Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Accidental Creative (Book Review)

I am currently reading Todd Henry’s new book The Accidental Creative. I have been a subscriber to his podcast (also called The Accidental Creative) for several months and pre-ordered the book as a result of what Todd had to say during those podcasts that preceded the publication of his book. His podcasts are engaging and always left me with something to think about. A few prompted more investigation into the topics he discussed. They are definitely worth checking out.

In truth, I wasn’t entirely convinced that the book would be a worthwhile read but ultimately decided to purchase it because I admired the quality of the messaging Todd created around the book—if you enjoy a good marketing campaign it is worthwhile to look at how Todd marketed this book. There was something about the consistency and creativity behind the messaging in the podcasts that resonated with me. It left me with the impression that the quality of information in the book would be high even if that content turned out to be a repeat of the podcasts.

I am happy to say that the book has not disappointed. The podcasts complement, rather than repeat, what is in the book. Reading Todd’s book has provided me more insightful and thought provoking material on creativity.

The bulk of the book describes a framework that Todd says will help sustain creativity over the long term. I love frameworks because of the consistency they provide and because of the insight they can provide if you aren’t dogmatic when applying them. Todd’s framework was refreshing because it is well rounded and brings together elements that he says positively affect your ability to sustain creativity over the long term. I haven’t seen an approach like Todd’s associated with creativity before—much of what I have read on creativity has come from Edward de Bono.

I like a couple of Edward’s books but his focus on thinking and creativity uses an entirely different approach from Todd’s. Todd does quote Edward in one of the chapters so it is possible that Edward’s work influenced Todd’s. I view Edward’s books as being focused more on methods that improve your thinking and therefore your creativity whereas Todd’s book takes more of a whole life approach that addresses sustainability. You could liken Edward’s approach as the building blocks and Todd’s as a way to leverage those building blocks consistently over the long term.

I won’t describe Todd’s framework other than to say that it held two valuable insights for me—there are many other insights in the book but these two were the most valuable for me. The first insight was the idea around the use of his framework with other frameworks. The second was how to create relationships to improve your creativity.

In the former, Todd mentions using his framework with other frameworks. He makes some comments on his use of David Allen’s Getting Things Done but doesn’t go into detail on how to integrate the two frameworks. It was encouraging to find that Todd uses Getting Things Done and that the ideas in his book could be integrated into Getting Things Done. One of Todd’s podcasts includes a discussion with David Allen on using Getting Things Done to improve creativity. That podcast is an excellent resource to get yourself thinking about how David’s ideas and creativity work together.

In the later, Todd devotes a whole chapter to the value of relationships and provides concrete ideas on how to get more value out of your relationships to improve your creativity. I like the ideas presented in this chapter because one of the things I’ve struggled with increasing the diversity of my own network and engendering discussions with people who share the same interests and level engagement in the things that really fascinate me. I’m not convinced that I’ll use the AC Circle idea but I certainly think that this is a valuable way to approach the problem. AC Circles is a program that encourages people to meet and discuss ideas related to improving and maintaining their creativity.

I am interested in hearing from anyone that has started or participated in a circle as described in the chapter on relationships. This is an area of the framework that I recognize as valuable but also recognize as potentially difficult to carry out—I can see it working well in something like a writing workshop or in a team where people share a common idea around the need to being creative but I currently lack the insight into how to apply this effectively.

I think the key value provided by this book is the framework Todd provides for sustaining your creativity. Like many of these types of frameworks two things are apparent: you can pick and choose elements you want to lesser effect or you can embrace the framework and try and achieve the full benefit of it. You choose.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable and easy read that focuses on what you need to apply in order to sustain your creativity. Like all frameworks they are only as valuable as the amount of effort you put into them. I haven’t started applying his ideas yet, but I am encouraged by what I’m reading and looking forward to finishing the book and learning more of his approach.

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