How to Fly a Horse: Review and Summary Notes

How to Fly a Horse

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton

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How to Fly a Horse

Review

A collection of case studies of creatives. While each story was informative, the book didn’t give a first-principles unifying explanatory theory and instead just provides a collection of tips.

Instead, if you want a “grand unifying theory”, see How To Get More Creative: Strategies Successful Entrepreneurs Use To Find Breakthroughs

Notes

All creation, whether painting, plane, or phone, has the same foundation: gradual steps where a problem leads to a solution that leads to a problem. Creating is the result of thinking like walking. Left foot, problem. Right foot, solution. Repeat until you arrive. It is not the size of your strides that determines your success but how many you take.

The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t.

— Woody Allen

Kevin gives a dissenting opinion from my thesis that “Incubation” is not a required step in the creative process:

To his credit, Robert Olton did not give up. He designed a different study, this time using experts trying to solve a problem in their area of expertise—chess players and a chess problem—in the hope that this would give better results than undergraduates with an insight problem. Half his subjects worked continuously and half were given a break, during which they were asked not to think about the problem. Again, the break made no difference. Both groups performed equally well. Olton, initially a believer in incubation, was forced to doubt its existence. His despair was evident in the subtitle of the paper he wrote about the study: “Searching for the Elusive.” The paper concluded, “We simply didn’t find incubation.

Most researchers now regard incubation as folk psychology—a popular belief but wrong. Almost all of the evidence suggests the same thing: Caterpillars do not cocoon in the unconscious mind. The butterflies of creation come from conscious thinking.

As Karl Duncker showed, all creation, whether painting, plane, or phone, has the same foundation: gradual steps where a problem leads to a solution that leads to a problem. Creating is the result of thinking like walking. Left foot, problem. Right foot, solution. Repeat until you arrive. It is not the size of your strides that determines your success but how many you take.