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Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas

Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas - Richard Ogle Have you ever wished you were more creative? I certainly have and not just because it would be awesome if I could draw. As a grad student, one of the most challenging aspects of research is being able to come up with creative new ways to solve problem. As in many fields, that makes creativity not just a hobby, but a career promoting skill. This book is a synthesis of the latest research related to creativity, particularly major breakthroughs and works of artistic genius.

As a scientist myself, I appreciate and trust non-fiction based on research, so I had high hopes for this one. Smart World looks at creativity from a network perspective, viewing geniuses as people particularly gifted at navigating a network of ideas. And yes… that is as abstract as it sounds. Fortunately, as a computer science major, I was pretty comfortable reading a book where each chapter applies a concept from traditional networks to the the author’s proposed “idea space”. Unfortunately, the author supported his assertion with entirely anecdotal evidence that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. He also provided very little of the practical advice I hoped would follow the introduction of his theory.

As you might expect from a book that’s heavy on theory, Smart World was written in a very academic fashion. Occasionally aspects of the author’s theory were thought-provoking and made me think about how I do research. Those were the high points. The rest of the time the author’s rules for network behavior were so abstract they were hard to think about in any meaningful way. As a final disappointment, his section intended to give more applicable advice was very short and not very helpful. I therefore finished the book feeling like it presented a novel but essentially useless way of looking at the world.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.