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Sowing seeds of creativity
Published on Friday, 03 Jun 2011

Much has been said and written about the importance of creativity in today's business world, but few books are able to make readers creative.

Not even the author of Creative Genius: An Innovation Guide for Business Leaders, Border Crossers and Game Changers could bring us closer to the goal. "No book can promise to make you a `creative genius'," he concedes.

So what can Peter Fisk, former CEO of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, offer with his 386 pages?

In the first part of the book, the author explains the concept of "thinking from the future back", starting with Leonardo da Vinci, who was "ahead of his time".

Citing psychologist Michael Gelb's study on da Vinci, Fisk points out seven traits that made the latter "see the future", or attain "creativity", as he conceives it: relentless curiosity, seeing more, thinking bigger, making connections, embracing paradox, courageous action and enlightened mind.

To sensible readers, there seems to be an overlap of ideas. In fact, Fisk's explanations reveal that making differentiations is not an easy task.

I doubt that taking a notebook with you - "small and without lines, so that it is more portable and less restrained" - could stimulate your curiosity.

In the following chapters, Fisk endeavours to explain "creativity" in a serious and somehow metaphysical way, exploring with real-life examples ideas such as "time and space", and "whitespaces and greyspaces".

The author's analysis of "creativity" in Chapter 7 is somewhat unimpressive. For instance, he writes that "until the 1900s, creativity was thought of as a gift, an inherent ability, rather than something that we could all learn and embrace. It was Alex Osborn who made creativity an applied science, and therefore much more useful to business."

Had Fisk read Immanuel Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment, published in 1790, he would have rewritten these sentences or even the whole chapter.

Creative Genius, however, could pass for a practical reference book, so long as readers start from Part 2 - "The ideas factory" - or go through each chapter individually. In Part 3, for instance, he starts discussing how a "creative" idea, be it a product, service or even managerial practice, comes to life.

Fisk, who has been working closely with big corporations, such as British Airways, American Express, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Marks & Spencer, shows off his marketing know-how in Part 4 - "The impact zone" - which provides tips on how to launch a product or execute an effective strategy.

Those who want to broaden their knowledge in business practices would not be disappointed with the book, as Fisk has covered a wide array of case studies, from Virgin Galactic, Shigeru Miyamoto, Pixar, Samsung, Ferrari, 3M, Disney and IBM to James Dyson, Paul Smith, Damien Hirst, Banksy and Steve Jobs. Those who want to find out the latest market trends would not be disappointed either. The book does not lack insights into today's global market.

Overall, "the context for innovation is perhaps more important than the innovation", as Fisk puts it, but some readers may choose to believe that the context for reading a book is perhaps more important than the book itself.

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