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Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People Paperback – August 9, 2001

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Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People + The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius + The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Early edition (August 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618127453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618127450
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Operating on the arguable assumption that creative thinking is essentially pre-verbal, intuitive and emotional, the Root-Bernsteins (Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels) outline 13 "tools" that help translate spontaneous imaginative experiences into specific media, such as painting, music, scientific experiments and poetry. Among the techniques they identify and describe are "imaging," "abstracting," "body thinking" and "empathizing." Although there is considerable overlap between categories (for example, in the sections on "analogizing" and on "recognizing patterns"), the Root-Bernsteins succeed in defining each category's uniqueness. Freely acknowledging that they are not asserting anything startlingly novel, the authors present an impressive number of firsthand accounts of the creative process, from Albert Einstein and Merce Cunningham to Oliver Sacks and Charles Ives. Some may have trouble accepting the premise that all creative thinking--whether for poetic composition or scientific experiment, and regardless of the thinker's native culture or language--is "universally" categorizable, but the authors make a strong case for a view that is becoming increasingly popular. They conclude with a list of suggestions for how to transform education from the elementary level up so that it is better suited to our demanding, multidimensional culture. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Are there special thinking strategies that characterize genius? How did the Einsteins, Freuds, Picassos, Galileos, and Mozarts come up with their ideas? The Root-Bernsteins, Robert (physiology professor, Michigan State Univ.) and Mich?le (history and writing teacher), have been studying creativity for more than a decade. Using results from these studies, they have identified the following 13 thinking tools to help us tap into our own personal genius and free our minds to be more creative: observing, imaging, abstracting, recognizing patterns, forming patterns, analogizing, body thinking, empathizing, dimensional thinking, modeling, playing, transforming, and synthesizing. The book is well written and easy to follow, with each chapter containing a thorough discussion of each tool. An outstanding section of "Minds-on-Resources" assists the reader in using the tools. Scholarly and inspiring, this book is highly recommended for psychology and education collections in academic and large public libraries.
-Elizabeth Goeters, Roswell, GA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

With many books, you can read a list like that and skip the book.
Donald Mitchell
The Root-Bernsteins thoroughly discuss each, citing various creative thinkers and including their own thoughts about how they use one or more of them.
Robert Morris
Apply them as you create and you can't help but improve your creativity skill set.
George T. Macknight

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Felton on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
It is such a pleasure to write a review of a book of this caliber. I don't have to balance what is good with what is not so good, because "Sparks of Genius" is an excellent, superb book, from start to finish. I would have only one small addition to one of the chapters, which I will mention below.
I think that "Sparks of Genius" is the first book I have ever read on the subject of how to develop genius, but I cannot imagine a better complilation of what it takes to foster and inspire genius and creativity in people. The main reason for this is that the authors base their material on how creative people in the arts, sciences, etc., acquire and develop their skills, and every chapter except the last one (appropriately) are full of firsthand examples from people of genius and creativity in (almost!) all walks of life. Yet the authors themselves exhibit their own kind of genius in organizing the material, writing chapter after chapter with genuine vision and clarity, and most importantly, after intellectually explaining "sparks" such as observing, imaging, analyzing, and empathizing, give specific, generally uncomplicated, exercises on how to develop these skills.
Throughout the book the authors demonstrate that people in very diverse walks of life exhibit the same "sparks of genius" in their work, which I find quite inspiring in itself. In this way they themselves exemplify the value of "synthesis," perhaps the key that links all the methods they depict.
The book is a call to "rethink thinking," to teach cross-discipline learning, and I feel that the methods discussed in the book, and then discussed specifically in the context of education in the final chapter, would be invaluable as educational tools.
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Format: Paperback
The authors cite the above quote as synthesizing the lessons of this remarkable book. In so doing, they make a compelling case for a reversal of the education and thinking processes of ever more separating the arts and sciences, the senses, and subdividing specialities. As the authors relate in a number of ways, a central problem of education today is that the students often can pass the tests but not apply what they learned to everyday life. This is a core problem also cited by fellow MacArthur scholar Howard Gardner in The Unschooled Mind. They see the compartmentalization of knowledge and learning as the cause.
The path taken to get to that conclusion is a most unique and pleasant one to follow. They investigated the writings of creative geniuses and the reports of contemporaries about them, and found that these people employed many more kinds of thought processes than the average person uses. And each thought process added something to the whole.
In so doing, they correct many descriptions about these same people in popular (and even scholarly) writings. For example, almost everyone knows that Einstein had trouble with math as a young person. Most people believe that he suddenly blossomed as a mathematician later. But that's not the case. He developed his concepts through mind and body experiments that had nothing to do with math. When it came time to create the proofs for his work, he needed help from accomplished mathematicians.
This is another key point: the creative insight that these people have is never as it is presented to the world. That communicated version is simply one that is easier to understand, but has little to do with the way the innovator perceives the concept.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Osher Doctorow, Ph.D. on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
The review by Kirkus Associates is excellent, and many of the other reviews are very good. The 13 thinking tools of the world's most creative people, according to the authors, are abstracting, analogizing, body thinking (body images), dimensional thinking, empathizing (feeling empathy with objects, processes, others), forming patterns, imaging (thinking of things by using mental images of them, whether realistic or "distorted"), modeling, observing, playing, recognizing patterns, synthesizing (combining, etc.), transforming. The study of genius as an "extreme" of knowledge discovery is long past its due in education from elementary through university, and has many clues for improving education. Geniuses not only cross fields from science through art, but tend to be interdisciplinary, appear to be well grounded both in basics and intuition/thinking/mental processes, and use imagery (by the way, using imagery is taught by a number of cognitive psychologists and psychoanalysts for mental health as well). Robert Bernstein's physiology background helps him unlock some of the physiological processes of genius, and Michele's historical background helps trace back the characteristics of pre-modern geniuses. There is probably much more to the story, but this book is an excellent start.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert R. Sachs on May 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Sparks of Genius is an excellent analysis of the variety of different types of "tools" or techniques that innovators and creators use. I agree with many of the other reviewers that the authors provide copious examples. For some, this was overdoing it, but for myself, the examples were well selected and properly used to illustrate the tools at issue. I never felt bored or annoyed by them.
Unlike some reviewers, I felt that the authors did provide a solid theoretical or conceptual framework, and not merely a laundry list of examples. Indeed, I was particularly impressed by their identification and explanation of the reasons behind the deep linkages between artistic and scientific endeavors, and by the interesting explorations of the interplay of artistic and scientific discovery in many noted thinkers. Science education in general would be much more interesting to the average student if standard textbooks fleshed out the often artistic interests of the great scientists as well as the Root-Bernsteins.
I would take the Root-Bernsteins to task however, for the rather prosaic presentation of their material. In particular, its a shame for them to so heavily emaphasize visualization and multimodal representation, and to cite the work of Edward Tufte, and then present such a conventionally design book of text and relatively limited and often poorly placed figures, oddly located "appendices" etc. The illustrations, layouot, typesetting, and overall design should have itself been reflective of their subject matter. Perhaps a second edition would rectify this oversight.
Finally, I note that they could have better "rationalized" or categorized the various "tools" they identify, and thereby perhaps shortened the book.
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