News & Opinion

Thinker in Residence: Bruce Nussbaum, author of Creative Intelligence

Sally Haldorson

March 05, 2013


Today we are introducing a new author-focused blog series called Thinker in Residence. For this series, we'll be asking some of the brightest and boldest business authors writing today to give us insight into their work. Over the course of a week, we’ll give you, our readers, a review of the book, an interview with the author, and the author's perspective on a current business challenge.

Today we are introducing a new author-focused blog series called Thinker in Residence. For this series, we'll be asking some of the brightest and boldest business authors writing today to give us insight into their work. Over the course of a week, we'll give you, our readers, a review of the book, an interview with the author, and the author's perspective on a current business challenge. We're excited to welcome Bruce Nussbaum as our first 800-CEO-READ Thinker in Residence. Over the next three days, we'll take a look at his new book, Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire, gain some insight about the book and its five competencies for enhancing creativity from the author himself, as well as find out more about what interests and influences his work.

Creative Intelligence: The Review

We often believe people are either born creative or they're not. And we revere creative geniuses with a near-mythical devotion. But this kind of thinking is erroneous, Bruce Nussbaum assures us, Creative Intelligence. Creativity is not a talent doled out to the fortunate by DNA: "We need to stop searching for some magical place in the brain where creativity resides." Instead, creativity is a practical skill that can be developed, and one that is crucial for all business people whether they are in search of a job or in search of a solution. Nussbaum is a champion of creativity, and that enthusiasm is apparent throughout Creative Intelligence. A subject that is often regarded as "soft" is treated with great reverence, but at the same time, is given a practical overhaul, made (he emphasizes) measurable.
My goal in developing the concept of Creative Intelligence is to make the practice of creativity routine. I believe it can be an organic, everyday occurrence, not an artificial experience orchestrated by consultants who encourage participants to wear funny hats and write wild ideas on a whiteboard. I'd like to enable you to create easily and more often.
Other well-known (for better or for worse) books about creativity such as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and Jonah Lehrer's Imagine relied on tales of great accomplishments to articulate their ideas about creativity. But Nussbaum neither advocates a neat 10,000 hours of practice nor delving into the revealing power of neuroscience to solve the mystery of creativity.
Creative Intelligence is about tools, not lightbulbs. It's something we do, not something that happens to us. It's about what happens during those moments of insight, but also after; it's the hard work and the collaborations that can help bring your idea out of your mind and into the world.
Nussbaum then presents five competencies to make enhancing your creativity possible with practice. Knowledge Mining: "The people who are routinely creative are skilled at connecting information from various sources in new and surprising ways." Framing: "Lack of awareness about the frames that color our perceptions of the world severely limits our ability to see new opportunities. Yet one of the first steps in creating something new is to break free of the old definitions and interpret facts and patterns in new ways. And that can be quite difficult." Playing: "By adopting a more playful mind-set we're more willing to take risks, explore possibilities, and learn to navigate uncertainty, without the paralyzing stigma of failure." Making: "The revival of a 'maker culture,' combining open-source philosophy, new channels for distribution made possible by social media, and a shift to DIY...consumerism, has helped Making become a critical component of innovation once again." Pivoting "involves taking the intangibles that money can't buy—our dreams, our desires—and turning them into the things that it can....And that's what creativity can do, create gold from straw, art from angst, and yes, household products from wishes for a better life...." Making and Pivoting as described above leads naturally to the third section of the book: "The Economic Value of Creativity." Here Nussbaum explores the role of creativity in remaking capitalism into Indie Capitalism.
My use of the word "indie" is deliberate. "Indie" reflects an economy that is independent of the prevailing orthodoxies of economic theory and big business. It shares many of the distributive and social structures of the independent music scene, which shuns big promoters and labels. And as happens with many bands, so many of today's successful creative endeavors began as local phenomena before branching out to new locations and networks.
Nussbaum concludes his book with a call to action. He believes that Creative Intelligence is "a new form of cultural literacy" that can change how we meet economic, business, and political challenges. In fact, as the subtitles states, Nussbaum credits creativity as being a powerful antidote for our current debilitating "problem-solving mindset—as if there's one correct solution to any of the issues facing the nation, as if the puzzle will end as soon as we get it right." Each of us has a responsibility, he seems to be saying, to both become creative and to reframe creativity. With energetic prose, unintrusive but enlightening research, and cleverly-told stories, Creative Intelligence helps ground creativity, making it a skill attainable by us mere mortals, and thus gives us the power to do lofty things. ***

Author Biography:

Bruce Nussbaum, former assistant managing editor for BusinessWeek, is professor of innovation and design at Parsons School of Design and an award-winning writer. He is founder of the Innovation & Design online channel, and IN: Inside Innovation, a quarterly innovation magazine, and blogs at Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. Nussbaum is responsible for starting BusinessWeek's coverage of the annual International Design Excellence Award and the World's Most Innovative Companies survey. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He taught third-grade science in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. Follow him on Twitter: @brucenussbaum

Smart Links:

Here are a few links to our favorite online material by Thinker in Residence, Bruce Nussbaum, to help you further explore his work. 3 Paths Toward a More Creative Life, a Fast Company Co.Design article
Creativity is in such demand today that when we apply for jobs, when we join organizations, or when we just meet other people, we are asked to present our creative selves. But we can't do that unless we understand the nature of our own creativity, locate the sources of our originality, and have a language that explains our work.
4 Ways to Amplify Your Creativity, a Fast Company Co.Design article
You can make creativity routine and a regular part of your life. That's true for big companies as well as small startups, corporate managers as well as entrepreneurs. Creativity is scalable.
How to Put the Indie in Capitalism: An Excerpt from Creative Intelligence on Wired.
If Indie Capitalism were to have a single foundational principle, it would be this: Creativity drives capitalism. Creativity is the source of economic value. Creativity transforms what money can't buy into what money can buy.
*** Check in with us tomorrow for an in-depth Q&A with our Thinker in Residence, Bruce Nussbaum.

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