Wick Communications

Facebook makes you smart

In Books on 27 Apr 2012 at 8:48 am

I have not yet read Jonah Lehrer’s book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” but I sure have read a lot about it and the interesting nuggets found in the popular press speak volumes.

Lehrer is a journalist and a neuroscientist … boy, aren’t those a dime a dozen! Lehrer writes about all kinds of interesting things, including what our cell phone addictions are doing to us and the importance of finding time to relax. But here is what I thought was most interesting for us: Creating a diverse network of acquaintances can help us innovate and be more creative.

Well, duh. That is a pretty intuitive thought, don’t you think? If you are a jazz musician, you are more likely to make great jazz if you know other musicians from different cultures who bring something strange and new to the sonic palate. Makes sense.

But we tend to think of genius – that of Steve Jobs or Shakespeare or Beethoven – as a singular spark, something that is special about them.

To contradict that notion, Lehrer notes the study of Stanford Business School professor Martin Ruef. In 1999, Reuf studied the lives of 766 entrepreneurs. He found that one of the most reliable predictors of entrepreneurial success was a diverse social network. What he means is innovative men and women don’t just relate well to a small group of friends, but rather reach out to a much larger network of acquaintances who cause them to work beyond their comfort zones. …

So where am I going with this? I think Lehrer’s research argues that reporters and editors work smartest when they interview new people, seek unfamiliar sources on Facebook and Twitter, socialize with people who are not family or colleagues. I think it speaks to the value of networks like LinkedIn, that connect you with people who are only tenuously connected. Innovation rarely comes from a rut or comfort.

Lehrer offers a bunch of insights that could be meaningful to us. If you want to read more, there are interviews and summaries all over the Web. Search for him. I plan to read the book, too.



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