Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker

Book Review written by Yves De Smet
This paper reviews
Nielsen, D., & Thurber, S. (2016). The secret of the highly creative thinker: How to make connections others don't. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: BIS Publishers.
In the foreword, Gerard J. Puccio nicely catches the purpose of the book: “… the strategies and exercises in this book promote exactly that: creativity on demand. Why wait for the muse? Learn to take responsibility for your own creativity.” (Nielsen & Thurber, 2016).
Summary of the content
The book is non-fiction and aims to educate the reader about why making connections is such an important skill in the grand scheme of creative thinking, and how people can go about getting better at making those connections. The value of this popular scientific work is not so much in the newness (making connections and its value in creativity is quite understood) as in the nice summary it presents of the subject, and in the 21 hands-on creativity exercises (the authors call it a boot camp) in the second half of the book. The latter is a great set of options for the divergent part of any reader’s next CPS session. The illustrations and format of the book make it very easy and pleasant to read.
There are 4 parts to the book:
1.     The nature of seeing connections (more or less the introduction to the subject)
2.     The theories behind it all (i.e., behind connections)
3.     Enhancing your innate creativity (exercises)
4.     Putting connections to work (classic connection-making tools)

Reactions, critical analysis, takeaways
·      Never judge a book by the cover… but how about judging it by the title? As a master’s student in creativity, it is so tempting to fall in love with this book by a mere look at its title. “The secret of …” appeals to one’s curiosity, “the highly creative thinker” to one’s vanity. The random book shopper in a vain, curious mood is likely to buy this book.
·      If one is intrigued by or interested in tools like ‘forced connections’ and ‘visual connections’, then this book should be on her or his shelf.
·       The very original images and photographs as intermezzos throughout the book are often brilliant examples of connections. See the Appendix 1 for four fun examples.
·     This book presents a very useful overview of work from the 1930’s to today about how connections have been considered important to creativity. James Web Young, W.I.B Beveridge, and Arthur Koestler are only some of the writers that are mentioned. There are likely only very few such elaborated pieces of literature that deal with this topic.
·      Favorite quotes:
o   P. 23: “When the winds of change blow, some build walls others build windmills. Old Chinese proverb.
o   P. 34: “If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” Steven Johnson.
o   P. 44: “Creativity is just connecting things.” Steve Jobs.
o   P. 66: “In terms of creative connections, divergent thinking is when you connect to possibilities. Convergent thinking is when you connect the most promising possibilities to your goal.”
o   P. 116: “What do you get when you cross a cow with a trampoline?”
·      There is good list of references in the bibliography of this book. The following articles were very interesting to look into: (Dietrich, 2007) (Mednick, 1962, Vol. 69, No. 3) (Sawyer, 2011) (Vincent, Decker, & Mumford, 2002) .
·        The tool on p. 112-113 (see Appendix 2) is a great member of the visual connections family of techniques. Easy to use, and bound to generate a smile on any user’s face. 
Fast Facts
Hardcover: 176 pages                                                 ISBN-10: 9063694156
Publisher: BIS Publishers (June 28, 2016)                ISBN-13: 978-9063694159
Language: English                                                      Amazon price: $ 22.88
Authors (Dorte Nielsen, n.d.), (Sarah Thurber, n.d.)
Both authors hold a Master of Science in Creativity from the International Center for Studies in Creativity; they graduated together in 2012.
Dorte Nielsen (Danish) is creativity author, keynote speaker and founder of Creative Communication and FourSight Denmark. She has worked in the advertising sector and lately she has been active in education, teaching creativity at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. She is also the (co)author of The creative thinker’s exercise book (2017), The divergent and convergent thinking book: How to enhance your creative thinking, an exercise book (2017), The secret of the highly creative thinker (2014), Inspired: How creative people think, work and find inspiration (2011), Creativity unbound – An Introduction to creative process (5th edition, 2011), and of Facilitation – A door to creative leadership (4th edition, 2011).
Sarah Thurber (American) is managing partner of FourSight in the US.  She specializes in developing research-based tools to enhance innovation and team performance, mostly directly related to the FourSight Thinking Profile.  During her Master’s degree Sarah developed the Your two-minute thinking tip video series, to share creativity tips via social media. Sarah is co-author of Creativity unbound – An introduction to creative process (5th edition, 2011), and of Facilitation – A door to creative leadership (4th edition, 2011).

Dietrich, A. (2007). Who’s afraid of a cognitive neuroscience of creativity? Methods, 42, 22-27.
Mednick, S. A. (1962, Vol. 69, No. 3). The associative basis of the creative process. Psychological Review, 220-232.
Nielsen, D., & Thurber, S. (2016). The secret of the highly creative thinker: How to make connections others don't. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: BIS Publishers.
Sawyer, K. (2011). The cognitive neuroscience of creativity: A critical review. Creativity Research Journal 23:2, 137-154.
The art of observation: Elliott Erwitt. (n.d.). Retrieved from Faded & Blurred:
Thurber, S. B. (2012). The million-click thinking tip. Creative Studies Graduate Student Master's Projects. Paper 163.
Vincent, A. S., Decker, B. P., & Mumford, M. D. (2002). Divergent thinking, intelligence, and expertise: A test of alternative models. Creativity Research Journal 14:2, 163-178.

 Book Review completed by Yves De Smet
       Born in 1972 and living in Flanders, Belgium
       Educational background
MSc Creativity and Change Leadership – Buffalo , New York (USA)
MBA – Vlerick Business School, Leuven (BE) (2013)
PhD Physics – University of Brussels (BE) (1999)
MSc and Certified Teacher in Physics – University of Brussels (BE) (1995)
20 years of global experience in the chemical industry with ICI, National Starch and Chemical, Celanese and Michelman. Career path: R&D, technical service, business development, marketing, innovation, business management, corporate development, technology platforms
       Free Time
Family: married, with 2 children (Laurie and Lennert)
Community: Youth Coordinator in a Soccer Club
Self: study, reading and running