Self Help

The Runaway Species - David Eagleman

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Matheus Puppe

· 38 min read



  • The book is published simultaneously in the UK and US by Catapult and Canongate Books. Copyright for the book is 2017 and held by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman.

  • It contains acknowledgments to the authors’ parents, wives, and children for their support and as sources of inspiration.

  • The book has three main parts: New Under the Sun, The Creative Mentality, and Cultivating Creativity.

  • It uses the examples of NASA solving the Apollo 13 crisis and Picasso creating his groundbreaking painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” to illustrate how creativity can arise even in unlikely scenarios and produces radical innovations.

  • Both NASA’s improvised solution and Picasso’s rejection of artistic tradition demonstrate the cognitive processes of bending, breaking and blending existing knowledge to generate new ideas.

So in summary, the introduction sets up the book by using the NASA and Picasso examples to show how creativity can emerge from problem-solving and art-making, even in very different domains, and prepares the reader for the discussion of creative thinking that will follow.

  • Creativity and innovation are fundamental human traits. People are constantly coming up with new ideas, inventions, and ways of doing things, rather than settling on a single perfect solution.

  • Humans have an innate drive and ability to adapt quickly to changes in the environment. Commercial flight is given as an example - it has become commonplace even though it was a rare adventure not long ago. New technologies like smartphones rapidly integrate into everyday life.

  • The authors, Anthony and David, are a composer and neuroscientist studying creativity from their different perspectives. Their book aims to understand the cognitive processes behind innovation by examining inventions, art, culture, and what brain science reveals.

  • Part I will introduce humanity’s need for creativity and how new ideas emerge. It will also explore how innovations are shaped by time and place. Parts II and III will look at traits of creative thinking and how to foster creativity in education and business.

  • The goal is to celebrate human creativity and understanding the creative mind, in order to shape a bright future and prepare children for a constantly changing world that requires flexibility and imagination.

  • Humans quickly adapt to new things through repetition suppression - our brain response decreases each time we see something familiar. This helps save energy by letting us predict our environment.

  • However, complete predictability is boring. We need some novelty and surprise to stay engaged. Humans constantly seek out new ideas, fashion/styles, technologies, etc. Old ideas lose their appeal over time.

  • This balance of exploiting familiar knowledge while still exploring new things is important. Brains and cultures evolve through this exploration/exploitation tradeoff. Too much of either is undesirable.

  • Creativity thrives in the tension between familiarity and novelty. Even new technologies incorporate skeuomorphic designs that mimic older, familiar formats to ease the transition for users. This keeps a connection to past while introducing something new.

  • Humans have a much larger cerebral cortex compared to other animals like bees, giving us around 100 billion neurons versus a bee’s 1 million neurons.

  • This larger cortex results in more neurons located between sensation and action. This allows for more thinking and consideration of alternatives before taking action. It gives our brains more “flexibility.”

  • Other animals like bees have pathways hardwired by evolution, resulting in more automated/reflexive behavior in response to stimuli. But humans can engage in more “mediated behaviors” which involve thinking, foresight, and generating new solutions through internal debate and consideration of options.

  • This capacity for mediated behavior and flexibility is what allows humans to be highly creative - generating novel ideas, stories, technologies, etc. rather than just automated responses. It is the neural basis of human creativity.

So in summary, the key difference between human and other animal brains that enables our high level of creativity and technology is our much larger cerebral cortex, which provides more neurons dedicated to flexible thinking between sensation and action rather than just automated responses.

The passage discusses how creativity is enhanced through social interaction and collaboration with others. Some key points:

  • Famous creative figures like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Mary Shelley often created and collaborated with other writers when they were starting out.

  • The myth of the “isolated artist” is untrue. Artists are normal social beings who benefit from community feedback, encouragement and discussion with peers.

  • Even scientists don’t truly work alone - their work is informed by discussions and collaboration with the broader scientific community.

  • Creativity is an inherently social act. Ideas develop and get pushed forward through interaction between creative individuals.

  • Computers lack this social aspect and ability to truly surprise each other, which is part of why artificial intelligence has struggled with creativity.

So in summary, the passage argues that creativity lives beyond just one’s own brain and is enhanced through interaction and collaboration with other people’s brains and the broader creative community. Social feedback and exchange of ideas helps push new ideas forward.

  • In the 1970s, record companies were facing widespread fraud as many customers were returning counterfeit copies of albums instead of the genuine ones they had purchased in order to get refunds. In one case, over 3 million copies of an album were returned despite chart-topping sales.

  • British inventor Kane Kramer came up with the idea of transmitting music digitally over phone lines and using an in-store machine to custom print albums. But he realized this was unnecessary and instead developed the concept of a portable digital music player (the IXI) that could store and play music files without needing physical media like records or tapes.

  • Kramer foresaw a new model for selling and sharing digital music files. Paul McCartney was an early investor in his idea. However, the IXI had limitations due to hardware at the time and could only store one song.

  • Apple seized on Kramer’s concept and incorporated additional innovations like a scroll wheel into the successful iPod launched in 2001. Jobs acknowledged all creative work builds on what came before.

  • Kramer’s idea built on precedents like the Sony Walkman portable cassette player. All innovations emerge from previous work in an evolutionary process over many years. It typically takes two decades for a new concept to dominate the market.

  • Picasso was influenced by African masks he saw in museums when creating his famous painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. While he claimed to have visited museums after completing the painting, there are clear resemblances between the masks and features of two of the prostitutes depicted in the painting.

  • All creators build on what came before - they take in influences from the world and reimagine them in new forms. While Picasso’s work may have drawn from African masks, his unique synthesis of these influences into Les Demoiselles was truly original.

  • Nature modifies existing organisms over time to create new species. Similarly, the human brain works by taking in outside ideas and reworking them through processes like bending, breaking, and blending. This allows for perpetual innovation and new ideas built on precedent.

  • Two case studies are provided of individuals whose creativity still relied on influences and materials from their environments, even in cases where their ideas seemed to emerge suddenly. Both Picasso and ordinary individuals develop new ideas through subtle mental manipulations and rearrangements of what they have absorbed from the world.

  • The core cognitive operations of bending, breaking, and blending underlie creative and innovative thinking in all domains. While different fields may seem vastly different, these basic brain mechanisms allow for generating novelty across domains by modifying what came before.

The passage discusses examples of bending, the first creative tool, across different domains. Bending involves refashioning or manipulating existing forms in new ways.

Artists like Monet and Hokusai bent existing visual icons like Rouen Cathedral and Mount Fuji by depicting them in different lights and perspectives. Sculptures from different cultures bent or reshaped human and animal forms.

In engineering and science, doctors Cohn and Frazier bent the concept of a heart by developing a continuous flow artificial heart, without the need for pulsation. Oldenburg and van Bruggen bent scale through giant outdoor sculptures. Giacometti and Elias bent scale in the opposite direction through miniaturization. Muniz bent scale through nanoscale art etching.

Edwin Land solved the problem of glare-resistant windshields through a process of bending - shrinking the calcite crystals used, since larger crystals did not work practically. This “orthogonal thinking” mirrored the cognitive process of artists who bent scale through miniaturization.

Overall, the passage provides examples across different domains to illustrate how bending as a creative tool involves refashioning or manipulating existing forms and concepts in new and unexpected ways.

The passage discusses how various forms can be bent or distorted in innovative ways to take on new functions or add new possibilities. It provides examples of how transparent crystals were bent at the microscopic level to reduce glare for drivers. Dancer Martha Graham bent the human form in new poses and shapes through dance. Architect Frank Gehry bends building surfaces into unusual rippling facades. A company called Volute developed a conforming fuel tank that can snake into unused vehicle space by bending and folding. Soft robotics bends the norm of rigid metal robots by creating inflatable fabric robots that are lighter and more delicate. Filmmakers bend time through manipulations of speed like slow motion. Scientists propose “rewinding” human evolution to recreate Neanderthals by cloning them from modern human genomes. Even conceptions of time itself can be bent, as shown through the non-linear plot structure of the play Betrayal. Overall, the passage illustrates how bending established forms opens up new creative outcomes and solutions across many domains.

The passage discusses how breaking things apart and reinventing them with the pieces is a cognitive strategy used in various fields like art, engineering, technology, language, and science.

In art, examples given are abstract sculptures that break the human form, and Cubist paintings that break up visual planes. Picasso’s famous anti-war painting Guernica uses a broken, disjointed style to depict violence and suffering.

In engineering, airport lighting towers were redesigned to be “frangible” and break into smaller pieces on impact rather than remaining solid, to prevent plane accidents. Mobile phone systems also evolved from single broadcast towers to dividing coverage into “cells” with separate towers to allow more simultaneous calls.

Language evolves through breaking conventions, like the French slang “verlan” which rearranges syllables, and changing dictionary definitions to reflect new meanings over time.

The poet E.E. Cummings broke apart words and syntax in free verse. In biochemistry, Frederick Sanger broke insulin molecules into smaller pieces to sequence the amino acids more easily in his pioneering work.

Overall, the passage argues that breaking things apart creatively and recombining the pieces is a cognitive strategy that drives innovation across many fields by opening up new possibilities.

  • Frederick Sanger developed a “jigsaw” method to sequence proteins like insulin, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1958. His technique of breaking biological molecules into smaller pieces is still used today.

  • Sanger then devised a method to precisely control how and when DNA strands are broken, enabling him to sequence genes. This breakthrough accelerated genome sequencing and enabled the human genome project. He received a second Nobel Prize in 1980 for this work.

  • Breaking up continuous action sequences led to advances in film editing techniques like flashbacks and montages, as well as the development of instant replay in televised sports.

  • Computer pioneer John McCarthy developed the concept of time-sharing, which involved rapidly toggling between users’ programs to allow for simultaneous multi-user access. This was made possible by segmenting computational tasks into short micro-segments.

  • The techniques of breaking wholes into fragments can be seen in art forms like pointillism, photo collages, digital images composed of pixels, and architectural designs that break apart building structures.

  • Breaking down concepts into shorter synonyms, acronyms, or representative parts is common in human language and thinking as a form of efficient communication and information processing.

The passage discusses how breaking things down into parts provides flexibility and opportunities for new combinations and innovations. It gives several examples:

  • Composer Bach could quickly produce a “mosaic of fragments” by breaking themes into pieces rather than repeating them whole.

  • Artist Cory Arcangel removed everything but the clouds from the game Super Mario Bros in his art installation.

  • Engineer Harry Ferguson helped develop the modern tractor by breaking the heavy steam tractor design into a lightweight frame with an attached seat.

  • Musician Karlheinz Brandenburg invented the MP3 by omitting unheard frequencies to greatly reduce file sizes while maintaining audio quality.

  • A robot named CoBot used limited 3D vision by only sampling a small fraction of sensor data to avoid processing too much information.

  • Neuroscientists developed the CLARITY method to remove lipids from mouse brains, making neural structures transparent and enabling new study.

Overall, breaking things down allows for useful combinations and simplifications by selectively keeping or removing parts as needed for different purposes. This provides creative flexibility and opportunities for innovation.

  • An avid birdwatcher noted that a kingfisher’s tapered beak allows it to dive into water with little noise or disturbance. This inspired the design of Japan’s bullet trains, which were given tapered “beaks” to reduce noise when traveling at high speeds.

  • Artists Chitra Ganesh and Simone Leigh created a video installation blending a woman’s torso with a pile of gravel, combining the living and non-living. Similarly, concrete is now sometimes blended with special bacteria - the bacteria lie dormant in intact concrete but activate and seal cracks when the concrete is damaged.

  • Humans excel at image recognition but computers struggle. An academic invented an image-labeling game where two people online see the same photo and supply descriptive words. When their words match, the computer tags the photo, effectively blending human and machine capabilities.

  • Our imagination often blends concepts from different time periods, as seen in works like Back to the Future and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Languages also contain blends like “eyeshadow” and “newspaper.” Metaphors emerge from neural networks combining unrelated concepts.

  • Creole languages develop from the blending of multiple parent languages by children. High dynamic range photos blend multiple exposures into one optimized image. Google Translate works by blending users’ text with a database of human translations rather than understanding language. Artists and architects also produce works blending multiple influences.

  • A hybrid beach volleyball/soccer game is played on a beach volleyball court. As in soccer, players can touch the ball with any body part except hands. As in volleyball, teams hit the ball over the net until it hits the ground on one side, earning a point. A “shark attack” kick replaces the volleyball slam, with a high leg kick to sharply hit the ball over the net.

  • Blending ideas can spur innovation. For example, bronze is a durable alloy created by blending soft copper and tin metals. Similarly, perfumes, potions, and other mixtures blend ingredients in new ways.

  • The human mind naturally blends far-ranging ideas through analogy and metaphor. For example, Einstein envisioned an elevator in space to develop his theory of relativity. Similarly, an engineer creatively blended Shrinky Dinks toys with biomedical techniques to create affordable microfluidic diagnostic tools.

  • While bending, breaking, and blending generate new ideas, most creative ideas do not resonate with the surrounding culture and society. Novel ideas must be culturally aligned to gain acceptance. Various art forms, styles, and norms differ across times and places due to cultural influences on what is deemed creative or acceptable. Both creators and audiences are shaped by their unique cultural contexts.

  • Artistic creativity and even scientific truths are shaped by social and cultural context. Indian classical dance incorporates rapid motions and dual representations, unlike constrained European ballet.

  • Nazi Germany initially dismissed Einstein’s theories as “Jewish science” and pursued nuclear weapons less aggressively than the US, partly due to cultural biases. The transistor was simultaneously invented in the US and France but only took off commercially in the US.

  • Artworks like Shakespeare’s King Lear and the movie The Children’s Hour were adapted over time as cultural standards changed.

  • The modern scientific method emerged in 17th century England due to cultural forces like increasing emphasis on experiments over individual visions after the Civil War and preference for collective work over authoritative figures after the 1688 revolution.

  • Creative works are not just shaped by available techniques but also cultural norms of their time. Hemingway’s minimalist dialog and avant-garde music compositions would not have resonated earlier due to different conventions then. Meaning innovations have specific cultural moments of emergence.

  • Beethoven wrote an adventurous finale called the “Grosse Fuge” for one of his string quartets that pushed boundaries.

  • At the premiere, the audience did not demand an encore of the finale, unlike the other movements, showing they did not enjoy or understand it. Critics said it was “incomprehensible.”

  • His publisher worried the unconventional finale would hurt sales and asked if he would write a new, more accessible finale.

  • Beethoven agreed to compromise for the first time, writing a milder finale that was better received while also publishing the Grosse Fuge separately.

  • This showed Beethoven negotiating between his creative impulse for novelty and the limits of his audience’s tastes, highlighting a common challenge for artists balancing familiarity and innovation.

The summary focuses on how Beethoven’s ambitious finale was not well received, leading him to compromise by writing a new, tamer finale, as an example of the balance creators must strike between novelty and familiarity to engage audiences.

  • Over the years, various proposals have been made for calendar reforms to try and establish a universal standard calendar, but they have faced objections and failed to be ratified.

  • Cotsworth proposed keeping the calendar as is but establishing an official timetable to standardize holidays across countries. The US objected to this due to changes to July 4th.

  • Later, Elisabeth Achelis proposed the World Calendar with 12 identical months and an extra World Day to align the weekly cycle each year. Religious groups objected as it disrupted their weekly worship patterns.

  • Other proposals included Asimov’s World Season Calendar dividing the year into uniform seasons and Bromberg’s Symmetry 454 calendar with alternating month lengths and a leap week every 5-6 years.

  • However, transitioning to a new calendar system proved difficult due to needing to upgrade all software and reconcile historical vs future dating systems.

  • The challenges of overcoming public inertia and getting critical mass adoption were demonstrated by the failed electric vehicle company Better Place, despite building extensive charging stations in Israel with government support.

  • While some concepts like visual symmetry appear universally beautiful, cultures actually develop diverse aesthetics. True universals are difficult to identify given humans’ creative range and societies’ desire for novelty.

  • Different cultures classify sounds/noises differently (e.g. as fathers/sons, crocodiles/people chasing crocodiles), but there may be underlying biological preferences for how sounds are combined.

  • Initial studies found infants prefer consonant music to dissonant, indicating an innate preference, but later studies found infants listened longer to whichever piece they heard first, suggesting no innate preference.

  • Views of what constitutes aesthetic/creative beauty have changed over time and vary across cultures, so there are no permanent universal standards locked at birth. Creativity and cultural evolution shape our preferences.

  • Even hugely influential creative works are not forever entrenched, as human imaginations and needs continually evolve. Shakespeare for example may one day be mainly of historical interest rather than an active part of culture, as new forms of creative expression emerge.

  • Constant reinvention is how cultures progress rather than permanently glue down or preserve any single creative work or era. Traditions provide raw materials for new generations to build upon creatively rather than imprison them.

  • In 1863, Edouard Manet submitted his painting Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe to the Salon in Paris, but it was rejected by the jury for its blatant sexuality and seemingly haphazard brushwork.

  • This sparked protests from artists, as Manet’s work and many others had been excluded. Emperor Napoleon III ordered the Salon des Réfusés to display the rejected works. Though poorly presented, it marked a shift away from traditional subjects and styles toward more contemporary works.

  • Later, in the 1970s, Robert Colescott remodeled Pablo Picasso’s iconic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by creating his version titled Les Demoiselles d’Alabama, putting a new twist on the original painting.

  • Both Manet and Colescott broke conventions by creating new versions of established works, challenging traditions and styles that were rigidly enforced by art institutions at the time. Their remixing of classic paintings helped drive movements toward more experimental and contemporary art.

The question discusses George Washington Carver’s 1921 testimony to the US House Ways and Means Committee about developing new uses for peanuts. When given just 10 minutes, Carver advocated for growing peanuts as a rotation crop to replenish depleted soil. Despite facing a racist remark, Carver presented over 100 ways peanuts could be prepared, from peanut ice cream to peanut paint, demonstrating their economic viability. Impressed by his detailed knowledge, the chairman gave Carver unlimited time. By proliferating myriad peanut product options, Carver succeeded in convincing Congress and farmers of peanuts’ value, becoming a folk hero for the South.

More broadly, the passage argues that generating multiple options is key to the creative process. It cites examples like Picasso painting dozens of variations on famous paintings, and Beethoven composing multiple variations on themes. By exploring a wide range of possibilities, innovators can break out of routines and find new solutions. This proliferation of options is what distinguishes human creativity from programmed behaviors like those of zombies.

The passage discusses how proliferating options and considering many alternatives is an important part of the creative and problem-solving process. It provides examples from literature, engineering, architecture, drug discovery, and more to illustrate this.

When writing his novel A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway drafted 47 different endings before settling on the final version. Engineers tried many different wing and engine designs before arriving at optimal solutions. Architects produced dozens of building facade designs. Drug researchers test thousands of chemical variants.

This proliferation of options increases the chances of success by allowing people and organizations to explore wide-ranging possibilities. Nature operates the same way through evolutionary processes. The passage argues this diversity is important for survival - focusing on just one approach risks extinction if it fails.

Governments and companies can benefit similarly by funding a variety of research paths. This was shown by Britain’s Longitude Prize, which ultimately led to an accurate marine chronometer thanks to considering hundreds of proposals over many decades. The widespread generation and testing of options allows for more creative problem-solving and breakthroughs.

  • John Harrison designed the H-4 “Sea Watch” pocket watch in 1761, which was the world’s first successful marine chronometer. This enabled accurate timekeeping at sea and revolutionized navigation.

  • Competitions like the Longitude Prize and XPrize have spread problems widely to crowdsource solutions, proliferating options. This approach led to successful innovations like SpaceShipOne for the XPrize.

  • Although some attempts at innovation fail, like Solyndra’s solar panels, widespread exploration of options is important for progress. Failure is an inevitable part of innovation as not all ideas succeed. Taking risks is necessary to advance technologies.

  • Netflix held a competition for improved movie recommendation algorithms, encouraging thousands of attempts from which they selected two winning solutions to their goal. This was cheaper than developing the solution in-house.

  • Successful innovators like Edison, Einstein, Da Vinci, and designers Sarah Burton and Norman Bel Geddes explored ideas at different distances from the status quo, generating both incremental improvements and more radical explorations, increasing the chances of success. Widespread option generation is key to innovation.

  • Frank Sprague saw the opportunity to develop a commercially viable electric elevator to challenge the monopoly of hydraulic elevator companies like Otis.

  • To prove his technology, he installed six electric elevators in the Postal Telegraph Building in New York, but took on all the risk - he would install hydraulic elevators at his own expense if his electric elevators did not meet performance claims.

  • The maiden voyage of the first elevator almost ended disastrously when it failed to stop at the top floor and almost broke through the roof, demonstrating the risks of pioneering new technologies.

  • Earlier, Sprague had also taken enormous risks developing the first electric trolley system in Richmond, accepting contracts that far exceeded his capabilities and working around the clock despite illness to meet tight deadlines, succeeding just in time through relentless effort and risk-taking.

  • In both cases, Sprague demonstrated a willingness to take on tremendous risks to pioneer new technologies and prove their commercial viability, eventually achieving success through perseverance in the face of long odds.

Thomas Edison and others showed that creative progress often requires tolerating failures. Edison tried thousands of experiments to develop an effective light bulb filament, eventually succeeding with carbonized bamboo. William Shockley’s team labored through many failed experiments before realizing his theory of transistor amplification. James Dyson went through over 5,000 prototypes over 15 years to develop a commercially viable bagless vacuum.

Even great ideas can face rejection. Michelangelo caused controversy with nudity in his Last Judgement fresco in the Sistine Chapel and some figures were later covered up. Gyorgy Ligeti’s conceptual piece for 100 metronomes was banned from broadcast after its premiere faced protests. Richard Serra’s large outdoor sculpture Tilted Arc was dismantled after public hearings ruled against it.

The reception of new ideas is hard to predict - others may reject an invention no matter its technical merits. Examples are Thomas Edison’s concrete piano and Ford’s innovative early concept car with new safety features that was ultimately not pursued due to perceived lack of market demand. Creative progress relies on tolerating failures and mistakes along the way to eventual successes.

The passage discusses two prominent product failures - the Ford Edsel and New Coke.

The Ford Edsel was introduced in 1958 as Ford believed it had a hit on its hands. However, due to extreme secrecy during development, no market testing was done. When it launched, the Edsel’s styling, especially its vertical front grille, was widely ridiculed. Ford lost an estimated $350 million over just three years on the Edsel.

In 1983, Coca-Cola lost market share to Pepsi and reformulated its flagship cola as New Coke. However, the public reaction was intensely negative. After just 77 days, Coca-Cola re-introduced the original formula under the name “Coke Classic” as New Coke was a failure like the Edsel.

The passage then talks about how not every new idea succeeds, as shown by these examples. Even great innovators like Michelangelo, Edison and Ford had both successes and failures when trying something new. While risk-taking is necessary for innovation, success is never guaranteed. Persevering through failures and learning from mistakes is important.

  • The passage describes several historical examples of worlds fairs and expos that highlighted the latest technologies, but failed to foresee inventions like the automobile and radio that would transform society in the coming decades. Predicting the future is difficult.

  • It discusses how most new ideas and innovations fail, as evidenced by the many failed automobile and video game companies from history. Even successful ideas like the Wright brothers’ airplane design became obsolete quickly as better solutions emerged.

  • For companies to stay innovative, they need to look well beyond present limits and possibilities. Examples are given of how design companies, auto makers, and retailers envision wildly futuristic concepts that may never be built, but help expand visions of what’s possible.

  • Companies like Greyhound, Lowe’s, Microsoft, and Fisher-Price routinely explore very distant and speculative futures through concepts, prototypes, and science fiction collaborations. While most won’t manifest, it helps refine understanding of both near and distant opportunities. Pushing boundaries is part of continuous innovation.

  • The passage discusses the importance of exploring a wide range of ideas and options when developing new products or technologies, even if most will not succeed. It cites examples where companies successfully diversified their approaches.

  • Companies like Xerox, IDEO, Google X, and Continuum Innovation generated many design concepts but then rapidly iterated and filtered down to the most promising solutions through testing and feedback. This enabled them to find optimal solutions they may not have otherwise discovered.

  • It’s difficult to predict which ideas will succeed, so exploring a variety of ordinary and radical options increases the chances of success. Early failures also provide valuable lessons.

  • While generating many ideas requires resources, proliferating options and being willing to abandon most of them is critical to the creative process. Narrowing options too quickly can limit potential for innovation.

So in summary, the key message is that diversifying ideas from the start, even with small investments, while also having a process to quickly iterate and eliminate weaker concepts, is an effective approach to innovation according to the examples provided.

  • 3M was an innovation champion with a third of sales from new products. In 2000, a new CEO applied manufacturing efficiencies to R&D, requiring regular reports and frowning on variation. This reduced new product sales by 20% over 5 years.

  • When the CEO left, his replacement removed constraints on R&D. Sales from new products rebounded to a third of 3M’s total, showing restrictive processes can dampen innovation.

  • Speculation and failed ideas are necessary for innovation. Companies like Tata and Google reward failed “moonshots” and idea exploration to encourage experimentation without fear of failure.

  • Even failed efforts move companies closer to solutions by revealing issues to address. Diversification and selection determine innovation progress more than any single successful idea. The path of invention involves many zigzags.

So in summary, over-restricting processes and punishing failure can stifle innovation, while encouraging diverse ideas and learning from failures promotes a culture where new breakthroughs are more likely to emerge.

  • Eleven Madison Park is a Michelin three-star restaurant in New York City that is known for reinventing itself. After earning high praise for its precise tasting menu, it transformed into a theatrical four-hour culinary tribute to NYC with dramatic dish presentations.

  • Critics were surprised by the change but it became even more popular. They changed the concept again, making it more casual with more choice and larger portions. This earned them a four-star rating.

  • The ability to reinvent and change direction, like Eleven Madison Park and jazz musician Miles Davis who inspired them, allows companies to stay relevant and succeed.

  • The story then discusses how the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) pioneered FM radio and television in the 1930s-40s, adapting quickly to new technologies. Successful companies like Apple, AT&T, Hermès, Nokia and others have also transformed their businesses over time in response to changes.

  • However, not every pivot works - the example given is Amazon’s Fire Phone which failed despite their other successes. Creative companies try many new ideas but not all pan out. Overall they emphasize constantly exploring new areas while also exploiting existing strengths.

Here are some key points about using precedent as a launching pad for creativity and promoting the proliferation of options in lesson plans and creative thinking:

  • Use existing examples or models as a starting point for students to build upon, rather than just copying. For example, having students draw different styles of apples after learning about artistic styles.

  • Encourage students to put their own spin on precedents by mixing techniques or taking ideas in new directions, rather than stopping at imitation.

  • Teach students to mine the past for new ideas by refashioning or reimagining historical works, stories, or inventions from different perspectives. For example, telling a story from another character’s viewpoint.

  • Foster creative thinking by having students envision “what if” scenarios and alternate histories that extrapolate from facts in imaginative new ways.

  • Promote creativity in science and engineering by encouraging novel applications of mechanisms and circuit principles, rather than just following instructions.

  • Train students to generate multiple solutions or options rather than locking into a single answer prematurely. Prompt wider explorations of possibilities.

  • Use exercises that illustrate prolific natural diversity, like designing new ways for seeds to disperse, to help students appreciate optionality.

  • Even when answers are fixed, encourage different paths to the same solution to nurture flexible, creative thinking.

  • The passage advocates encouraging students to find multiple ways to solve math problems rather than teaching a single method. This develops flexibility and inventiveness.

  • It uses examples like Picasso and Lichtenstein’s bull series to illustrate how moving progressively further from the original source leads to more creative outcomes.

  • A project at Rice University asked students to address the problem of inaccurate IV drips in developing countries. By considering different solutions, they landed on an unexpected design using a mousetrap mechanism.

  • The passage promotes letting students “wander off well-worn paths” through methods like sandboxing creative assignments before grading and giving open-ended problems without single right answers.

  • Encouraging risk-taking is important for developing creative thinking. Praising effort over achievement allows for more risk-taking. Real-world problems without answers also promote this.

  • Sparking motivation is key to education. Giving students meaningful problems to solve, like designing solutions for infant respiratory issues, strongly engages them and leads to innovative outcomes.

Here are the key points that can be summarized from the passages:

  • Emily Pilloton, an architect, worked with 8th grade students at a charter school in Berkeley to design and build their own library space called the X-Space. The students came up with the X-shaped shelving design and built the library themselves.

  • At a progressive primary school, 6th grade students wrote and performed poems about social issues at a local coffee shop poetry slam night.

  • A British primary school entered a contest run by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote exercise. A team of 7 students built a robot dog called FitDog that encouraged exercise through motivational words. Their project won the prize.

  • Contests like the Raspberry Pi competition and Odyssey of the Mind inspire students to creatively solve problems and are motivational through prizes and recognition.

  • Meaningful projects that give students ownership and real audiences beyond the classroom, like building a library or screening a documentary, can foster creative thinking in students.

So in summary, the passages discussed how giving students meaningful projects and audiences, as well as competitions, can motivate creative problem-solving and be used to engage students in learning. Several examples of projects led by or completed by students were also discussed.

  • The Ospedale degli Incurabili in Naples was an early example of successful education of disadvantaged children, though they also accepted paying students from Europe. One graduate was Domenico Cimarosa, whose bricklayer father died in a construction accident.

  • Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom argued that with the right conditions, almost any person can learn what any other person can learn. However, for most of history access to education was limited by social class and gender.

  • Women were often denied opportunities to pursue their creative gifts and careers. Examples given are Nannerl Mozart, Ada Lovelace, and Shirley Walker as a rare female film score composer.

  • Access to arts education remains limited, particularly for minority and low-income students. But the arts are important for developing creativity and innovation skills that benefit fields like science and technology.

  • As technologies become more common, attractive design is as important as functionality. IBM is hiring many industrial designers to make machines more appealing. Theater skills also help make rescue robots more relatable to humans.

  • The arts encourage experimental thinking and risk-taking. Works of art can also influence society and shape possible futures, with some even impacting history, like sparking political change. During wars, fictional works were consulted for new ideas.

Arlan Andrews, a science fiction writer, argued that creativity is important for keeping nations safe. Writers like him who spend their careers imagining future worlds help generate “crazy ideas” that policymakers should consider.

The case study discusses how Wheeler Elementary School in Vermont implemented an arts integration program to turn the failing school around. Teachers began working with artists to incorporate activities like drawing leaves and making pottery into science and other lessons. Within a few years, student performance and engagement improved dramatically. Disciplinary issues decreased during art periods. The revitalized school became a model for successful arts integration.

The chapter argues creativity should be actively developed through school, not just exposed to. Students need to engage in creative “bending, breaking and blending” of ideas themselves. While education focuses on past knowledge, it should also point toward the future world students will help design. An active imagination has lifelong value. The human drive for novelty and our ability to manipulate complex ideas underpin our endless innovation as a species. Creativity surrounds us in everyday technologies, buildings, and works of art that build on generations of human invention.

  • The passage discusses how technological advances and increased access to information is fueling a “Creative Revolution”. Creativity is being democratized as constraints on sharing ideas are reduced.

  • Digital storage and the internet allow for more raw materials to be accessed. Ideas can now spread globally more easily without barriers of distance. Computers enhance and spread creativity.

  • This increased proliferation of options and rapid prototyping is pouring fuel on the fires of progress. Creativity is accelerating at a much higher rate than ever before in history.

  • However, humans often operate with a “closed world” assumption, thinking the future will be much like the present. We need to foster creativity in children to fully take advantage of humanity’s creative potential and imagine possible futures.

  • Investing in imagination and creativity will shape individuals and companies to explore new ideas and change norms. This will lay the groundwork for future innovations, even if we can’t foresee the specific outcomes. Cultivating creativity in all areas of society is important for pushing boundaries.

Here is a summary of the acknowledgements section:

The authors thank several individuals and organizations for their assistance with the book, including researchers, curators, librarians, artistic collaborators, university colleagues, literary representatives, editors, and research assistants.

Specifically, they thank people like Sophie Anderson of Giant Artists, Gassia Armenian of UCLA’s Fowler Library, Alan Baglia of ARS, Kim Bush of the Guggenheim Museum, David Croke of the University of Texas at Austin, Yasmin Greenfield of PA Consulting, Michele Hilmes of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Gretta Johnson of the Oldenburg van Bruggen Studio, Jeff Lee of Ryan Lee Gallery, Megan Lewis of Lowe’s Companies, Victor McElheny, Andrea Morrison of Writers House, Mike Mueller for the estate of Norman Rockwell, and Edward Zimmerman of Sony Pictures Television for their various contributions.

They also acknowledge help from colleagues at Rice University such as Mary DuMont Brower, Diane Butler, Robert Curl, Michael Deem, Charles Dove, Suzanne Kemmer, Veronica Leautaud, Joseph Manca, Linda Spadden McNeil, Cyrus Mody, Carolyn Nichol, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, and Sarah Whiting.

Lastly, they thank their literary representatives like Andrew Wylie, Kristina Moore, and James Pullen of the Wylie Agency, as well as their publishers and editors for their support in bringing the book to publication.

Here are the summaries:

Construction in aluminum, steel, nylon, fiberglass. Dimensions variable 48 x 48 x 40 in. (121.9 x 121.9 x 101.6 cm). Edition of 25 Private Collection, James Goodman Gallery, New York, USA/Bridgeman Images. ©1971 Claes Oldenburg

This is a description of an artwork by Claes Oldenburg from 1971 made of various materials like aluminum, steel, nylon and fiberglass. The dimensions can vary between 48 x 48 x 40 inches. It is an edition of 25 and was formerly in a private collection displayed at the James Goodman Gallery in New York.

Roy Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedral, Set 5 1969 Oil and Magna on canvas 63 x 42 in. (160 x 106.7 cm) (each) Courtesy of the estate of Roy Lichtenstein

This is a description of a work by Roy Lichtenstein from 1969 titled “Rouen Cathedral, Set 5”. It is an oil and magna painting on canvas measuring 63 x 42 inches (160 x 106.7 cm) each. It is courtesy of the estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Monet: Water-lilies and Japanese bridge Princeton University Art Museum. From the Collection of William Church Osborn, Class of 1883, trustee of Princeton University (1914-1951), president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1941-1947); given by his family

This describes a Monet painting titled “Water-lilies and Japanese bridge” currently located at the Princeton University Art Museum. It was acquired from the collection of William Church Osborn, who graduated from Princeton in 1883, was a trustee from 1914-1951 and president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1941-1947. It was given to Princeton by Osborn’s family.

Francis Bacon: Three Studies for Portraits (including Self-Portrait) Private Collection/Bridgeman Images. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016

This describes a work by Francis Bacon titled “Three Studies for Portraits (including Self-Portrait)” that is in a private collection. It includes copyright information for the Estate of Francis Bacon.

Burins and Blades found by Denis Peyrony in Bernifal cave, Meyrals, Dordogne, France. Upper Magdalenian, near 12,000 – 10,000 BP. On view at the National Prehistory Museum in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac Photo by Sémhur

This provides information about burins and blades found by Denis Peyrony in the Bernifal cave in Meyrals, Dordogne, France, dating to the Upper Magdalenian period around 12,000-10,000 BP. It notes they are now on view at the National Prehistory Museum in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac and includes a photo credit.

Here is a summary of the key points from the images and texts provided:

  • A model walks the runway at a Charity Water fashion show held at Lincoln Center in 2015, showcasing designs by designer Antii Asplund.

  • An image from Lowe’s shows a concept called the Holoroom, which uses augmented reality for home improvement planning.

  • A photo shows someone wearing the NeoSensory Vest, a device created by Anthropic to augment sensory experiences using electrical stimulation.

  • Images show prototypes for laser skin smoothing devices created by Continuum Innovation.

  • Black and white photos from the 1930s depict early office life, including crowded cubicle farm layouts.

  • Works by artist Jasper Johns featuring flags in different mediums from the 1950s-90s are presented.

  • Student drawings of apples are included, courtesy of Lindsay Esola.

  • Medieval and Renaissance art is depicted, including lions from works by Giacomo Jaquerio and others.

  • Picasso’s Bull plates from different states and Roy Lichtenstein’s Bulls works are presented.

  • An image shows students at Project H’s X-Library workshop building modular library structures.

In summary, the images and excerpt provide visual examples of topics like fashion, technology prototypes, art history, and maker education projects. They help illustrate different concepts and objects discussed in the text.

Here is a summary of the sources provided:

The sources cover a wide range of topics including biographies of historical figures like George Washington Carver, studies on the impacts of arts education and the effects of storytelling curriculums. There are also sources discussing scientific studies on animal genomes like tigers, and innovations in fields like robotics, materials science, and transportation. Literary sources include biographies and works by authors such as Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot and Arthur Conan Doyle. Additional topics covered include the history of inventions like the phonograph, discoveries in visual illusions and neuroscience, evaluations of films, and analyses of innovations in fields like classical music, architecture, and education. Overall, the sources provide diverse perspectives from science, technology, arts, humanities and other domains.

Here are summaries of the sources:

  • “Grind Like Any Other.” Daily Mail. September 3, 2013. Accessed May 11, 2016. A newspaper article from the Daily Mail discussing grinding techniques for meat.

  • Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens. London & Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927.: A biography of Charles Dickens published in 1927.

  • Forsyth, Mark. The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language. New York: Berkley Books, 2012.: A book from 2012 exploring the origins and connections of words in the English language.

  • Fountain, Henry. “At the Printer, Living Tissue.” New York Times. August 18, 2013. Accessed May 5, 2016. A New York Times article about 3D printed living tissue.

  • Frankel, Henry R. The Continental Drift Controversy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.: A book examining the continental drift controversy published by Cambridge in 2012.

  • Fraser, Colin. Harry Ferguson: Inventor & Pioneer. Ipswich: Old Pond Publishing, 1972.: A biography of inventor Harry Ferguson published in 1972.

  • Frazier, O.H., et al. “Continuous-Flow Total Artificial Heart Supports Long-Term Survival of a Calf.” Texas Heart Institute Journal 36, no. 6 (2009): 568–74.: A journal article on artificial hearts.

  • Franklyn, Julian. A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1991.: A dictionary of rhyming slang terms, 2nd edition published in 1991.

  • Freeman, Allyn and Bob Golden. “Why Didn’t I Think of That?: Bizarre Origins of Ingenious Inventions We Couldn’t Live Without.” New York: John Wiley, 1997.: A book about the origins of inventions published in 1997.

Here are summaries of the provided sources:

  • “How Composites and Carbon Fiber Are Used” ( Discusses how composites and carbon fiber are used in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft, focusing on their lightness and strength properties that allow increased fuel efficiency.

  • “Playtime” ( Article by Kent Jones discussing Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime and its complex representations of modern urban life through elaborate sets and physical comedy.

  • “How Immigration and Concerns About Cultural Change Are Shaping the 2016 Election” (PRRI): Report analyzing findings of a survey on how immigration and fears of cultural change are impacting public views and the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Beethoven and the Grosse Fuge (Scarecrow Press): Book examining Beethoven’s difficult late quartet Op. 133 and its musical and conceptual innovations.

  • “‘WarGames’ and Cyber Security’s Debt to a Hollywood Hack” (New York Times): Article discussing the 1983 film WarGames and its influence on public understanding of hacking and cyber security issues.

  • The Nothing That Is (Oxford UP): Book exploring the concept of zero across mathematics, physics, philosophy and other fields.

  • Several articles summarizing research on creativity in various fields such as psychology, neuroscience, innovation, software design, and more.

Here are summaries of the provided sources:

  • Kind of Electricity. Stevenage: Institution of Engineering and Technology, 2009. This source discusses different types of electricity.

  • Malanowski, Susan. “Innovation Incentives: How Companies Foster Innovation.” This article discusses how companies foster innovation through incentives.

  • Manley, Tim. Alice in tumblr-Land and Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation. This is a book that retells fairy tales for a modern generation set on Tumblr.

  • Manzano et al. “Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box: Thalamic Dopamine D2 Receptor Densities Are Negatively Related to Psychometric Creativity in Healthy Individuals.” This study looks at the relationship between creativity and thalamic dopamine receptor densities.

  • Markoff, John. “Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center.” This article discusses Microsoft’s project to test an underwater data center.

  • Markoff, John. “Xerox Seeks Erasable Form of Paper for Copiers.” This article discusses Xerox’s efforts to develop erasable paper for photocopiers.

  • Márquez, Gabriel García, and Edith Grossman. Living to Tell the Tale. This is a memoir by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.

  • Martin, Rachel. “Biomimicry: From Adaptations to Inventions.” This lesson plan discusses biomimicry and how adaptations inspire inventions.

  • Martindale, Colin. The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change. This book examines patterns of change in the arts.

The summaries continue in the same format for the remaining sources. Let me know if you need any of the other summaries elaborated on.

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About Matheus Puppe