Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Imagination: How Creativity Works

Even though I am officially “off” this week, I thought my (thousands of ) loyal readers would like at least one book review.

I loved the title of Lehrer's book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. And I was intrigued by some of his stories, particularly about the creation of Swiffers. I also liked discovering what helps us be more creative. But I am not sure I really enjoyed reading this book. In fact, I got bogged down in it toward the end and had to force myself to read it.

Lehrer shows how our imagination works in our brains, specifically the pre-frontal cortex, and the importance of Alpha Waves (namely the ability to relax) helps us to solve problems in creative ways. We must learn to let go and stop critiquing our own output in order to become more creative – a sort of “go with the flow” mentality. The book hints that illegal drugs are helpful for this type of state. But Lehrer really seems to suggest that it is often the person on the outside, the person who has no knowledge or training in that field, the person who comes from a totally different view point who can push us to be most creative. In fact, he suggests that brainstorming is actually a wasteful activity. Constructive criticism seems more helpful. We need to find places in our lives where we co-mingle with others and share our challenges – this has proven to be especially imaginative for Pixar and Apple.

What did this book have to do with my faith? When I first began to read, I started thinking about my church – how could we harness some of these ideas and solve our church problems as a group? How could we become more creative as a congregation? But the more I read, the more I thought about myself, especially as a pastor. In the United Methodist Church, pastors are particularly isolated. They are isolated from other pastors and they are often isolated from non-Christians. I think the same could be true about many non-ordained Christians. We tend to gravitate toward those who are just like us, namely other Christians. Yet, Lehrer proposes we are more creative when we are around those who are not like us. We tend to find imaginative solutions when we are around people who are from other fields – I would think this would apply to Christians. How, then, can pastors be more imaginative? How can Christians be more creative?

I give Imagine: How Creativity Works a lukewarm recommendation. If you enjoyed his previous book, How We Decide, you may want to read this as well. After re-reading my review of that book, I realize how this book was just not as good. 

Happy reading!


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