Imagine: How Creativity Works

“How do you teach grit?”

“It’s a great question. We don’t have a good answer yet.”

It was the only question remaining at the end of his hour-long reading, and he couldn’t answer it (though he still provided a ten minute response about the concept of “grit”).

Last Wednesday, at the Chicago Public Library, New York Times’ best-selling author Jonah Lehrer hosted a reading of his latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. He spoke for nearly one hour, quoting large swaths of the book virtually from memory.

By providing an abundance of wonderfully inspiring, anecdotal stories and some not-too-heady data, the book does a great job of explaining how we can all learn to be more creative.

Jonah Lehrer on Charlie Rose

Did you know that Steve Jobs tore-up initial blueprints for Pixar’s headquarters? Their centralized bathrooms have become legendary for providing lightbulb moments. Did you know that brainstorming — the “new idea” creation technique pioneered by Alex F. Osborn, the “O” in BBDO — is a bad idea? Public debate and dissent or harsh criticism leads to more fruitful results. Did you know that the color blue can help you double your creative output? Me neither. Now, I want every room in my house to have a hue of robin’s egg.

This book is written in a crystal-clear voice. It provides a revelatory look at the new science of creativity and in a completely approachable manner. In it, Lehrer quashes the myth of muses, higher powers, and “creative types.” He demonstrates that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.

Additional advice includes, but isn’t limited to: embrace the rut, think like a child, daydream productively, and, through travel, adopt an outsider’s perspective.


In the past three weeks, I have shared this book with close friends and loved ones, and today, I would love to share it with you. At last week’s reading, I picked up an autographed copy which I’m happy to send to the reader who shares a book that inspired them.

The commenter who provides the best suggestion and reasons to read the book will receive one autographed copy of Jonah Leher’s Imagine: How Creativity Works. Note: this can be any book. Do not forget to provide your reasoning. Oh, and use your creativity.


If you have an hour, listen to the reading at the CPL.

I also enjoyed Lehrer’s interview on Slate’s podcast, The Afterword, hosted by June Thomas. It’s only thirty minutes.

Lehrer on The Colbert Report.


Best of luck with the giveaway. May the most creative entrant win.

Contest ends Monday.