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[Book Review] Creativity Now: Get Inspired, Create Ideas and Make Them Happen!

Madanmohan Rao
posted on 8th April 2013
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creative_nowCreativity Now by Jurgen Wolff

2012 Pearson International

224 pages

This book is a useful ‘creativity assistant’ to keep your creative juices flowing, and a good kick in the butt to get you out of your productivity doldrums!

The slender book makes for an easy read, and is full of inspiring photographs, stimulating ideas, inspirational quotes, useful examples and innovative exercises. Each chapter is short, just a page or two in length, with actionable tips and checklists.

The book has an online companion with more tools and tips to keep the creative flow going. Most of the cited examples are from the US and UK, and it would be great for other writers to jump in and expand the discussion with global perspectives too.

Jurgen Wolff is a writer and coach in creativity and writing, who divides his time between London and southern California. His other books include Marketing for Entrepreneurs, Focus, Your Writing Coach, and Do Something Different.

The material is divided into four sections: Dreaming, Originating, Applying and Adapting. I have summarized some of the principles in Table 1, but each section is worth a detailed read of course.

“The journey to creative success is at least as rewarding as arriving,” begins Wolff. He is a strong advocate of the ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ school of creativity which is in favour of prototyping and adaptation rather than overplanning. “You can fail only if you stop,” he advises; “success is what you say it is.”

Table 1: Creativity Principles

CategoryExamples
DreamingMusic gets you thinking, go to a library or flotation tank for a new creative mood, swap houses for two days, play with kids and animals, try card games, ask repeated why and why not questions, create a working den, seek inspirational quotes and objects like photos or art work, gather interesting ads and articles in a ‘swipe file’, be a ‘streetcomber,’ draw ‘goal boards,’ walk and ideate, set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals!), play story generation games, find mentors, daydream creatively, record your night dreams, silence your inner critic, expose yourself to many facts, take power naps
OriginatingGet ideas from and collaborate with diverse people (kids, foreigners, people from other industries), try the opposite of your original idea, play word association games for your ideas, have ‘trendstorming sessions’ on new ideas, read international newspapers, use mind-maps, use successive deep-dive ‘freewriting’ exercises to unearth assumptions, challenge all assumptions, imagine how a well-known innovator would solve your problem (eg. Einstein, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson), tweak the attributes of your idea, audience and channel (pivoting); ‘teach’ your solution to understand it better, combine different ideas, learn from nature (‘biomimicry’ – velcro; swimsuits modelled on shark skin), match your interests and skills lists, excite yourself first about your ideas (‘get goosebumps!’)
ApplyingCreate an action map (like a mind map), ask and you shall receive, design promotional tactics (eg. video, prototype, free sample, simulation), ask for audience inputs, crowdfunding, organise MADs (Massive Action Day with a sole focus on your project and with no distractions), piggyback on existing ideas and partners, outsource some of the work, create an Ideas Box, give your idea a personality, look for quirky angles for marketing, have a Plan B, master the art of ‘chunking’ and ‘micro-chunking’ for task management, use Zen-like techniques for visualising your problem and assumptions from different levels
AdaptingBe effective and efficient in your work, build on your core skills and achievements, rely on super-users for good advice and ideas, pivot on location, get great ideas via gamification (eg. contests), observe and combine industry trends, push existing opportunities, see the gold even in dirt and opportunities even in frustration, push the extremes of your offering, add unusual value to routine services, use creative techniques for wide exposure for your product, tweak the medium/channel, simplify existing market complexities, connect to emotional and spiritual needs

The author describes four key principles of brainstorming: quantity counts (create lots and lots of initial ideas), don’t be judgemental in weeding out ideas, write down every idea, build on others’ ideas. Wolff brings up a useful quote from Linus Pauling in this regard: “I have lots and lots and lots of ideas, and then I throw away the bad ones.”

One whole section of the book is devoted to profiles of companies who embody some of the creativity principles described above: such as i-PostMortem (with virtual i-Tombs as online memorial services after you pass away), Sal Khan (Khan Academy), artists who successfully raised funds from Kickstarter, Jacquie Lawson (e-cards), Simon Tofield (use of YouTube to promote his cat animations), Marco Giannini (healthy dog food), Michael Sands (nutritious non-junk snackfoods), Will Ramsay (Affordable Art Fair), Paul Stanyer (HolidayTaxis.com for hassle-free taxi experiences for tourists), Joanna Wivell (InsidersMadrid.com online tourism service for Spain), Tax and Relax (bed&breakfast offering free tax filing), Moby’s album Play (licensed to TV shows), Todd Basche (travel locks based on words and not numbers), and Tammy Tibbets (ShesTheFirst.org site for fundraising information on women’s causes).

Cited books include Difference (Scott Sage), Guerilla Marketing (Jay Levinson), and The Creative Habit (Twyla Tharp); the Creativity World Forum is also mentioned as an interesting event for creative types. More such events, references and online resources would have been helpful for readers (eg. the book Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko comes to mind).

In sum, this useful and engaging book shows readers how to unleash endless streams of ideas on any topic and how they may be turned into success.

[Follow YourStory's research director Madanmohan Rao]

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