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Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity [Kindle Edition]

Keith Sawyer
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A science-backed method to maximize creative potential in any sphere of life

With the prevalence of computer technology and outsourcing, new jobs and fulfilling lives will rely heavily on creativity and innovation. Keith Sawyer draws from his expansive research of the creative journey, exceptional creators, creative abilities, and world-changing innovations to create an accessible, eight-step program to increasing anyone's creative potential. Sawyer reveals the surprising secrets of highly creative people (such as learning to ask better questions when faced with a problem), demonstrates how to come up with better ideas, and explains how to carry those ideas to fruition most effectively.

This science-backed, step-by step method can maximize our creative potential in any sphere of life.

  • Offers a proven method for developing new ideas and creative problem-solving no matter what your profession
  • Includes an eight-step method, 30 practices, and more than 100 techniques that can be launched at any point in a creative journey
  • Psychologist, jazz pianist, and author Keith Sawyer studied with world-famous creativity expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Sawyer's book offers a wealth of easy to apply strategies and ideas for anyone who wants to tap into their creative power.

Editorial Reviews Review

From the Author: Eight Simple Techniques For Greater Creativity

Creativity doesn't come from one brilliant idea; it's a way of life. Using Sawyer's techniques, new ideas come every day, leading you always further down the zig-zag path to greater creativity. Try these simple techniques, one for each of Sawyer's eight steps.

Find the right question

If you're stumped, it's often because you're asking the wrong question. Maybe your question is too narrow and focused, and you just need to think bigger. For example, instead of asking yourself "Should I repair my old car, or buy a new one?" try asking "Can I get a job within walking distance of home?" or "Can I move closer to public transportation?"

Prepare your mind

The most creative people are voracious learners; they dabble in things they know nothing about. Teach yourself something about weaponry, hypnosis, glass blowing, auto repair, Sufi mysticism…

Be aware

Research shows that the most creative people are more likely talk to lots of different people. So try this: Before you attend your next party or social event, choose a color. Then at the event, make a point of meeting and chatting with anyone who's wearing that color.

Free your mind

When you're facing a creative challenge, try to imagine it as a problem in a very different world, like Dentistry; Lawn care; Furniture design; Prison; The Circus. How would your problem look in that world? How would you try to solve it?

Generate ideas

You can increase your ability to generate good ideas by practicing idea generation every day in simple tasks. For example, make a long list of specific facts about how the world would be different: If gravity stopped for one second each day? If there were five sexes? Come up with your own idea challenges as you go through your day. In the kitchen: What if my refrigerator had 20 shelves? Preparing for bed at night: What if people could sleep standing up?

Combine ideas

The best insights come from combining ideas that are completely unrelated. Take out paper and pencil and sketch a piece of furniture that is also a kind of fruit; or, a lampshade that is also a kind of book; or, just pick two words at random by closing your eyes and pointing at different pages in a book, and invent a combination.

Make ideas even better

Once you have a few ideas, take each one of them (even the ones that aren't so great) and list at least three benefits of that idea, and then list at least three practical steps you would have to take to implement the idea. This simple technique often helps you think of ways to make the ideas even better.

Get your ideas into the world

Buy a stack of ten magazines. (Or take some of those old magazines in your dentist's waiting room) Clip out any photos that seem related to your problem, and keep going until you have 50 photos. Use a glue stick and make a collage by sticking them onto a large piece of poster board. Keep the collage near your desk for a couple of weeks, and make sure to look at it each day.

From the Inside Flap

"No matter what kind of creativity I studied, the process was the same. Creativity did not descend like a bolt of lightning that lit up the world in a single brilliant flash. It came in tiny steps, bits of insight, and incremental changes. Zigs and zags. When people followed those zigs and zags, ideas and revelations started flowing."
—From the Introduction

Can you be more creative? Absolutely, and Zig Zag shows you how. Dr. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist, professor, jazz pianist, and former video game designer, is one of the world's leading experts on creativity. To develop his accessible eight-step creativity program, Sawyer explored the lives of exceptional creators, tapped into the back stories of world-changing innovations, and analyzed laboratory experiments that delved deeply into the everyday creativity that all of us share. He discovered many surprising secrets of highly creative people—how they question assumptions when presented with new problems, how they get beyond creative blocks, and above all, how they negotiate the many twists and turns along the way.

Zig Zag draws on these secrets to provide an eight-step program that will help you achieve greater creativity—whether you're looking for new ways to excel at your job, build a fulfilling career, develop a more deeply satisfying personal life, find fresh, clever, permanent solutions to nagging problems, make better decisions, bring about change in your community, and more.

Zig Zag provides an unprecedented collection of more than one hundred practical, hands-on activities that will keep you moving down the creative path. These research-based techniques help you ask deeper questions, see the world in new ways, and develop novel ideas. Zig Zag is your guidebook to the surprising, unpredictable, and fascinating journey that leads to greater creativity.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1194 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (February 13, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BG62E9C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,691 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By BusyMom
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This fascinating book not only claims that we all have what it takes to be creative people but also gives a research-backed, step-by-step process to make this claim a reality. The format is very user-friendly, with lists and personal assessments, inspiring quotes, and intriguing tales and current research supporting Keith Sawyer's eight steps to greater creativity. An impressive blend of the scientist and the artful storyteller, Sawyer makes it fun to learn how to solve every-day and entrenched problems with fresh insights. This is not a linear process but one which "zig zags" along.

Be warned, Sawyer is very clear that creativity is not the result of one sudden inspiration that we can quickly acquire by some new form of free thinking nor is it a magic potion to be pulled out when stumped with a difficult problem...rather it is the result of specific daily practices combined with hard work. The exciting news is that once we make these eight steps part of our modus operandi, we will grow accustomed to little bursts of insight and creativity permeating all of our projects and efforts. Whether we are business people, church volunteers, school principals, stay-at-home moms, or artists, this easy-to-read book can lead us to become truly creative people!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Using the Advice March 20, 2013
I read this book in manuscript form, and found it more helpful than any creativity book I'd ever tried to parse. Most are either full of air and zing, no substance, or ponderously technical, or preachy and unhelpful.This one's smart and solid and inspiring. I've been using Keith Sawyer's insights ever since, with flashes of gratitude every time they pay off. He's right: Creativity takes hard work. But he's managed to make the work understandable, doable, and fun. And now it no longer feels like work.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creating Creativity April 19, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I know Keith Sawyer and have worked with him. I'm, Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker. I've always been interested in the creative process especially as it relates to humor and the creation of cartoons. By the way, if you want to read all my reviews on Amazon, you can stop right here. This is the only one so far.

Anyway, I read a previous book by Keith "Group Genius" and was very impressed about the research he brought to bear on the general process of creativity and wondered if he was interested in looking into as it applied to humor creation. Long story short it did. As he wrote

"I found that there's a pattern to their creativity--and this pattern provides a window onto how all creativity works for scientists and inventors and for The New Yorker caption contest as well."

His new book "Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity", wasn't surprising to me because of my past work with Keith, but will be revelation to people who think creativity is some God given gift, or if you're an atheist, some genetic given gift. Reading this book will tell you it's the gift you can give yourself. First by buying the book, and then, by not just reading it, but by applying it's principals and doing it's assignments. Then, after you've given yourself the gift of creativity you can pass it on by re-gifting this book to someone who's still waiting for the light bulbs to go off in his or her own head.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have taught creative thinking for the Creative Problem Solving Institute of SUNY/Buffalo, Mensa, NLP DOTAR/Santa Cruz, Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and other venues since the mid-1970's. I consider Zig Zag as a source full of useful and practical information that will sharpen the essential skill of creative living for any and all with the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the passion improve one's lot in life. BUY THIS BOOK...then USE IT!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zig Zag is perfection April 28, 2013
Keith Sawyer is perhaps the most brilliant researcher writing about creativity today. His new book, Zig Zag:The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity, captures the true truth of the creative process. Creativity isn't linear but dashes about connecting new dots in unforeseen and original ways as new information and learning open up new pathways. Sawyer says he wrote a "practical book" and he certainty has. There are personal creativity assessments that can boost the creative capacities of everyone.There are specific steps toward leading a creative life. And there is the deep research to back up each creative step, practice and technique that Sawyer offers us--both as individuals and organizations.

And don't forget the humor. In talking about "Common Moments When Incubation Takes Happens," Sawyer mentions "sitting through a boring meeting," listening to a boring lecture," and "sorting the recycling." Perfect. Sawyer knows the creative moment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
ZigZag by Keith Sawyer is an excellent guide to how to improve your creativity. In the modern world the ability to think in different ways and to create new ideas and products is essential for success. Sawyer says that there are eight steps to the creative model, but that most books see the process as linear (proceeding through each step in order), but in fact the process follows a zig zag pattern. He then proceeds to examine each of these eight steps in individual chapters, giving detailed examples of what to do for each one. The eight steps include: ask, learn, look, play, think, fuse, choose and make. Toward the end of the book he suggests ways to decide which step to follow in this zig zag fashion.

Two mistakes that people make are to think they have to be creative only occasionally and hoping for one great idea. Actually the creative process is continuous and generally involves generating lots of small ideas, which eventually come together. For each step in the process Sawyer generates a number of “practices” or specific actions you can take. For example for “Ask” the practices are: (1) find the question—questions are more important than answers; (2) search the space—look as several possible solutions, break each one down into parts and identify the right set of properties by making a grid showing the possibilities for each property; and (3) transform the problem, which can be done in a variety of ways such as reversing the question and stretch and squeeze (stretch the problem by making it bigger or squeeze it to make it smaller.

One practical approach I particularly like is to ask “why” five times and each time transform the answer into a new why question.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT book on Personal Creativity
While reading a review for a Great Courses "The Creative Thinkers Toolkit" course I came across this book quite by accident. Read more
Published 7 days ago by William
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book to everyone
Zig Zag totally changed my perspective on Creativity . The idea that you should go back and forth in the creative process and make your ideas tangible will change your world and... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Alan Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Why ZigZag
The world of the creative thinker is becoming more clear with Keith Sawyer's book "Zig Zag." In profound and concise writings based on real world stories, Sawyer... Read more
Published 18 days ago by GoldWord
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book. It talks about the creative process
Wonderful book. It talks about the creative process, especially when making a new product for a business. I highly recommend this book to business students.
Published 18 days ago by ben larson
5.0 out of 5 stars I generally don't like the recommended reading materials but i thought...
I am a student in a creative thinking class and Zig Zag was one of our required reading materials. I generally don't like the recommended reading materials but i thought that Zig... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Bogdanoff
5.0 out of 5 stars Keith Sawyer did an excellent job with his book Zig Zag
Keith Sawyer did an excellent job with his book Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. Sawyer provides the reader with 8 steps that guide a person through the creative... Read more
Published 21 days ago by A S
5.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer creates a great design to spur the creative process in a...
Sawyer creates a great design to spur the creative process in a structured manner. The eight techniques Sawyer produces in the book are helpful and can make even the deemed... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Terry Owens
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this read with a group
I many times surround myself with people that I recognize as “creative." I am very mechanistic in my approaches. I do look for opportunity to cultivate growth. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Nathan DeFord
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
Zig Zag, Keith Sawyer’s book, takes a fresh look at creativity. In his book, Sawyer describes and fleshes out the 8 stages of the creative process. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Julie Karnuth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Bartlomiej Oliwa
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More About the Author

Dr. Keith Sawyer is one of the world's leading scientific experts on creativity, innovation, and learning. In his first job after graduating from MIT, he designed videogames for Atari. He then worked for 6 years as a management consultant in Boston and New York, advising large corporations on the strategic use of information technology. He's been a jazz pianist for over 30 years, and performed with several improv theater groups in Chicago, as part of his research into jazz and improvisational theater.

In addition to ZIG ZAG, his books include GROUP GENIUS and EXPLAINING CREATIVITY, and he has published over 80 scientific articles.

Dr. Sawyer is the Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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