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The Houdini Solution

Houdini This is a long overdue plug for my colleague Ernie Schenck's book, The Houdini Solution.

In it, he uses the acts of the famed magician Harry Houdini as an analogy for solving real-world business problems. The concept is simple: instead of thinking "outside the box," leverage its retraints to spark creativity...much like Houdini did while wrapped in chains, locked in an air-tight container, and submerged in water.

In other words, instead of letting your mind be consumed with the problem before you, direct all of your energy towards solving it. This requires a different way of thinking, and Schenck helps by debunking the 14 most common myths about (and limitations to) creativity.

The biggest mental shift required is in viewing restraints as a positive, rather than negative, issue. He likens them to the banks of a river, which keeps the water focused and moving in one direction, rather than an undirected, formless mass. 

Overall, the book is an enjoyable and quick read; for me, it harkens back to John Winsor's Spark, which also deals with finding creativity. The parallels between the two books are interesting:

Schenck: "It's how you connect things - disparate things, things that at first seem odd together  - that's at the true core of creativity."

Winsor: "A spark wouldn't happen if there weren't a difference between one end of the spark and the other. It's in that gap that the potential exists."


Schenck: "We come into this world with an open mind; as we grow older, our thinking becomes more structured, even rigid."

Winsor: "As a point of illustration, take an excerpt from Gordon MacKenzie's book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball, in which he recounts the experience of going into a kindergarten classroom and asking how many of the kids were artists. Being wide-eyed kindergartners, they all raised their hands. MacKenzie contrasts this with the experience of asking a sixth-grade class the same question; only a couple of kids raised their hands."

While Winsor focuses more on creating the environment that ignites creativity, Schenck devotes his time to embracing the hand you're dealt. Both approaches translate far beyond the world of advertising & marketing, and can help when dealing with the everyday constraints that are part of life (bey they financial, professional, geographic, or physical).


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