Author: E.O. Wilson
Review by: Steve Shepard, 30-year tech veteran and frequent senior guest lecturer at Emory Executive Education at the Goizueta Business School
Even though I work in the world of technology and business, I’m technically (now, don’t go running away) a biologist and naturalist, if you believe a large swath of my academic credentials. Which is why I spend a lot of time reading books about the natural world and applying their teachings to business.
One of my favorite authors is E.O. Wilson, a renowned Harvard biologist whose contributions have fundamentally changed the way we think about human society (he studied ants, which says a lot). Wilson’s most recent book, The Origins of Creativity, is among his best, in my opinion. He contends that while the sciences are important to humanity as we lay the groundwork for our own future, and that the education system should reflect that, he also makes the point that the humanities are equally important, and should be treated with the same level of priority—especially in schools. I have long contended that the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is missing a letter—‘A’ for the Arts (making it STEAM).
This book is important to business audiences for one simple reason. All too often, I find that business professionals, through no fault of their own, allow themselves to be intellectually pigeonholed— they come to focus only on their own domain and prevent themselves from learning from distinctly different fields of study, thus limiting their ability to be creative.
For example, I find that business people largely tend to read books about business and strategy, sometimes economics, occasionally biographies of successful businesspeople. But they don’t often read books about the arts, or about pioneering technologists, or about history, or about human behavior—what it was that drove Thomas Edison to keep trying after 10,000 light bulb prototypes had failed.
Creativity derives from the ability to approach a problem from vastly different points of view, and this book speaks to that. I highly recommend it.