By Steven Tepper, Dean, Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
We are living in a creative age. The economy increasingly relies on the intellectual output of creatives, with growing demand for well-designed products as well as compelling stories and experiences (film, music, television, games, etc.). The top 1,500 U.S. CEOs report that creativity is the number one quality they are looking for in new graduates. And, in a world of accelerating and often disorienting change, creativity is critical for adapting and innovating, not only for individuals throughout their lifetimes, but also for companies and organizations seeking to remain relevant. So, here are three book suggestions to help you think about developing your own creativity and imagination, as well as one book of fiction that talks about the importance of art in a world where everything familiar is lost.
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
A prevailing myth is that creativity is the result of the lone genius. But, as a sociologist, I have studied the conditions that make it more likely that creative ideas will emerge. Steven Johnson provides a great review of what environments lead to breakthrough ideas — places where serendipity is possible; places where fields and disciplines come together; diverse teams, distributed networks; time for incubating ideas. Creative people need not only to focus on their own inspiration but also to help create the spaces where both they and others can achieve the improbable.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is a work of fiction that examines a future world where a flu pandemic has wiped out most of civilization. Nothing is the same. What I find so compelling about the story is that it centers around a group of traveling actors who bring theatre to people in small makeshift towns. If we were to return to a tribal existence with no technology and no market economy, what might be the role of the artist? If we can imagine their value in a world with nothing, why can’t we fully imagine their value in today’s world of abundance?
The Rise by Sarah Lewis
So much of our creativity is constrained by our natural impulse to avoid failure — to play it safe. But all extraordinary creativity comes from taking risks — pushing yourself to think or respond to the world in ways that are not yet tested. So failure must become normal and expected. We must be resilient in the face of failure and learn how to respond, iterate, improve and advance. The Rise is a road map to bold and fearless creativity.
Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson
This book introduces the reader to the practice of improvisation as a critical tool for everyday life. Improv teaches us how to listen, respond, adapt, generate new ideas and be fully present in the moment. Improv can make you a better colleague, a more productive member of a team and a better parent or friend. The ability to be improvisational can help you get through a job interview; kick off a collaborative team meeting; write a song or story; or simply pay attention to the world around you in ways that enrich your life.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of ASU Thrive.
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