How human creativity remakes the world

One of the questions I was most often asked as a lecturer was, “Can you recommend a good book about creativity?”  I usually struggled, and more often than not, felt that the idea was a contradiction anyway.  Then, last year, I heard a feature on a mid-morning show on BBC Radio 4 about this book during 2017, and it stopped me in my tracks.

“The Runaway Species” clearly and elegantly creates a way of explaining how creativity flourishes, and how we can apply to our own lives, as individuals and organisations (such as schools, and companies) to foster creativity and innovation.

The crux of the book is deciphering three key processes be which we transform existing ideas, and find or encourage creativity or innovation with them.  These are:-

Bending: modifying or twisting the original out of shape to create something new;

Breaking: the whole is taken apart, or smashed to pieces, to re-fashion it, or to find something new.

Blending: two or more sources are merged, to create something new.

Although I have had to retire due to Chiari, I still take part in my CIPR CPD, and as the deadline loomed large recently, it was clear that this book had to come ‘off’ the pile of books I had recently bought which are waiting to be read, because it had much to pass on.  I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the great things about the book  is that it uses many practical example from the worlds of art and science to demonstrate its formula, rather than leaving than leaving it as an abstract, impenetrable theory – and there are lots of pictures for a weighty book such as this!  My only disappointment is that I no longer have a course/curriculum into which to integrate this book as a lecturer.  I am genuinely impressed, and would have had a lot of excitement with students applying it.  It may have something to do with the book being written by Brandt (a composer) and Eagleman (a neuroscientist), with them both drawing on their respective passions for inspiration.

Forget the ‘eureka’ moments – we are talking more about ‘evolving sessions’.  This books demonstrates how our brains have been working, more like ‘jackdaws’, constantly fashioning a new nest, from the things they have collected.  It explains why human behaviour has these needs (such as the tension between predictability and surprise), and what we do to express them best – and how that can be harnessed to best effect.  And it looks at the issue of why some ideas take off – and others stay firmly in the sand-pit.

Bending; Breaking and Blending give us a kind of cognitive software –  an on-going way in which our brains are approaching the world, and coming up with new ideas, answers to problems, and creative flourish.  The more opportunity we give ourselves to do engage in this behaviour, the better.

Thoroughly recommend – much food for reflection: Brand, A. and Eagleman, D. (2017) “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes The World”, Edinburgh:  Canongate Books.


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