How to Fly a Horse | Kevin Ashton

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


In the book ‘How to Fly a Horse,’ Kevin Ashton debunks the myth that creativity solely comes from a rare spark of genius. Instead, he explores the truth that creation is a result of careful thinking and problem-solving. Ashton uses examples from history, science, and technology to demonstrate how no creation is entirely new, but rather builds on the work of countless predecessors. Along the way, he stresses the importance of hard work, resilience, and collaboration for achieving creativity. This summary will guide you through key themes of the book, encouraging you to re-evaluate your beliefs and understanding about creativity and innovation.

The Creativity Myth Debunked

The idea that only a select few possess creative genius is a myth. In reality, creativity is the result of careful thinking and problem-solving. Through examples of famous inventors and experiments, it’s clear that anyone can unleash their creativity.

Have you ever believed that geniuses are born, not made? Or that creativity is a magical, innate talent that only a special few possess? The truth is, these are complete myths. Nobody is fundamentally different from the rest of us, and no creator is exempt from this rule.

The creativity myth preaches that only a small and gifted few are chosen for creative greatness and that their success relies on flashes of magical genius insight. But if we look at the life of any genius, it’s clear that careful thinking and problem-solving, not superiority and spontaneous inspiration, led to their success. Take Archimedes, for example. He didn’t stumble on the concept of water displacement and volume; it came after a long period of thinking and trying to develop solutions to the problem.

Creativity itself is merely the act of thinking about how to solve a problem, something that all humans possess with varying degrees of intensity. This has been demonstrated in countless experiments, like the Box Experiment. What Duncker found is that the processes of arriving at solutions were the same for each person who attempted the experiment.

In conclusion, it’s time to debunk the myth of creativity by acknowledging that anyone can unleash their creativity through careful thinking and problem-solving.

Building Innovations

Innovation is not born out of moments of genius nor the work of a single individual. It depends on the contributions of thousands of people and generations that came before. Innovations are built on the work of countless thinkers from the past, as demonstrated by the story of Edmond, a 12-year-old Black slave who discovered how to make the vanilla pod self-pollinate. Every new creation brings forth fresh opportunities for future innovations but presents new, unforeseen problems that need to be solved creatively. Like Coca-Cola, which evolved from a bottled patent medicine to a canned refreshment, innovations solve current problems but create new ones. Building upon innovations is an ongoing process that not only brings many benefits but also inspires us to develop new solutions for the problems of tomorrow.

Steve Jobs’ Creative Process

The creation of the iPhone was not an overnight success but a result of baby steps, problem-solving, and asking questions. Steve Jobs’ creative process involved carefully considering theoretical steps and narrowing down solutions as he solved problems. However, inattentional blindness can hamper creativity, preventing us from seeing every possibility. To think like Jobs, we must open our minds and see everything, not just what we expect to see.

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