In this month’s Building Better Business Bookclub, we’ve been reading Creative Acts for Curious People by Sarah Stein Greenberg. This is, I think, a rather exceptional book. It’s not written with the usual structure of a business book. It’s not a book you will read from cover to cover. You won’t find a story that catches your imagination as you turn the pages. This is a book that invites you to be active; it invites you to undertake exercises as part of assignments (collections of actions that lead to a specific outcome) within its pages that you can work through.
It is a book that I’ve been using for a month now as part of the book club’s monthly “read”, but it’s not really about the reading so much as the action! It is, as the title suggests, about being curious about exploring our individual creativity in a way that you can’t do in a “cover to cover” story-based business book. The assignments were interesting, allowing readers to explore different aspects that have relevance to them.
I’ll give you a flavour. One assignment is about “working well with others” – it contains about 10 of the exercises in the book. The initial assignment I chose was “making sense of your insights”, which has seven exercises within it. In one of those exercises, the book invited us to look at the picture at the head of this post.
The exercise asked me to write about why the girl was reaching to that high shelf and standing on a chair. We are invited to use verbs rather than nouns and to pick one of those verbs and explore it in more detail.
Here’s my response:
The girl on a chair needs to stretch, to grow, to cook, to listen, and be tidy. From those verbs, I chose “to listen”.
Why does she need to listen? I pondered. On her other chair, the headphones wait, powered on and linked to her smartphone. She also wants to read as she hears the words. To notice not just the content, but the nuance of the speech. She needs to help her mind make connections; finding her own place in the story. This girl is a little lost; lonely. Seeking solace in another’s voice and wisdom, and friendship in their narrative. Together, they make a new and happier world – the one that she is reaching for at that moment on the chair.
I found that exercise powerful. I had no idea when I started where my mind would take me, nor where my imagination would lead. Nor had I any anticipation of the insights it would bring. Of course, that’s the point of the assignment. I realised that I could do this with an “image” of my business. That “image” might even be a page from my profit and loss account. I can just explore where my mind will go and by writing it down and seeing those insights, I can use them within my business.
This book’s title “Creative Acts for Curious People” has one important word – “acts”. It’s about doing something, not (just) reading about them. I know I’m going to keep this book near me on my desk and refer to it when I need inspiration. I’ll refer to it when I become curious, and I’ll refer to it when I need insights into something to help me with the business and to see my challenge or opportunity in a new way. There are many exercises in the book, some short, some long, some that you undertake alone and some that you undertake with others. That variety is powerful, because the book is well-designed to guide you to the one you need at that moment.
I really think this is one of the best books we’ve had in the Building Better Business Bookclub, from the point of view of being able to unleash creativity and for me to use that creativity and bring it to bear on the business. That has to be valuable, and I hope you enjoyed this review as an opportunity to get a flavour of how I’ve used the book.