Reading List: How to Fly a Horse

UPDATED: September 26, 2015
PUBLISHED: January 14, 2015

“Creating is not magic; it’s work,” argues Kevin Ashton, a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of the Auto-ID Center at MIT. Ashton challenges what he calls the “creativity myth,” the belief that human inventiveness and ingenuity result from eureka moments of inspiration or genius.

As proof he recounts a personal story. In 1997, while at Procter & Gamble, Ashton solved an inventory problem by introducing radio frequency ID onto store shelves, for which he coined the now-familiar phrase, “the Internet of Things.” The solution to the problem was the end point of a long, arduous process with many missteps and setbacks. Through stories, Ashton recounts how many of mankind’s most pivotal and valuable discoveries and inventions came to be. There was the young slave whose flair for botany led to the worldwide availability of vanilla, or the bet that ultimately birthed the stealth bomber. Amazingly, the Wright brothers’ achievement stemmed from a desire to “fly a horse.”

By unraveling the science behind the process of invention and discovery, Ashton offers reassuring proof that while we’re not all equally creative, we are all innately creative. “Creating is not rare,” he writes in How to Fly a Horse. “Our creations are too great and too numerous to come from a few steps by a few people. Invention is incremental—a series of slight and constant changes.”

by Kevin Ashton

Doubleday; $26.95

What’s the best way to get your creative gears moving? We have 6 ideas.