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Book Review:The Myths of Innovation

By Sara Bedal |

Title: The Myths of Innovation
Authors: Scott Berkun
Publisher: O'Reilly
ISBN: 978-1-449-38962-8

If you missed this bestseller when it was first published in 2007, then you'll want to pick up this paperback edition-especially if you've ever questioned the clichés that surround the creative process.

As its title implies, the book takes several preconceived notions about innovation and, one by one, pokes holes in them. Berkun contends that the idea of the lone inventor is a myth, for instance. "Innovations rarely involve someone working alone," he says, "and never in history has an invention been made without reusing ideas from the past."

He also puts little faith in "Eureka!" moments: "The dirty little secret," he says, "is that unlike the mythical epiphany, real creation is sloppy." He proceeds to tell us how Beethoven frantically scribbled his ideas on tree trunks; that Picasso used eight notebooks in formulating his ideas for Guernica, the mural he painted during the Spanish Civil War; and that WD-40 was named for the 40 attempts it took to perfect the water-displacing formula.

The Myths of Innovation is a compelling read because of Berkun's exhaustive research on the history of ideas and how masters of creativity have managed innovation. It's also generously infused with his quirky sense of humour (not surprisingly, Berkun is described on his website as a "kick-ass speaker") and references to relatively recent innovations such as the personal computer, web browser and Craigslist.

But if you really want to cut to the creative chase, be sure to read two of the four new chapters in this edition. One-"Creative thinking hacks"-- promises to help anyone, with effort, to become more creative at anything, anytime. The other, "How to stay motivated" covers the big incentives to motivation such as anger, necessity, pride, fun-and yes, even death.

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