Who Killed Creativity? How Can We Get Creativity Back?

Book Review by Paulina Larocca

Who Killed Creativity? is a non-fiction book that – at first glance – is yet another book about creating the right climate for creativity and innovation. What makes it stand out is it is told as a murder mystery making it highly engaging and its messages memorable.

Through a skilful combination of personal anecdotes backed by supporting research, Who Killed Creativity? makes a powerful case for rescuing creativity from modern life’s murderous claws. It identifies the “seven deadly killers” of creativity; shows you how to rescue innocent victims; and create a safe environment. Written primarily for organisational use, it also has helps you to identify the creativity killers in your life.

Part I is the forensic overview of the “crime” and Part II is the “forensic lab report” to help prevent future crimes against creativity. It opens with an example of how creativity is being “murdered” right under our noses without us realising it.

Then using CSI-like profiling, they demonstrate how the “four Stages of Destruction” have spawned the “seven deadly Creativity Killers”. Some are “killers in disguise” – like how a culture of restriction gives rise to killers like “the flirtatious socialite at work” who is the personification of those that “thrive on communicating that they are constantly busy and under pressure” and strangle creativity with their constant demands on your time.

Locating the crime scenes is not always easy. There are killers in the boardroom but some lurk in unsuspecting places – like the playground – “where ‘free play’ is being transformed into ‘controlled play’ building the case that creativity is a necessity, not a luxury.

Part II revives creativity using the “seven creative thinking strategies” e.g. cultivating curiosity, accepting ambiguity to name a few.

It reclassifies each crime scene as a “potential rescue site” showing how once deadly places can be transformed into safe havens for creativity.
As a final twist, it re-examines the evidence to reinforce the idea that creativity requires an acceptance of ambiguity. In the review of the evidence they make the case that potential deadly behaviours – when used in the right way – can actually be good. Creativity is best when it is freed of duality-like judgment of right or wrong.

It concludes with their “Creative Thinking Life Cycle Model”, which gives you “a solution to every potential creativity problem you, your team or organisation face” with a supporting case study from Procter & Gamble.

What I really liked about the book was how the authors skilfully weave their personal experiences, like the Bali bombings (the Australian equivalent of 9/11), to illustrate how the rapid pace of global change is crushing creativity. It gives the book a real human edge that I really responded to. They make a compelling case for how the pressure to make more money is making us lose our sense of self and what’s really important. Creativity is often the first victim and they have experienced first-hand this loss and have witnessed its impact our community and personal lives. While no one sets out to kill creativity the relentlessness of change makes it easy for us to forget what we really need to be fulfilled.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I think it’s a great diagnostic tool to help you understand if you have the best creative climate and how to improve it if you don’t.
I found the final plot twist very clever. Finally, a book on creativity that acknowledges being creative is not about following a simple recipe for success.

Sometimes their creative idea of a telling it as murder mystery distracted from the power and simplicity of their ideas.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in increasing their creativity in their organisational and personal life. The key concepts are engagingly presented and it’s refreshing to find a book on creativity that is actually creative. Interlaced with their personal experiences and supported by research this book this book demonstrates the importance of creativity and how, if we’re not careful, our modern lifestyles will end up killing it. The case is made that creativity is a necessity for a fulfilled and happy life.

Paulina Larocca: Global Creativity & Innovation Marketing Manager Premium Wine Brands | Pernod Ricard

Grant, A., & Grant, G. (2012). Who Killed Creativity and How Can We Get It Back? Sydney, Australia: John Wiley & Sons.

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