Imagine uses the same mash-up method that was so successful in How We Decide, but the science of creativity simply isn’t as developed as the science of decision-making. Because of this, it turns out that Lehrer’s tried-and-true method doesn’t work quite as well. The difficulty with pinning down creativity — scientifically or otherwise — becomes obvious when you consider the diversity of anecdotal examples in the book. Is writing a song comparable to coming up with new uses for glue or solving a puzzle that has only one correct answer? Is the person who writes twenty cookie-cutter novels engaged in the same activity as the person who writes one book so unprecedented that it changes the trajectory of literature? Are any two creative processes really the same? At most, it seems that one could point out patterns, but Lehrer boldly sets his sights on formula.
I suspect Lehrer may be another in the school of catch-phrase thinking pioneered by David Brooks (in Bobos in Paradise) and sedulously pursued by Malcolm Gladwell: Coming up with a catchy title and building a thesis around it. One gets the impression that these people arrived at their conclusion long before they did a stick of research and that all they were looking for was what confirmed what they had already concluded.