Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Berger, The Book of Beautiful Questions

In 2014 Warren Berger wrote A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. He has now followed that up with The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018).

Let’s look briefly at some of the questions we might ask regarding a creative endeavor. First, to find “our big idea” we could ask: What stirs me? What bugs me? What’s missing? What do I keep coming back to? What is ripe for reinvention?

In order to see potential creative opportunities that “are all around,” we have to see the world differently. Here we can ask: What might I notice if I were encountering this for the first time? What is in the background? What here would fascinate a five-year-old? What would Seinfeld be amused by? What would Steve Jobs be frustrated by?

If you’re having trouble getting started on a creative project, Berger suggests that you ask six questions: Am I chasing butterflies? (“Meaning you keep thinking of new ideas instead of moving forward with an existing project.”) Who will hold me accountable? Am I rearranging the bookshelves? (“This refers to the act of ‘preparing to create.’ It may involve setting up a workspace, taking lessons, or doing research—each of which is fine until the point it becomes a stall tactic.”) How can I lower the bar? What if I begin anywhere? Can I make a prototype?

Berger’s book is not, of course, merely a list of questions. The questions serve to distill the points Berger makes in the text, where, understandably, he relies heavily on the work of others. He chooses his sources wisely, based on their own creativity and insights.

For instance, Ann Patchett’s description of the painful transition from a beautiful idea to the “stark disappointment” of the written word: “I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region in my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing—all the color, the light and movement—is gone.” In its place is a creation that “rarely measures up to the vision.”

Or Adam Grant’s five stages of the creative process “that tend to trigger different emotional responses in the creator. The energized, optimistic feeling at stage 1 (‘This is awesome!’) is followed by a more realistic stage 2 (‘This is tricky’). Then comes the dreaded stage 3 (‘This is crap’), followed immediately by stage 4 (‘I’m crap’). If the creator somehow crawls out of that pit, they work their way to stage 5 (‘This might be okay’), and finally arrive at completion, stage 6 (‘This is awesome!’).”

I’ll end this post with another quotation, which makes an important, well-documented point. According to Dean Keith Simonton, “Creativity is a consequence of sheer productivity. If a creator wants to increase the production of hits, he or she must do so by risking a parallel increase in the production of misses…. The most successful creators tend to be those with the most failures.”

I suspect that Berger’s book will be a hit.

No comments:

Post a Comment