As a technology pioneer at MIT and as the leader of three successful start-ups, Kevin Ashton experienced firsthand the all-consuming challenge of creating something new. Now, in a tour-de-force narrative twenty years in the making, Ashton leads us on a journey through humanity’s greatest creations to uncover the surprising truth behind who creates and how they do it. From the crystallographer’s laboratory where the secrets of DNA were first revealed by a long forgotten woman, to the electromagnetic chamber where the stealth bomber was born on a twenty-five-cent bet, to the Ohio bicycle shop where the Wright brothers set out to “fly a horse,” Ashton showcases the seemingly unremarkable individuals, gradual steps, multiple failures, and countless ordinary and usually uncredited acts that lead to our most astounding breakthroughs.
Creators, he shows, apply in particular ways the everyday, ordinary thinking of which we are all capable, taking thousands of small steps and working in an endless loop of problem and solution. He examines why innovators meet resistance and how they overcome it, why most organizations stifle creative people, and how the most creative organizations work. Drawing on examples from art, science, business, and invention, from Mozart to the Muppets, Archimedes to Apple, Kandinsky to a can of Coke, How to Fly a Horse is a passionate and immensely rewarding exploration of how “new” comes to be.
Ashton wastes no time debunking the creativity myth, explaining in the preface to this book (his first) why creativity is not the domain of a select few individuals but the result of hard work by anyone willing to put in the effort. A pioneer in radio-frequency identification networks, the author coined the phrase "the Internet of things" and is no stranger to the topic of innovation. His theory that everybody is capable of creating applies to individuals as diverse as a 19th-century slave who at the age of 12 discovered how to fertilize vanilla flowers, Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the rock band Fleetwood Mac, and the Wright Brothers (whose attempts to develop "a bicycle with wings" inspired the title of the book). Ashton explores common barriers to creativity, including fear of failure and aversion to change. While he belabors some points and indulges in unexpected pep talks, the author's detailed account of the origins of Coca-Cola, for instance, makes for fascinating reading, as does his shorter synopsis of Apple's evolution. Many examples come from the medical and science fields, but taken collectively, the creations documented in this thought-provoking book prove that creative power resides in us all.
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Absolutely ridiculous. Insanely amazing.