A simply, delightful book in an easy-to-read package! The humor, illustrations, quotes and short anecdotes made for an engaging, quick read.
But that doesn’t mean that the book didn’t get my wheels turning with the ideas that Austin Kleon listed.
Being an educator with my head in the #MakerEd, #designthinking, innovation, and creativity clouds, I couldn’t help but view this book through from that altitude. While there are numerous ideas that came to mind while reading this book, and more that are sure to come when I flip through its pages again and again, I wanted to capture my biggest initial thoughts here in this review.
It seems only fitting that I do so in a way that aligns with his list. :-) So…
1. Steal like an artist.
The section speaks to me in terms of the importance of recognizing where people get their ideas from. The notions of Steven Johnson’s “liquid network” and “slow hunch”, Kirby Ferguson’s “everything is a remix”, and Clayton M. Christensen’s “innovator’s dna” all came to mind when I read this. Perhaps most powerfully, however, were the themes of “participatory creativity” from Edward Clapp in which he puts forward the belief that people aren’t creative, but instead ideas are creative. It’s how people interact with them that generates perceived “originality” (Forgiveness requested from Adam Grant :-) I see clear connections to things like open source hardware/software, and the idea of shipping ideas to see how others can make it better so that even the originators can benefit.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
This further builds upon #1, but I believe adds a moral responsibility aspect. Outlining the parameters of “bad theft” and “good theft”, there is a clear call to the artist/innovator to recognize who/what their inspiration was drawn from. I see connections to Creative Commons and “standing on the shoulders of giants.”
3. Write the book you want to read.
I see clear connections to design thinking when I read this, particularly around the ideas of design opportunities and a bias towards action. I also can help but think of the quote, “The world is a malleable place, and it is up to us to learn how to shape it.”
4. Use your hands.
If you know anything about Seymour Papert and constructionism, this is a strong and obvious connection. But I also see how the design thinking posture of “build to learn” fits in here as one tries to make their thoughts more tangible for others to interact with. You can also find evidence for the value of prototyping, in Greg Bamford’s words, as a way to “think out an idea.”
5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
Again more connection to Steven Johnson’s ideas of exaptations, and even idea’s belief in forming teams of diverse learners to tackle their design projects. Here’s where being a t-shaped learner, or v-shaped learner if you are from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School :-) plays such an important role in helping people associate, or disassociate, from existing possibilities.
6. The Secret: Do good work and share it with people.
Again, shipping ideas and a liquid network play a key role in helping folks work creatively. It the old, “the smartest person in the room, IS the room” idea. But the real power here is in sharing little things, and sharing them often. I like to think about how an as-yet unrealized idea’s gestation cycle can benefit from having multiple people give feedback on that idea. This dovetails nicely with the ideas of “failing early and often, so you can be correct sooner rather than later.”
7. Geography is no longer our master.
Here’s where Seth Godin’s “tribes” come in to play. We are not confined to simply the personal learning network of those that are physically around us, though I do think that these people can often be the most valuable folks in your PLN – especially if what they say about becoming the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with is true. But I also think about how Adam Grant talks about how the most valuable feedback that folks can get is from people in their field – their specific field. Further, the folks that are most likely to predict the successfulness of an endeavor are other people that have done that work. Entrepreneurs are the best predictors of another entrepreneur’s likelihood of succeeding, not your Uncle Louie… unless, of course Uncle Louie is an entrepreneur :-) But personally, I don’t think that spending all of your time “preaching to the choir” is beneficial for creativity… you do need new ideas to consider and steal from too.
8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
This is one that certainly seems obvious. Perhaps it is my firm belief in assuming the best, but I can’t help thinking how this one is really just the Golden Rule, re-written here to help remind folks of how to behave when they get done reading #7.
9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
I struggled with this one. While I agree that “being bored” is one of the greatest catalysts for creativity – just ask Mark Frauenfelder – it’s the “only way to get work done” that I’m having trouble bringing into context on the first go around. Instead, I see how important doing mundane, and perhaps “uncool”, things like keeping a logbook and a calendar are incredibly beneficial to the creative process. Thinking about the “commonplace” book immediately comes to mind, and how deadlines can amp up creativity often as much as seeing a daily pattern of creative successes. It makes me wonder where I can put my own logbook…
10. Creativity is subtraction.
This is why I value constraints as a forcing function for people. Thinking about what to do, when you don’t necessarily have what you want or need, moves people to tackle problems with divergent thinking methods. I also can’t leave out the importance of pruning, especially when thinking about the how you can get better roses from a bush if you do some healthy pruning, even if the choice of what to prune is a hard one. There’s value in thinking through that decision-making process, but you really reap the rewards when you actually do the cut and actively reflect on what’s happening next.