December 19th, 2007

_Group Genius_, Keith Sawyer

Subtitled _The Creative Power of Collaboration_, this is not quite as entertaining or enlightening as Surowiecki's _The Wisdom of Crowds_ and covers some of the same ground. Sawyer did grad work under the guy who wrote Flow (cut and paste from Amazon sez Csikszentmihalyi but don't hold me to it; my linguistic skills just are not that good). He video'd a bunch of improv people and then slowed it way down and did analysis on the result. In this book, he takes those conclusions, and a lot of maybe not wholly accurate summaries of the way various businesses got started/were successful/were innovative and gins up a simple thesis: the lone genius/single spark theory of where creativity, ideas and innovation come from is wrong wrong wrong and leads to bad policy both in industry and government.

Straightforward, slightly better than average for a business book, not as good as what I expect from narrative non-fiction. Took me a long time to finish, because everything else was more appealing. (Including Ruddiman, who in turn was repeatedly interrupted. Heck, even _Twinkie_ went by faster, and _that_ was repeatedly interrupted.)

I'm reading more in this subject area, more persistently than I otherwise would, because when I Was Very Small, there were two things I did very poorly on: handwriting (ha!) and Plays Well With Others. I long ago abandoned handwriting (altho I occasionally contemplate attempting calligraphy as a project, it is unlikely to ever get off the ground), but Playing Well With Others is clearly worth being able to do. Since I have no native skill, I'm stuck learning it the hard way.

Read Surowiecki's book first. If you're still interested, this is an acceptable follow-up.