Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

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Creativity has long been thought to be an individual gift, best pursued alone; schools, organizations, and whole industries are built on this idea. But what if the most common beliefs about how creativity works are wrong? Group Genius tears down some of the most popular myths about creativity, revealing that creativity is always collaborative-even when you’re alone. Sharing the results of his own acclaimed research on jazz groups, theater ensembles, and conversation analysis, Keith Sawyer shows us how to be more creative in collaborative group settings, how to change organizational dynamics for the better, and how to tap into our own reserves of creativity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Forget about "the myth of the solitary genius": collaborative effort generates ideas and inventions, says this useful, upbeat book about how "innovation always emerges from a series of sparks-never a single flash of insight." Judiciously wielding exercises and dozens of examples, Sawyer (Explaining Creativity) helps the reader understand how people think and function in and out of groups. He looks at how J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis composed their epic novels in concert, how unorganized individuals can come together to provide disaster relief more efficiently than government planners, how Charles Darwin and Samuel Morse built their work on others' discoveries, how information sharing helped Silicon Valley beat out Boston's computer startups. (Sawyer's riffs on jazz ensembles and improv comedy as sites of ingenuity are less convincing.) Basing much of his work on that of mentor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi-who writes about reaching the state of heightened consciousness he calls "flow"-Sawyer offers guidelines for creating "group flow." Insisting that "collaborative webs are more important than creative people," he calls for an "organizational culture that fosters equivocality, improvised innovation, and constant conversation-that's a recipe for group genius." Even if few readers are in a position to do away with their organizational chart, this is a solid recipe for "unexpected innovation." (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465071937
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/3/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 630,974
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith Sawyer is Associate Professor of Education and of Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, has designed video games for Atari, and lectures frequently to both academic and business audiences. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Beyond the Lone Genius     ix
The Collaborative Team
The Power of Collaboration     3
Improvising Innovation     21
Group Flow     39
From Groupthink to Group Genius     59
The Collaborative Mind
Small Sparks     77
Collaboration over Time     99
Conversation and the Mind     127
The Collaborative Organization
Organizing for Improvisation     153
The Collaborative Web     179
Collaborating with Customers     203
Creating the Collaborative Economy     219
Acknowledgments     227
Notes     229
About the Author     257
Index     259
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Many of the world¿s greatest innovations are tied to the names o

    Many of the world’s greatest innovations are tied to the names of famous people – like Mozart, Einstein, JRR Tolkien, and Steve Jobs. They’re the geniuses, right? What is often overlooked is the community that nurtured the individuals and provided the conversation and collaboration necessary to develop their ideas. As you may have guessed, this book explores the genius of groups. Author Keith Sawyer believes that it is collaborative process, not simply the Aha! moment that holds the key to true creativity and innovation.

    In Group Genius, Sawyer explores how collaboration sparks the trail of ideas that eventually lead to innovation. He shares his passion for jazz and improvisational theatre as examples of how people build off each other and create products that are better than could ever been done alone. I’ve experienced this and it’s beautiful. What I found exceptionally interesting was how authors like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis depended on the culture fostered by their university to create their masterpieces. Not much a writer, I had previously thought of that realm of expression as very solitary.

    I think many people would find this book fascinating. People who are interested in creativity may really benefit from the practical framework he offers to infuse an innovative culture throughout their company. On the basis of his extensive research since the 1990s, Sawyer has identified seven key characteristics of effective teams, but prepare for some hard truths and big changes! I’d love to see people work more collaboratively…. I hope the message of this book is shared with many. There are plenty of examples of how it will make for a better future!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2007

    Collaborating multiplies your creativity

    As befits its subject matter, this is a lively and innovative book, which uses many examples drawn from the worlds of jazz and improvisational theater, as well as from creative writing, cycling, banking and computer technology. Keith Sawyer doesn¿t stop at telling stories, though he also supports his ideas with solid evidence. In well-organized chapters, complete with summaries and checklists, he debunks common beliefs about the nature of creativity ¿ primarily, the myth that you need to be an isolated genius to succeed. Instead, he argues that innovation is most often the result of collaboration. Sawyer overreaches in some instances: He does not fully explain why some individuals are so much more creative than others in the same ¿collaborative web,¿ or why some individuals can produce revolutionary ideas in relative isolation. However, that¿s a quibble, since Sawyer tackles a complex and slippery topic and comes up with some genuinely new insights. We recommend this book to managers and members of workplace teams, and executives who wish to encourage creative thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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