Creative Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

Creative IntelligenceCreative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire
Bruce Nussbaum
HarperBusiness (2013)

How we can “increase our creative ability by learning from others, collaborating, sharing.”

I selected one of Bruce Nussbaum’s observations to serve as the title of this review because, in my opinion, it correctly suggests the collaborative nature of both creativity (make it new) and innovation (make it better). He insists that the subject (and title) of his book, Creative Intelligence, is best understood by studying and learning from – and with — the people and organizations who’ve cultivated it. That is what Nussbaum has done during the last several decades and, hopefully, what he will continue to do in years to come.

Here’s the brief bio on his Amazon page: “Bruce Nussbaum is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, is a former Managing Editor at BusinessWeek and blogs for Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. He taught third grade science in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and studied anthropology, sociology, and political science in grad school at the University of Michigan. At BusinessWeek, he wrote dozens of cover stories but his favorites are I’m Worried About My Job, I Can’t Get the !X@#! Thing To Work, The World’s Most Innovative Companies, The Power of Design, and Get Creative — How to Build Innovative Companies.”

According to Keith Sawyer, “What makes for a great creative team? Whether it’s musicians, improv acts, or business teams, there are three elements to creative teams: trust, familiarity of members with each other, and a shared commitment to the same goals. These can enhance the performance of any group.” A student of Mealy Csikszentmihalyi, Sawyer is the author of Group Genius, Understanding Creativity, and, most recently, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. Presumably he agrees with Nussbaum that, during an era of rapid and immense social change and the explosive growth of social media, it is imperative to ask “How does creativity emerge from collaboration, how does it thrive in a social context?” This book is Nussbaum’s response.

The best works of non-fiction tend to be research-driven and that is certain true of this one, as its “Notes” section (Pages 267-335) suggests. Readers will also appreciate how skillfully Nussbaum organizes his material within Three Parts. For example, in Part II, he examines the five competencies of Creative Intelligence and devotes a separate chapter to each: Knowledge Mining (“what’s truly meaningful”), Framing (understanding one’s frame of reference by evaluating with a “focal lens”), Playing (“complex behavior that’s driving the creation if life-altering technologies and companies”), Making (within the revival of a “maker culture”), and Pivoting (successful transition from generating to new ideas to achieving their benefits). “Together these competencies give us a new foundation to build a more vibrant kind of economic system.”

These are among the subjects of greatest interest and value to me.

o Why “strokes of genius” are not what they seem
o “Secrets” that creativity will reveal
o What each of the aforementioned five competencies achieve
o The potentialities of “indie capitalism” and their significance
o How to determine one’s CQ (Creativity Quotient)
o The defining characteristics of the “next frontier of innovation”
o Which new methodologies will be needed
o Why all of us must help “to create a better world than the one we inherited”

Before concluding his book with a thought-provoking challenge to re-think creativity, Bruce Nussbaum reaffirms his conviction that almost anyone can become more creative. “We just need to get back into practice.” More specifically, we need to (a) engage in continuous improvement of the five competencies and (b) commit our Creative Intelligence to building better careers for ourselves, new kinds of businesses, and health and education systems that make sense in the twenty-first century. “We can reinvent and revitalize our capitalist economy and take it to the next level. It’s liberating and exciting prospect and maybe, at times, even risky.” Obviously, he poses a great challenge but I also view it as a unique privilege.

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