In case you missed it when published in 2017, The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World is well worth a weekend of deep thought. Authors David Eagleman (a neuroscientist) and Anthony Brandt (a musician) take a unique look at human history and innovation from their diverse but complementary perspectives.
Eagleman is the Emmy-winning writer and host of the PBS series, The Brain. He also is the director of the Center for Science and Law at Stanford University. Brandt is a composer and Artistic Director of the contemporary music ensemble Musiqa, winner of two Adventurous Programming Awards from Chamber Music America and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Not an “odd couple” at all, the co-authors look at art and science together. They examine how many innovators--from Picasso to Steve Jobs--build on what already exists to create something new. Their paradigm is organized into three categories:
The book is filled with countless other examples, including how the invention of flamboyant hairstyles, bicycles, and stadium designs might share the same basic processes. As one reviewer noted: “Understanding ourselves and our creativity is a journey that also helps us to understand what makes us human".
What makes this book especially valuable to educators is that these examples can be models for students to use when innovating. A question such as “Could you solve this challenge by bending or breaking or blending?” can be the spark. Students who might have been convinced that they were not creative can find ways to appreciate themselves and their own unique ways of thinking. “Thriving in a constantly changing world requires us to understand what’s happening inside our heads when we innovate', the authors remind us.