Business Book Classic: Creativity in Business

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For a long time, we didn’t have to worry about business book “classics” because there just weren’t that many business books. Today gazillions of business books are published every year. Some are great, others are horrid, and the vast majority are mediocre. It’s the bell curve at work.

That’s why it’s worth going back to some high quality business classics. I call a business book a classic if it was first published more than twenty-five years ago and is still worth reading. In this post I review Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course That Has Revolutionized the Art of Success by Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers.

Creativity and innovation are hot topics in business today. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago, most MBA programs focused almost exclusively on courses in quantitative methods.

Today, Stanford is famous for the business school’s creativity course. Professor Tina Seelig teaches it. She’s even taught a MOOC to 44,000 students. She’s given a TED talk and written a book, inGenius. But hers isn’t the first Stanford course on creativity as applied to business. That one was taught by Michael Ray and Rochelle Meyers for the first time in the spring of 1981.

Dr. Ray had worked in the advertising business and he’d been fascinated by creativity since early in his career. He met Rochelle Meyers in 1975. She was a painter and a violinist and interested in helping individuals develop creativity. They decided to team teach a course to students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where Michael Ray was on the faculty. That course was titled “Creativity in Business.”

What’s in the book

The book is divided into three sections and ten chapters. Here’s a brief overview.

Section one is titled “Essence.” There’s only one chapter, titled “Business as Art,” but it’s really important to the rest of the book. The core idea in the chapter and the book is that business is an art form where creativity is at least as important as quantitative analysis.

The second section is entitled “Preparation.” There are four chapters.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Surrender
Destroy Judgement, Create Curiosity
Pay Attention
Ask Dumb Questions

The final section is called “Inspiration and Implementation.” There are five chapters in this section.

Do Only What Is Easy, Effortless, And Enjoyable
Don’t Think About It
Ask Yourself If It’s a Yes or a No
Be Ordinary
Be in The World but Not of It

Why read this book?

With all the books on creativity that are out there today, you might wonder how many books on creativity we need. The answer to that one is simple. You only need the ones that help you. This one helped me a lot and still does.

One reason is that I’m dead center in the bullseye for the book’s target reader. Even though I always had broad interests, wrote fiction and poetry and studied music, my business education was entirely quantitative. Like many other people at the time, when I got my business degree I was sure that, with enough equations, I could make anything work. It didn’t take long for me to learn (often painfully) the things that are wrong with that idea.

I like this book because it matches what I’ve learned about how business and creativity come together. The top leaders that I’ve researched and known in business practice art as much as any painter. They take the tools that are available and use them to achieve excellent results. It’s all about resources, possibilities, and results.

I like the fact that this book is explicitly connected to business. Most of the other books I’ve read on creativity, including the very good ones, discuss creativity and then at some point make a connection to business. In Creativity in Business, the connection to business is visible not just in every chapter, but on just about every page. You’ll find examples, quotes, and insights from businesspeople throughout the book.

Bottom line

If you’re in business and you haven’t yet found “the book,” on creativity that makes a difference in your life and work, check this book out. It’s full of good stuff. You won’t just find things about business, you’ll find some other things that may help you in other aspects of life. That’s a bonus. The title of the book is Creativity in Business, and that’s what it really is about.

Now it’s your turn

What books would you nominate as business book classics?


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