Bernhard Schroder’s Simply Briliant: A book review by Bob Morris

simply-brilliant-schroederSimply Brilliant: Powerful Techniques to Unlock Your Creativity and Spark New Ideas
Bernhard Schroeder
AMACOM (October 2016)

“Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.”
Albert Einstein

In Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, Tom Kelley and David Kelley assert “we all have far more creative potential waiting to be tapped.” They wrote the book to help those who to “unlock and draw on more of the creative potential that is within us all.” Their book “is about what we call ‘creative confidence.’ And at its foundation is the belief that we are all creative…Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you’ll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place.”

I recalled these remarks as I began to read Bernhard Schroeder’s latest book, Simply Brilliant, in which he shares his own thoughts about how to “unlock creativity and spark new ideas.” He offers his Creativity Works Framework whose components are mindset, environment, (leadership and culture), habitat, and powerful brainstorming tools. (More about that later.) He explains how to develop a growth mindset. He draws upon extensive research by Carol Dweck and Lisa Blackwell that leaves no doubt that having this mindset is essential to creative thinking…to creative living…but only if and when we overcome a “fixed mindset,” one that that assumes “our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens that we can’t change in any meaningful way.” Years ago, Henry Ford suggested, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” The choice is ours. More specifically, to reject all manner of myths that are self-defeating, such as these:

o We can only be creative when a “flash of insight occurs.” In fact, that flash is only part of  — and a result of — what can be an extended process rather than an isolated development. Henri Matisse once said that he isn’t always painting but whenever his muse inspires him, “I better have a brush in this hand and know what to do with it.”

o Some people have a “creativity gene,” most don’t. In fact, just because a child’s parents are very creative does not mean that the child will also be creative. Conversely, if the parents are not creative, that does not mean that their child cannot be. Schroeder offers this reassurance: “No matter what your current mindset may be, anyone can adopt and nurture a growth mindset. Most people have one mindset or the other. The good news is that we can all adopt a growth mindset simply by putting ourselves in one. It’s easy to change. Just knowing about the two mindsets can make us think and act in new ways.”

Most off us who read this book need more than Schroeder’s admonitions. Hence the importance of the CreativityWorks Framework. Details are best provided within his lively and eloquent narrative, in context, but I am comfortable with revealing a few key points. First, to derive maximize benefit from this framework, it is imperative to open your eyes (examine rather than merely look at what’s around you), make new mind connections, talk to those who rely on you and your abilities (e.g. customersas well as supervisor and co-workers), observe everything much more intently, ask “Why?”, “Why not?” and “What if?” much more often, reframe the given challenge from a different perspective, and build a network of people and activities that stimulate your curiosity while challenging your assumptions and premises. In other words, create an environment within which your creative capabilities are most likely to thrive.

The framework’s infrastructure rests on these “pillars”: the aforementioned growth mindset that embraces as well as liberates all manner of possibilities; the environment within which you live and work; a “habitat” or segment of the environment in which you feel unrestrained; and a set of brainstorming tools that Schroder identifies and explains. The framework facilitates, indeed expedites a process by which to identify the right questions to answer as well as the right problems to solve. This last point is especially important because most people tend to respond to symptoms rather than to root causes or make the mistake to which Peter Drucker refers when observing, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

It would be a good idea to heed that warning as well as Einstein’s admonition. All of us have clutter in our minds as well as in most areas of our lives. Continuous improvement depends on relentless simplification by elimination. Schroeder is a passionate advocate of lean thinking, as should we be.

In the final chapter, Schroeder shares some excellent ideas about how and why two market segments probably offer the best opportunities to solve a major problem, thereby enabling a business to achieve breakthrough growth.

“Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. And these 71 million boomers own about 80 percent of the wealth in the United States and account for more than 40 percent of net household income. In other words, they have the money and they will spend it. Solve their problems and you could do amazingly well.

“The second segment will be the largest in the United States by 2025. Millennials, born between 1982 and 1994, will number over 81 million by then…Not only are they drivers of innovation (e.g. want everything yesterday, willing to pay for quality), but they will be a part of the largest wealth transfer in history from their parents, the baby boomers.”

Opportunities in these market segments are almost (not quite) unlimited. However, only those who have developed a growth mindset and mastery of specific skills will be able to succeed within either segment. Just about everything you need to prepare yourself for these opportunities is provided within this book.

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