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Unlike wild creatures, which operate largely on autopilot, humans usually avoid repetition, seeking novelty. By living our lives on autopilot, we dim our creative spirit and deprive the human specie of our creative genius.

The Runaway Species: How human creativity remakes the world is a deep-dive into the creative mind, a celebration of the human spirit, and a vision of how humanity can improve our future by understanding and embracing our ability to innovate.

The book engages this topic of creativity and innovation in three basic strategies by which all ideas evolve:

  • Bending: a makeover of an existing prototype through alterations.
  • Breaking: fragmentation and
  • Blending: combines two or more sources in novel ways.

We take the raw materials of experience and then bend, break and blend them to create new outcomes.

The book looks at innovation from these three pillars. Some of the concepts on the book may not be quiet new, but they provide a different lens on how to look at them.

The books offers a number of examples and ways in which creators and innovators have processed the available past to produce new outcomes, from better smartphones to artistic interpretations of classic images.

No matter what medium they work in, creative readers are likely to recognize immediately how breaking things into “workable chunks” or blending them into surprising combinations (such as sushi pizza) can foster creative outbursts.

Do not commit to the first solution. Always generate options—a “cornerstone” of the creative process.

Often we talk about the importance of allowing children to take risk.  Risk taking not only in their play, but also in their learning. Our schools today don’t encourage risk, and testing is set-up so that failure is a frightening prospect.

We must allow children to take risks and we must refrain from penalizing them when they do so. Brandt & Eagleman dedicate an entire chapter to this concept; then they move on to talk about what we hope will be the school of the future.

Rating

9/10

Essential, and highly pleasurable reading for anyone who cares about ideas and innovation.

The storytelling in this book is crazy remarkable and the use of analogies is very impressive.

It is a balanced book in its approach, takes you to the future and back .

Favourite Quotes

  • “To our parents, who brought us into a life of creativity…our wives, who fill our lives with novelty…and our children, whose imaginations summon the future…”
  • “…our inventiveness typically runs in the background, outside of our awareness.”
  • “As important as creativity has been in our species’ recent centuries, it is the cornerstone for our next steps.”
  • “Synthetic biologist, app developer, self-driving car designer, quantum computer designer, multimedia engineer – these are positions that didn’t exist when most of us were in school, and they represent the vanguard of what’s coming.”
  • “…corporate boardrooms everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to keep up…”
  • “This mandate for innovation is not reflected in our school systems.  Creativity is a driver of youthful discovery and expression – but it becomes stifled in deference to proficiencies that are more easily measured and tested.”
  • “If we want a bright future for our children, we need to recalibrate our priorities.”
  • “A balanced education nurtures skills and imagination.”

  • “Smartphones revolutionized our communications, but new tech becomes basic, universal, and invisible before our eyes.”
  • “…magic of human brains: we relentlessly simulate what-ifs.”
  • “Hope is a form of creative speculation: we imagine the world as we wish it to be rather than as it is.”
  • “The drive to create the new is part of our biological make-up.”
  • “Steve Jobs…Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it.  They just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while; that’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

  • “Human creativity does not emerge from a vacuum.  We draw on our experience and the raw materials around us to refashion the world.”
  • “…modern science historian Steven Johnson puts it, “We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape.”
  • …new ideas take root in environments where failure is tolerated.

  • “James Dyson invented the first bag-less vacuum cleaner. It took 5,127 prototypes and fifteen years for him to nail the model that would finally go to market.”
  • “Like so many other human endeavors, creativity is strengthened with practice.”
  • “FabLabs, Makerspaces, and TechShops are burgeoning, with their communal tools for making artwork, jewelry, crafts, and gadgets.”
  • “…but too many classrooms offer little to be digested, instead proffering a diet of regurgitation.  That diet threatened to leave our society hungry for future innovators. We’re stuck in an educational system born during the industrial Revolution.”
  • “An education in creativity lies in the sweet spot between unstructured pay and imitating models.  The sweet spot gives the students precedents to build but it doesn’t condition or constrain their choices.”
  • “Praise efforts, not results.”

  • “Any problem with an open outcome promotes risk-taking.”
  • “To produce a thriving society of creative adults, it is crucial to inspire risk-taking students who don’t cower in fear of the wrong answer.”
  • “Giving students a chance to solve real-life problems is an inspiring way to spur creativity.”
  • “Creativity is the fuel for our species’ runaway progress.”
  • “…young minds need art.”

  • “…the arts…are the most accessible way to teach the basic tools of innovation.
  • Every facet of the creative mentality can be taught through the arts…”
  • “Students learn the experimental method in science class, but the experiments they conduct are often aimed at a predetermined result: as long as the students follow the right procedures, they will arrive at the expected outcome.  In the arts, students learn the experimental method, but without any guarantees.”
  • “…all of us merit the opportunity to develop our creative capabilities.  Otherwise, society provides an incomplete education.”
  • “If we don’t cultivate creativity in our children, we won’t take full advantage of what’s unique about our species.  We need to invest in imagination.”

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