The one-sentence summary

Ideas come from sheer persistence, but only when we relax, so if you work hard enough on something, and focus on not being focused, there will eventually be an unconcealing.


  • This book is all about how creativity works and the profound mysteries of creative thought. How do you measure the imagination, or quantify an epiphany? New research has improved our understanding.
  • Muses, higher powers and creative ‘types’ are myths – creativity is not a ‘gift’ that only some of us possess – it’s a catch-all for a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.
  • It’s only after we’ve stopped searching for an answer that it arrives.
  • The left hemisphere of the brain handles denotation – the literal meaning of words – and the right handles connotation – all the possible meanings that can’t be found in a dictionary.
  • Breakthroughs follow a ‘stumped phase’ in which the brain has looked for answers but not found any.
  • Trying to force an insight can often actually prevent the insight – ideas usually arrive when the mind is distracted or allowed to relax. That’s why mind-altering drugs often lead to greater creativity (think poets and musicians). So you should focus on not being focused.
  • The brain has a short-term storage section (the prefrontal cortex), which is a working memory. This captures fleeting thoughts ready for joining together for a breakthrough.
  • Ideas come from sheer persistence. If you work hard enough on something, there will eventually be an unconcealing, in which you ‘suddenly’ get it. Art is work.
  • Ideas occur best in ‘third places’ – neither the home nor the office.
  • Cities generate more ideas than anywhere else – the bigger they are, the more this accelerates to generate superlinear growth.


  • Bootlegging Hour allows employees to work on non-company stuff for a while to see what they come up with.
  • Conceptual blending finds an overlap between seemingly unrelated thoughts – making separate ideas coexist in the mind is crucial.
  • Research shows that people who are easily distracted are 7 times more creative. This is because they absorb more stimuli and therefore have a greater chance of making unusual connections.
  • If you paint the walls blue, people get more creative because it reminds them of the sky and sea, so they relax more.
  • Feelings of knowing are our ability to assess that we can find the answer even if we don’t have it right now – as in “it’s on the tip of my tongue”.
  • Travel makes you more creative because it makes you realise that there are many possible ways of doing things.
  • Creative solutions are more likely with people who have social intimacy – people who know a lot of diverse people make the best teams.
  • In brainstorms or idea generation sessions, plussing is better than “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” – “plus, we could do x.”


  • Nothing. This is great stuff.