The one sentence summary

If you want to become a genius at something, you need a theoretical framework, a set of guiding principles, and a lot of dedication.


  • There is no such thing as accidental genius. Anyone who gets there does so by design. You need a theoretical framework, a basic compass, and a set of guiding principles.
  • The concerns of a genius fall into 3 main areas:
  1. Originality (applied imagination)
  2. Craft (mastery of tools)
  3. Efficiency (getting things done)
  • Work hardest on your weakest area (often, it’s getting thing done)
  • You can wish for what you want by asking questions such as “How might I…?”, “What’s stopping us from…?”, “In what ways could I…?” and “What would happen if…?”
  • Feel before you think, see what’s not there, and ask bigger questions.
  • Frame problems tightly by writing a problem statement, listing the constraints and affordances (creative possibilities), and describing success.
  • Approach answers obliquely by thinking in metaphors or pictures, and stealing from other domains.
  • When the right idea comes along, wait for the jolt. It should be disorientating, it should kill ten birds with one stone, and it will need to be proved. If not, it’s not original enough.


  • In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
  • Design quickly, decide slowly. Use a linear process for static elements, and a dynamic one for reactive ones. Make prototypes. When you move directly from knowing to doing, you miss out the vital making
  • The enemy of simplicity isn’t complexity, it’s disorder. Test elements by removing them one by one, discard needless features, and align elements behind a single purpose.
  • Learn how to learn. Start with curiosity, not belief.
  • Do your own projects to stay in the swing. Keep a hero file of work and ideas you admire.
  • Be yourself – everyone else is taken.
  • Practice hard, stay focused, and just concentrate on the next step.
  • Embrace messiness.


  • As with all books of this type, it recommends that you both break the rules and make your own.