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How to Fly a Horse

The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery

By Kevin Ashton
10-minute read
Audio available
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery by Kevin Ashton

How to Fly a Horse (2015) delves into the process of creation and ultimately discovers that the very act itself is far more ordinary than we often think. In fact, in building upon the creative work of generations of thinkers, anyone can create, as long as they have the grit and determination to do so.

  • Anyone lacking the confidence to follow through with a new idea
  • Anyone interested in the process of creation

As co-founder of the Auto-ID center at MIT, Kevin Ashton pioneered a new generation of computing which he calls the “Internet of Things.” In addition to speaking about innovation and technology, Ashton has led many successful technology start-ups and some interesting social experiments.

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How to Fly a Horse

The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery

By Kevin Ashton
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery by Kevin Ashton
Synopsis

How to Fly a Horse (2015) delves into the process of creation and ultimately discovers that the very act itself is far more ordinary than we often think. In fact, in building upon the creative work of generations of thinkers, anyone can create, as long as they have the grit and determination to do so.

Key idea 1 of 6

Creativity isn’t the result of genius, but of the ordinary process of thinking about how to overcome a problem.

How many times have you heard that Mozart was a genius, composing complete symphonies in his head before putting them to paper? Or that great inventors were somehow radically different from the rest of us?

These are myths, plain and simple. In fact, no creator is fundamentally different from you or me.

The creativity myth preaches that few are chosen for creative greatness, and that their success relies on magical flashes of genius insight.

But if you actually look at the life of any genius, it’s not superiority and spontaneous inspiration that will highlight their success, but careful thinking.

Take Archimedes, the person who first cried out “Eureka!”, and who is credited with discovering the properties of density. When taking a bath, he noticed that the water rose and fell again as he entered and exited the tub. In short, Archimedes realized that water displacement could be used to measure volume.

But he didn’t immediately relate this finding to density. Rather, it came after a long period of thinking about the problem and trying to develop solutions for it.

In fact, the act of creating itself is little more than simply thinking about how to solve a problem – something we all do.

Many experiments have demonstrated this to be true, such as psychologist Karl Duncker’s Box Experiment. In the experiment, Duncker asked subjects to attach a candle to a wooden door using only the candle, a book of matches and a box of tacks. He discovered that there are three solutions – melting wax to fix the candle, tacking the candle to the door, and finally, emptying the box of tacks, tacking it to the door and placing the candle inside – and that the processes of arriving at these solutions were the same for each person who attempted them.

For example, everybody who thought of tacking the box of tacks to the door went through the same thought process: eliminating other ideas, thinking about building a platform with the tacks and then considering using the box as a platform.

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