even better. One big concern in Korea is the education system. Local experts, like the former Minister of Education, Lee Ju-Ho, worry that the focus on cramming for tests could reduce the country’s creativity:

Korean students’ high scores on the PISA test have been used to block innovative education reforms. PISA’s focus on cognitive skills does not assess students’ creativity.

That’s why Chosun Television, the sponsor of the Forum, asked me how we can use the latest research to help schools foster creativity. I’m optimistic about the future of South Korea; they’re focusing on the core issues that drive a creative economy.

Group Genius, KoreanKorean cover Sawyer

Does Creativity Exist?

“Creativity does not actually exist at all.” –Monica Reuter

I just read Monica Reuter’s new book on creativity (Palgrave, 2015). She makes the provocative argument that creativity doesn’t comes from individuals; it comes from groups, and from large networks distributed through society. Creativity is always defined by influential people in society, and its definition changes depending on the country you’re in.

Reuter’s new book is academic, so only serious scholars will read it. But you’ll get the gist from these representative quotations:

  • “Creativity does not actually exist at all…it is merely those products and ideas which are so labeled in our various societies and cultures. It is a culture-bound term that is socially constructed.” (page 2)
  • “There simply is no creativity unless a group of influential people agrees that it is.” (page 14)
  • Reuter likes my book Group Genius; she writes “Sawyer leads the charge in dismantling the idea of the lonely genius.” (page 22)
  • Reuter rejects as myth the idea that creativity is linked to psychopathology. The myth persists because “we have a deep-seated need in our society to glorify creative individuals” and “We prefer the myth because we have an occasionally desperate need to retain this ideal notion of the individual genius.” (page 27)
  • “Creativity should be seen as constructed within cultural meaning systems.” (page 45) “Whether or not a product is creative depends on social judgment.” (page 49)

Reuter concludes with an interesting empirical study: She interviewed students in an applied art and design school, and asked them when they felt most creative. They said: while alone (73%), doing personal art (73%), having freedom to create (88%), and when they have passion (92%). She also interviewed prospective employers of these graduates; it turns out that they don’t value creativity that highly in hiring. Only eleven percent of employers said creativity was more important than skills. Only five percent said they wanted colleges to do a better job helping graduates be creative.

Reuter’s conclusion is pretty cynical: “What employers want are good little working ants. What students want is freedom, to work alone, passion, doing something new.” (page 73) Do you agree?