Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Think! Before it's too late by Edward deBono

Book Review: Think! Before it's too late (by Edward de Bono)
written by Patrick Wirth

Creativity is universally linked to the notion of novel ideas and solutions to challenges. At the core of creative problem solving is the act of thinking. This is a book review of de Bono, E. (2009). Think! Before it’s too late. Great Britain:Ebury Publishing. This nonfiction book authored by Edward de Bono provides the reader with an introduction to his extensive work on the subject of creative thinking. De Bono is a classic scholar in the field of creative thinking and is widely recognized for his theories of creative thinking, in particular lateral thinking. His life’s work has been devoted to studying the mechanics of the mind as it relates to creative thinking.

The broad appeal of de Bono’s work results from techniques he outlines to propel traditional thinking beyond the status quo. His models provide a practical means to drive creative break-through thinking. His work in this area is extensive. In this book, de Bono promotesthat traditional thinking was developed over 2,400 years ago by the GG3. This was the Greek Gang of Three. They were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. From them emerged the traditional approachesto thinking of argument, truth, and logic. These still exist today as the foundation of traditional thinking models.

The overall theme of the book is that the existing traditional linear thinking systems are excellent, but not enough. De Bono, as an advocate for creative thinking, feels there’s a huge deficiency in our creative thinking habits. De Bono argues that the human brain is not designed to be creative. “It is designed to set up routine patterns and to use and follow these patterns” (p. 21). These patterns can be linked back to the thinking models that emerged from the GG3. He devotes the vast majority of this book dissecting the limiting nature of traditional thinking approaches in education, government and everyday life, as well as drawing out the immense opportunity for creative thinking.

De Bono believes that creativity is an inborn talent which can be nurtured, developed and taught. “There is a need for more deliberate processes to encourage and enhance creativity actively” (p. 27). De Bono’s solution to supporting the development of creative thinking is his life’s work: lateral thinking methods. Where traditional thinking of argument, truth and logic is linear, lateral thinking means moving across patterns instead of moving along them. The movement in lateral thinking comes from provocation. He provides a brief overview of the key lateral thinking tools he has developed and weaves several examples of the favorable impact these tools have had in his review of education, government and day-to-day life.

I have a personal interest in the notion of creative thinking. I have done some cursory reading about Edward de Bono in the past and thought I would use this opportunity to take a closer look at his work. I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed this book. The book is 250 pages long, costs less then $20 US dollars and is a fast, easy and very interesting read. I highly recommend this book to the reader that is interested in getting an introduction to Edward de Bono’s thoughts about creativity, traditional thinking and creative thinking. This isn’t a deep dive into de Bono’s lateral thinking models and tools. He provides a brief overview of lateral thinking executed in an easy to understand manner that has provoked me to do further research and reading. I think there is something in this book for everyone who has an interest in the area of creativity from school teachers, university professors, government officials, business leaders and parents.

For me, the primary connection was with myprofessional work as a business person. He devotes an entire chapter to leadership and thinking in the business world. It was very interesting to read that in his many years of experience in the field, de Bono believes the business sector is more interested in thinking than any other sector of society. I certainly would agree that the business sector relies on and needs more creative thinking. As a parent, I find this concerning as it relates to education for our children. Children today have access to so much information and answers are so readily available to virtually everything on the internet, where is “thinking” going in our traditional school education? Where is the focus on developing creative thinking skills?

The primary issue raised in this book was the limited nature of traditional thinking methods and the opportunity for creative thinking methods to be taught. I absolutely agree with the limited nature of traditional thinking methods. I find this to be self validating in my personal life and professional experience. I’m profoundly intrigued by the notion of creative thinking being a skill that can be developed. In my role as a husband, father, businessperson and contributing member to society, I know I have untapped creative thinking talent that is latent within me, that if unleashed, could help me be better at working through life’s challenges and helping others. I’m motivated to take further action. I will be reading more about the de Bono thinking systems and investigating formal training in lateral thinking going forward.

This book challenges the status quo approach to the traditional thinking methods of argument, truth and logic. It supports the notion that creative thinking is a skill that resides in all people and is not reserved for intellects, geeks and those living on the edge. The author provides an introduction to the tools of lateral thinking which has a demonstrated track record for developing the skills of creative thinking.

My advice for those considering reading this book, do it. It will provoke you to think more about your own approach to thinking and challenge you to become a more creative thinker.

Patrick Wirth has 25 years professional experience in product development, finance, operations strategic planning and lean. He is currently Director of Product Development Support and Lean Champion at Mattel for Fisher-Price Brands. Patrick holds a BS in Finance from Canisius College, a BS in Industrial Technology from Buffalo State, an MBA from Canisius College and professional certifications in Production and Inventory Control, Certified Lean Professional and Foursight. Patrick has 9 credit hours remaining to complete Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership at the ICSC.

Book Review: Collective creativity: Collaborative work in the sciences, literature and the arts

Written by Graduate Student Beth Donohue Templeton

Creative expression manifests itself in almost every aspect of modern life. Curious minds, digging deeply into the practice of this expression seem to be divided into two camps: the staunch individualists, who believe that the creative impulse exists primarily in the individual mind, and those who believe that creativity is collective, an amalgam of personal experience and interaction with nature, society and certain images from the collective unconscious. When the call for papers went out on behalf of the Sydney German Studies Symposiumon Collective Creativity (2009), this dichotomy formed the very heart of the opening question. Recipients were asked to submit an essay answering the question: “Is there such a thing as collective creativity?” The eventual editors further elaborated in paragraphs detailing positions both for and against the idea. The works selected form the twenty-four chapters that comprise Collective Creativity: Collaborative work in the sciences, literature and the arts, edited by Gerhard Fisher and Florian Vassen. In the introduction, they tell the story of moving beyond “traditional binary opposites” and develop a conversation that might be more productive. They write about searching out the intersections and cross-pollination of artistic, scientific and cultural manifestations of creativity. In this grey area, this interfacing, we might find a new creative energy (in the synergy between individual and collective creative experiences), or we might uncover previously obscured truths about ourselves. The resulting book, at 367 pages was daunting, but the writing within proved to be more than worth the effort.

This fascinating collection of scientific study, philosophy and arts practice certainly promotes new thinking in the reader. The writing, while at times densely academic, provides some of the latest thinking on collective creative practice. The essays are divided into five sections, each focusing on their particular domain. Each area holds a treasure of inquiry for those already interested, and the book invites the reader to enter at any point they see fit. I chose to enter into the essays at the intersection of theater and collective creativity. A representative sample of the type of scholarship in this book can be seen in the editor, Florian Vassan’s own essay titled: From author to spectator: Collective creativity as a theatrical play of artists and spectators. The article is an absorbing journey through different observations and executions of collective creativity in theatrical form. He weaves in historical perspective with his eye on the larger question of the difference between individual and collective expression and delightfully dissects Brecht’s theatrical objectivism, or involving the audience as spectator and vocal judge of the action on stage. Vassen also delves into the work of experimental German playwright Heiner Mueller in exploring the synergy between actors and audience. As a veteran audience member of his 1985 production “Hamlet Machine,” where eight actresses played Ophelia, simultaneously with three Hamlets, while performing a two hour script comprised of eight pages of repeated text, I was delighted to see his name in a serious exploration of post-modern collective creativity. He embraced this synergy as a vital part of performance.

Emboldened, I dove into chapters I perceived to be more challenging. While the quality of the writing was universally high, some of the essays offered fascinating portrayals of individuals within a collective arts experience and, even, articles about successful artistic and scientific collaboration. Alison Lewis’schapter: The romancing of collectivecreativity: The ‘Bitterfelder Weg’ in Brigitte Reimann’s letters and diaries, can be found in the section on collective writing and offers a tantalizingly human tale of seduction and infidelity as an unintended (and largely unnoticed) by-product of a cultural experiment conducted by the German Democratic Republic from 1959-64. The juxtaposition of diary entries with political philosophy is compelling and makes for a thought-provoking read. Likewise, the chapter detailing the partnership between a visual artist and a group of scientists in Australia, which resulted in various x-ray and microscopic images of the artist’s insides forming a unique self-portrait in the atrium of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute (Melbourne), provides interesting insights into collective creative process in an unusual context.

Collective creativity:Collaborative work in the sciences, literature and the arts is not for the faint of heart and lightens the wallet considerably at a hefty $105.00 on amazon. However, for the serious student of creative thinking in the arts and the arts practitioner interested in this creative combination, this book provides a valuable collection of research. It is a comprehensive inter and trans-disciplinary account of collective creativity and its many applications and offers a wealth of insight into the rare place where the individual and the collective come together.

Beth Donohue Templeton is an actor and arts learning specialist currently completing her Masters of Science at the InternationalCenter for Studies in Creativity. Beth has performed on many local and regional stages and is a founding member of Berkeley’s Shotgun Players, a theater company now celebrating their 20th season. Beth has worked as a Teaching Artist, Trainer and Curriculum designer for affiliates of the Lincoln Center Institute for Arts in Education in Northern California and Western New York and has created arts learning camps and classes for ages pre-K through adult, with an emphasis on student populations with special learning needs. Beth’s graduate work is focused on uncovering the unique relationship between creative thinking and the arts.

Book Review: Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom

Book Review: Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom written by Hanne Marie Bratsberg

Nurturing Creativity in theClassroom is an edited collection of essays on how to bring creative and critical thinking into the classroom. Lately, the discussion on creativity in schools has flourished yet again. This book focuses on preparing students of today for the future of tomorrow. It is no longer enough to teach them about knowledge; they now have to be able to think for themselves. Torrance called the same discussion ‘a quiet revolution’ that has been ongoing since the 1960s. With this book the editors, Ronald A. Beghetto and James C. Kaufman, are making a true effort to make this a loud revolution.

Both editors are well known within the Creative Studies field where Beghetto’s research focuses on K-12classroom creativity and Kaufman has dedicated his career to studying how to nurture and encourage creativity. Together these two editors create a collaboration that brings the importance of creativity in the classroom to the forefront of education. There are a total of 28 different contributors dispersed on 20 chapters and 418 pages. A quick look at the list of contributors is enough to heighten anyone’s anticipation. The essays are written by both American- and foreign authors, including well-known researchers Mark A. Runco and Robert J. Sternberg.

But, how can you nurture creativity in the classroom? The editors suggest it starts with educating the teachers and the decision makers. Most teachers, especially the ones favoring creativity, do not fully understand what creativity is and what itactually means. This has to change if progress is going to be made.

The different essays presented examine and respond to the increasing tension many educators face when having to deal with curriculum constraints while trying to balance student creativity in the classroom. Most chapters refer to the constraining effects of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 but they all show concrete examples on how to work within these restrictions.

The book begins with a bold chapter written by Raymond S.Nickerson, where he lists all the ways to discourage creative thinking in the classroom. The chapter is written in a sarcastic but powerful tone. However,the next 19 chapters teach you how to nurture creativity in the classroom. With clear examples and easy-to-follow steps the different essays discuss in various degrees four topics viewed from different angles. The chapters examine how formal and informal learning blended together represents the ideal act of learning,which can then lead to creative productivity. In addition, the authors review how dependence and passive learning should be replaced with independence andengaged learning.

Two authors, Joseph S.Renzulli and Chatharina F. Dewet, propose how teachers should stop teachingand, instead, become facilitators of learning. Further, they discuss how the best thing for a school system is to take away the many enforced curriculum constraints (rules, standardized tests, closed curriculum). However, theauthors note the difficulty of instituting such practices and recommend as econd best option which is to infuse creativity in every subject, in every class, and in every mind, body and heart of both students and teachers.

The last topic touches on the many definitions of creativity.With the literature being so broad on how to define creativity, the best way to fulfill the creative potential in every classroom has become very difficult.

One might believe this is another book in a long line of promising additions to the growing debate about school and creativity but this book will surprise you. With concrete tips and detailed steps on how to implement creative and critical thinking in the classroom, the work is way ahead of its competitors. Beghetto and Kaufman have done an excellent job editing; making this a useful, must read for teachers, decisions makers, andothers with an interest in teaching to nurture creativity.

Some might find the book repetitive, because some chapters present similar techniques on how to nurture creativity. Therefore, a next step for the editors could be to put together small themed instructional books for teachers. The creative teaching techniques would then be the only thing in focus and there would be no feeling of repetitiveness. On the other hand, the book is an easy read and it lets you skip from chapter to chapter. A teacher will find great benefit from the book’s lessons for not only their students’ learning experience, but also for their own personal value.

However, you do not need to be an expert in creative thinking or teaching to gain value from this book. If you are a teacher who is new to creative teaching you will go along way with an open mind and a willingness to learn. If you are a consultant like me, I can assure you the book will liftyour spirits and encourage you to go out and implement what is presented. If I were a well-set teacher I would rearrange my lessons plan for the coming week tonight.

Runco nicely sums up the spirit of the book when he says, “Imagine what the world could be if everyone made even the slightest gain in their creative potentials. The total impact would be enormous and amazing...even if there is no guarantee, it is worth trying” (p. 248-249).Preparing children of today for the future of tomorrow starts with nurturing creativity in the classroom.

HanneMarie Bratsberg graduated from Oslo School of Management, Norway in 2010 with aBachelor Degree in Innovation, Creativity and Business Development. Shortly thereafter she started a consultant company with two classmates called IC. The company focuses on bringing creative thinking into schools. The company filled a gap in the Norwegian school system but Hanne felt she needed more experience and knowledge before making it into a full time job. She is now enjoying every minute of her graduate studies at ICSC at Buffalo State. Hanne’s passion and interests include creativity in education, nurturing creativity in others,teaching creative thinking and facilitating CPS-sessions.