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Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Hardcover – February 21, 2011
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inspiring, witty and engaging book. (Tes.co.uk, April 2011). straightforward, amusing and useful. (Management Today, May 2011). a book with the potential to be a catalyst for system-wide change. (Times Educational Supplement, May 2011). 'Now more global in perspective the book seems more important than ever His rallying cry still deserves to be heard. (Business Life, May 2011).
From the Inside Flap
There is a paradox. As children, most of us think we are highly creative; as adults many of us think we are not. What changes as children grow up? Organizations across the globe are competing in a world that is changing faster than ever. They say they need people who can think creatively, who are flexible and quick to adapt. Too often they say they can't find them. Why not? In this provocative and inspiring book, Ken Robinson addresses three vital questions:
- Why is it essential to promote creativity? Business leaders, politicians and educators emphasize the vital importance of promoting creativity andinnovation. Why does this matter so much?
- What is the problem? Why do so many people think they're not creative? Young children are buzzing with ideas. What happens as we grow up and go through school to make us think we arenot creative?
- What can be done about it? What is creativity? What can companies, schools and organizations do to develop creativity and innovation in a deliberate and systematic way?
In this extensively revised and updated version of his bestselling classic, Out of Our Minds, Ken Robinson offers a groundbreaking approach to understanding creativity in education and in business. He argues that people and organizations everywhere are dealing with problems that originate in schools and universities and that many people leave education with no idea at all of their real creative abilities. Out of Our Minds is a passionate and powerful call for radically different approaches to leadership, teaching and professional development to help us all to meet the extraordinary challenges of living and working in the 21st century.
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This is a deeply emotional reaction to a book. I'm sorry I can't review the content; I can't get into the content. I don't know whether Sir Ken's recommendations are useful, or possible, or anything that can actually be implemented. I couldn't read the book. The writing made my brain shut down.
I read the first 10 pages and thought I was going to die. Then I skipped to reading the first sentence of every paragraph, and made it to page 50. Don't think I missed much. To tell the truth, I had the same reaction to "Flow," where I thought the author had taken 8 pages to repeat himself about 20 times and not move his case forward past the original topic sentence.
Obviously, some people are able to read and benefit from this book. If you need to make a case for changing the way an established institution functions, you may well find something in this book to help you. If you write professionally for the corporate world, you may think this way. It's entirely possible I live and work too far outside the mainstream system of corporate and public education to be one of them. I can't say. That's not the world in which I work (anymore).
The general flow, the constant repetition of points, the complete and utter documentation of every point made, left me wanting to scream. I flipped through the rest of the pages and I see much the same content in the rest of the book. I doubt I'll be back to finish it. I'm going to go paint for a while.
Incidentally, a book about creativity does not give designer credit on the copyright page, unless Sparks Publishing is also the book designer. Apart from my comments above, the book (would have been) is a delight to read. I like the layout, the feel of the paper, the flow of the text, the headings, call outs, and headings. Sigh.
The book is largely about the history of creativity, through interesting anecdotes, factoids, statistics, stories, speculations and opinions. I kept on waiting for chapters like "Being Creative" and "Learning to be Creative" to have some actual, useful suggestions on actually being creative, but was disappointed only to read yet another set of arguments on why creativity is so important and why we should all be creative and teach others to be creative. I also found parts to be quite repetitive, reframing arguments from earlier chapters in an only slightly different context. Also, if you are familiar with Robinson's talks online about creativity and passion, you will recognize many of the anecdotal passages almost verbatim, except without the charismatic presentation.
If you're looking for a quiet and quick weekend read that is chock full of conversation fodder, then sure, pick this book up and enjoy it, but if you're as busy as most of us are these days, I'd recommend watching Robinson's two Ted talks and the one on Passion he gave for the School of Life. They are more than adequate summaries of this book, highly engaging and easily shared with others.
In my opinion, the book is successful in making the argument for creativity, but lacks the usefulness that the title promises.
The first major problem is that most of the book is filler. Robinson spends a lot of time summarizing ideas from sociocultural and intellectual history, various sciences, and miscellaneous other areas. Some people may appreciate this and may even be impressed, but readers who are well-read will find little or nothing new here. Personally, I found it to be a rather boring rehash of standard stuff, and Robinson does little to bring it to bear on the topic of creativity.
That leads to the second major problem, which is that Robinson doesn't actually have much to say about creativity either. His views can be summarized as follows:
- We need creativity in all fields to deal with our increasingly uncertain, complex, and changing world.
- Creativity is fostered when we each discover our innate interests and potentials, we draw on our full capacities (both sides of the brain, both mind and body, etc.) and try to be reasonably well rounded (ie, multidisciplinary), we work in collaboration with diverse groups of people, we're supported by an appropriate culture, and we work in a physical environment conducive to creativity.
- Our current mainstream educational systems don't foster creativity because they emphasize rationalism, science, and technology, so they need to be reformed.
This is all fine, but it's really not saying much, and Robinson has very little specific advice on how to implement any changes which would improve creativity. Moreover, it doesn't seem that he realizes that creativity isn't necessarily an end in itself. Yes, being creative is intrinsically enjoyable and can lead to better solutions to problems, but it can also lead to changes which prove to be unexpectedly undesirable, such as nuclear weapons proliferation and development of financial derivatives which contribute to inflation of massive financial bubbles. Not all change is good!
Again, this book is a diappointment, and I'm giving it 3 stars only because I want to believe that Robinson had good intentions (rather than just aiming for self-promotion). There are much better books on creativity out there, which both reflect deeper understanding and offer more specific and useful advice.