Book Review: Defying The Crowd

Defying The Crowd:  Cultivating Creativity In A Culture Of Conformity, by Robert J. Sternberg & Todd I. Lubart

How does one cultivate creativity?  This is a problem I have wrestled with in reading dozens of books on the subject.  One of the authors of this book at least is an expert on creativity, and if this book gets a few things wrong (such as its judgments on Galileo and why he was brought before the Inquisition), and if the book also regurgitates some of previous works I have read by one of the authors, there is a lot that is valuable here.  The authors affirm that all people have the capacity for creativity in at least some ways and situations and that this capacity for creativity is seldom realized to the extent possible because it is not encouraged.  Enough people are smart enough to realize that their creativity is not welcome that they simply don’t exercise it, leaving only those too stubborn to choke off their creativity to resist the pull of the crowd.  And generally speaking, if you are going the way of the crowd, you can be sure that it is the wrong way to be going in the first place.

This book is about 300 pages long and divided into eleven chapters.  After a preface, the authors discuss the nature of creativity by examining questions of intelligence, knowledge, thinking styles, personality, motivation, and environmental context (1).  After that the authors discuss what creativity is and who needs it (2).  The author discusses the investment approach to creativity by which one buys low by supporting unpopular opinions and then sells high when they achieve greater popularity and moving on to more obscure areas to work on (3).  The authors discuss the implications of this view of creativity (4) in requiring skill in recognizing the right unpopular ideas to support and the persistence and courage to deal with that unpopularity.  The next few chapters then discuss the role of intelligence (5), knowledge (7), personality (8), motivation (9), and the environment (10) to creativity, sometimes rehashing earlier work and discussing the differences, for example, between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as well as the tolerance to ambiguity and the willingness to grow and matters of creativity as they relate to different types of business organizations.  After all of this the authors include a chapter that seeks to put it all together in discussing about the creative spirit and its implications (11) before the book closes with an epilogue, references, and an index.

The aspects of intelligence that the author talks about are numerous.  The author appears to hold a multi-factor view of intelligence, which is connected to a multi-factor view of creativity.  The author also, unsurprisingly, discusses his multi-factor view of love (in which he talks about his own tendency to get in a rut when it comes to creating three-sided conceptual models, as he did in his book on love).  The end result is a book that reminds all of us that we resist change even if we happen to be creative in some aspects, and helps us as a result to be more understanding to others who may be suspicious of our own creativity.  In looking at defying the crowd, the authors’ encouragement to all of us to overcome ourselves and our own tendencies to resist change and to squelch the creativity of others is advice that should be well heeded.  Those who read this book and appreciate it are going to view themselves as being creative people and outside of the normal herd anyway, so it is vital that people examine themselves and keep themselves from being the enemy of the creative potential of other people in their lives as they have the power to do so.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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