Creative Intelligence

Summary Written by Jennifer Knighton
"This is a book for people who aren’t just interested in becoming more creative, but who want to create things that change our lives."

- Creative Intelligence, page 33

The Big Idea

Creativity is Social

"Creative Intelligence is social: We increase our creative ability by learning from others, collaborating, sharing."- Creative Intelligence, page 30

Contrary to popular opinion, the most creative people operate not in seclusion but in a community. Drawing from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s and R. Keith Sawyer’s study of Italian Renaissance art, Nussbaum explains this surprising truth. As Sawyer noted from his study of Artificial Intelligence, “AI missed the interactional dimension where creativity takes place.”

This interactional effect is also noted by musicians of all types and has been shown to be one of the keys to innovation that Nussbaum was originally searching. Whether at Proctor & Gamble or Apple (non-siloed vs. siloed organizations), it was in the collaboration of individuals, rather than lone effort, that led to those innovations. Collaboration and sharing are essential.

Insight #1

The Five Competencies of Creative Intelligence

"The five competencies…aren’t simply best practices for organizations to transform themselves; they are tools that can help you plot a career path if you’re young and transform your career if you’re not."- Creative Intelligence, page 33

The bulk of Creative Intelligence is given to describing the five competencies and outlining habits and mindsets of the world’s most creative people. Composed entirely of stories, these chapters give us glimpses of the kinds of habits that are necessary to promote and harness our own creativity.

Nussbaum describes the competencies as:

1. Knowledge Mining – studying what came before, mashing-up seemingly unrelated fields or bodies of knowledge, being aware of your own knowledge and skills as you look for connections. Knowledge Mining comes in varying forms.

a) Embodiment – know yourself and your place in the world
b) Immersion – study, practice, and curiosity
c) Connecting Dots – seeking connections
d) Donut Knowledge – looking for what isn’t there
e) Dreams, Not Needs – what is meaningful rather than merely useful

2. Framing – interpreting the world through specific, varied lenses

a) Narrative Framing – rewrite the story
b) Engagement Framing – look for human engagement and interaction
c) What-If Framing – imagine beyond the possible

3. Playing – generate creativity by having fun

4. Making – learn the tools necessary to build something and then build it

5. Pivoting – scaling from inspiration to production

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Insight #2

Indie Capitalism

"Creativity drives capitalism. Indie Capitalism emphasizes the economic value generated by the creation of new products and services."- Creative Intelligence, page 239

As our society begins to recover from the economic collapse of 2008, Nussbaum outlines a new form of capitalism predicated upon entrepreneurial cultures, creativity, and innovation. He encourages the creation of a new economic model based upon Creative Intelligence, suggesting some foundational truths:

1. Creativity is the source of economic value.
2. Uncertainty is the state of social and economic life.
3. The entrepreneur drives economic growth.
4. Capitalism is a social movement.
5. Social networks are the basic building blocks of the economy.
6. Creative destruction is key to innovation-led economic growth.

Earlier this year, I began implementing the habit of play into my daily life, and it’s served me well to drive new ideas – primarily because it gives my brain a break from obsessive worrying and helps my subconscious form connections and ideas. With Creative Intelligence, I found Framing as an extremely useful tool for creativity in my work. When I take the time to “re-write the story,” I often find nuances I previously overlooked or new questions that had gone unasked.

I also found Creative Intelligence fascinating for its discussion of creativity habits and its outlook on a new capitalism. I’ve been witness to the kinds of businesses that are led by these same principles – uncertainty, destruction, social components, and pivoting. This is a subject I’m sure to come back to frequently.

What about you? What creative habits are most familiar to you? What can you add to your daily life to increase your Creative Intelligence? Are you currently participating in Indie Capitalism? (Perhaps you lacked a name for it!) If so, what does that look like?

Read the book

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Bruce Nussbaum

Bruce Nussbaum is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of 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 Business Week, 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.

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