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Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration Paperback – March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Forget about the myth of the solitary genius: collaborative effort generates ideas and inventions, says this useful, upbeat book about how innovation always emerges from a series of sparks—never a single flash of insight. Judiciously wielding exercises and dozens of examples, Sawyer (Explaining Creativity) helps the reader understand how people think and function in and out of groups. He looks at how J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis composed their epic novels in concert, how unorganized individuals can come together to provide disaster relief more efficiently than government planners, how Charles Darwin and Samuel Morse built their work on others' discoveries, how information sharing helped Silicon Valley beat out Boston's computer startups. (Sawyer's riffs on jazz ensembles and improv comedy as sites of ingenuity are less convincing.) Basing much of his work on that of mentor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—who writes about reaching the state of heightened consciousness he calls flow—Sawyer offers guidelines for creating group flow. Insisting that collaborative webs are more important than creative people, he calls for an organizational culture that fosters equivocality, improvised innovation, and constant conversation—that's a recipe for group genius. Even if few readers are in a position to do away with their organizational chart, this is a solid recipe for unexpected innovation. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The central theme of the book is that creativity always comes from groups of people and never really from the lone and crazy inventor. New ideas are always created together with the idea of others. Therefore, if you want to have creativity in your organization, promoting this "collaborative web" is a good idea.
The book consists of 3 different parts. The first part (4 chapters) talks about creating creativity in teams. About how teams can be more... or less than the sum of it's parts and also how to create the environment for creating group flow... the state of productivity and creativity in a group.
The second part (3 chapters) is about creativity research and how people perceive creativity and why their perceptions is often not reality. It contains wonderful descriptions of research experiments and historical facts and the authors perspective on those historical facts. The creativity research is often surprising!
The last part of the book (4 chapters) takes the learnings of the previous chapters and gives suggestions on how to practically apply them in collaborative organization. It explains that as an organization, you need to realize that ideas are created in cooperation between people even with the outside of the organization and trying to put too much control on this will probably kill the creativity and innovation, which on the long-term will probably be harmful for the organization. It gives wonderful examples of this happens, for example, the computer industry from Boston (controlling) vs the one in California (more open).
All in all, I enjoyed the book a lot and it had a couple of very interesting points and insights. It was well written and well researched (though, at times I felt the author did look at e.g. historical events only from the perspective that would make the point he was trying to make). I'd recommend anyone who is interested in creativity to read it and understand the impact of the research and history that the author is describing. All in all, I was thinking between 4 and 5 Amazon stars, yet I decided to go with 4 because though the book is great and insightful, it wasn't a WOW book for me. Still recommended.
While we perceive that we have sudden moments of insight, the `eureka!' moment, in reality these moments are really achieved through lots of tiny steps usually strongly influenced by input from other people. This process is not an `assertion' it is the result of many objective studies which are detailed in the book. The really interesting aspect of this is that the people that experienced the creative `eureka!' moment almost always perceived the experience differently to what actually took place.
What I learned:
1. That we cannot trust our subjective experiences to necessarily accurately reflect reality, at least not without objectively testing them.
2. There is not so much mystery nowadays regarding "Insight" or "Hunches" or "Instincts" and they are certainly not supernatural. They are understandable in practical ways.
3. If you study the latest developments and learnings in the field of neuroscience much of what used to be the realm of the `spiritual' and the `mystery of human existence' and `consciousness' is being understood in much the same way as we have learned why the sun comes up, why people get ill and why it rains.
Do you have the curiosity, drive and interest to learn about reality? Or like so many people nowadays do you prefer to sit inside of a protective shell of subjectivity and ignorance regarding the human experience?
The knowledge is there for those interested in learning.