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Applied Imagination

By Alex Osborn

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2014 by Michael C. Gray

In order to be competitive in the world marketplace, we must develop creative thinking as a basic skill. We see that children have great imaginations and creativity but traditional education seems to beat it out of them. Our public education system emphasizes basic skills, which is traditionally the "three Rs": reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic. Even including science is considered something supplemental. We mostly reward and recognize students who are great at memorizing facts.

A classic great creative skills textbook has actually been available since 1953. Alex F. Osborn, cofounder of the BBDO advertising agency wrote Applied Imagination. It was used as a textbook for creative thinking courses in corporations like General Electric and at some American Universities. The royalties from Osborn's books were used to support the Creative Education Foundation, which he founded and still is active in promoting creative thinking, including publishing a quarterly journal and initiating an annual creative thinking conference.

Alex Osborn developed brainstorming as a technique for groups to generate ideas. The technique is fully explained in this book.

Applied Imagination includes many other approaches for developing ideas either individually or in groups. Ideas can be developed for entirely new items or for improvement or modification of existing items. Some of the different ways of looking at a problem are adaptation, modification, substitution, maximizing, multiplying, minifying, omitting, dividing, alternative sequences, alternative combinations, and more.

Osborn didn't claim the text was complete, but hoped it would inspire students to get started and possibly develop their own ways to generate ideas.

A key concept for generating ideas is to avoid judgment or evaluation of the ideas as they are initially generated. Just generate as many as you can as fast as you can. The group leader mostly keeps the group focused on the issue or problem for which ideas are being generated. After a brainstorming session, the participants should be encouraged to submit any additional ideas that come to them after the session.

At a later time, the ideas can be tested and evaluated for their usefulness. Osborn recommended that the people who evaluate the ideas should ideally be different from the people who generated them. The people who generated them may be too invested in them to objectively evaluate them.

Creative thinking is an essential skill for personal success, success of organizations and our competitiveness. It would be great to see it included as a core subject in our universities. Applied Imagination remains an invaluable reference for building personal creativeness and creativeness in our organizations.

Buy it on Amazon: Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving: Third Revised Edition.

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There are a few books of basic wisdom that endure for generations. George S. Clason's book, The Richest Man In Babylon, is one of them.


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Michael Gray, CPA
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