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Review: How to be Creative - A Practical Guide for the Mathematical Sciences - Nicholas Higham and Dennis Sherwood ****

Some subscribe to the view that creativity is only about the arts - but this is to misunderstand the nature of creativity. There is a huge amount of creativity in the sciences, yet we rarely seen any guidance on improving it. (Creativity is also important to business, but that has a solid literature.)

How to be Creative does what it says on the cover - unlike some books on creativity, it’s a practical guide, easy to read and apply. The authors start with a brief introduction to the nature of creativity and the reality of engaging creativity on demand. They then look at the basic structure of a creativity session, particularly one that's team oriented (the quick version is 'don't do anything they do on The Apprentice when attempting brainstorming’). We then get a good chapter expanding on possible creativity techniques. 

So far, the topics covered have been general purpose problem solving and idea generation techniques, but the most novel content is the next chapter which is specifically about mathematical creativity (with a touch of physical science thrown in). Finally we return to the general for a chapter on workshops and one on evaluation of ideas. The whole thing is a compact 100 pages. It's practical, easy to read and effective.

If you are involved in STEM work, this book is really worth a look - it might change your view on the relevance of creativity to you career. My only real criticism is that it's priced more like a textbook than a general purpose title - but hopefully it’s one that your organisation might purchase.

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