In the Humantific Innovation Archives, we have many of the early books and papers from the history of creative thinking, applied imagination, applied creativity, creative problem solving, systems thinking, human intelligence, learning styles, structure of the intellect, etc.
From time to time we will post a few examples here, as these early materials contain many gems in spite of the fact that the world has changed a great deal since they first appeared.
This book How to Think UP, by Alex Osborn, is an early example, as it was published in 1942.
For those interested in understanding such history, these books are wonderful windows into the early thinking based on the context that existed at that time.
At Humantific, we have great respect for this early work, as we all stand on the shoulders of this history whether we know it or not. Written at a different time, we do not have to agree with everything in the materials to appreciate these works.
The early pioneers of creative thinking methods were primarily focused on jumpstarting idea creation, and not on complex challenge/opportunity framing—not on the research and visual sense-making that would now occur as part of framing.
Seeking to encourage imagination, many of these early works are incredibly optimistic regarding American ingenuity and the challenges facing the country and the world. Here, one can see the seeds of the early “everyone can be creative” philosophy, where it came from, and how it was first applied.
Here are a few quotes from How to Think UP:
“When necessity reaches a crisis, the crisis cries out for ideas. American ingenuity is rising to the challenge.”
“Some of life’s stony problems can be cleared away by outside science, others by judgment, but most of them by ideas.”
“Ideas are the priceless keys to good living.”
“The more ideas we can think up, the more satisfying our lives will be.”
“Even old folks can think up things when they try.”
“There is no royal road to creation. The production of ideas can never be a science but will always be an art.”
“Too many employers just ask for ideas without specifying what about. Occasionally a problem is assigned, and ideas are asked for within that limit. Or employees are set to work in a group and asked to think up together. But, by and large, rank-and-file people are nearly always invited simply to pick their own subject and to do their brain-storming on their own.”
“Who can think up ideas? You and every other normally intelligent person. But you have to try.”
“Everybody loves to be a critic or a judge. Judicial judgment calls for no great mental sweat.”
“Ideas more than luck will land the job you want.”
And the all time classic: “If you can’t originate an idea, think up how someone else’s good idea can be turned into a better idea.”
Of course, it is equally interesting to reflect upon the context in which these early works were created.
In the introduction, by Bruce Barton of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Inc., he writes: “There is so little literature that might help Americans in their endeavor to think up more ideas for the war effort that I persuaded Mr. Osborn to send this manuscript to a publisher. I hope a large number will be circulated in American offices and plants.”
While some innovation consultants remain focused, even today, on ideation techniques, most operating in the realm of organizational and social change understand that much more is now required.
We are, at Humantific, always interested in the past, present and future of innovation. One of our internal projects underway involves researching and constructing a visual timeline that combines the history of the applied creativity movement and the history of the design thinking movement. If anyone else out there is working on such projects please feel free to let us know.
Image Source: Osborn, Alex. How to Think Up! New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book, First Edition, Second Impression, 1942. Humantific Collection, New York.