Skills for the Future:
Managing Creativity and Innovation

Robert B Dilts with Gino Bonissone
Meta Publications. 1993. ISBN 0-916990-27-3
Hard-back, 460 pages, $24.95 (20.95)


Turgenev, writing Fathers and Sons in 1862, said “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound." The cover picture on Robert Dilts' new book is of a triangular fractal drawn on to the triangular faces of a pyramid. Whilst at first interesting the floating pyramid brings questions to mind: How would it be if the fractals penetrated the surface rather than resting on it? and What if it were a tetrahedron so that the base was also a triangle rather than a square? The result would have solidity, symmetry and satisfaction -- to my mind at least.

That the cover is a metaphor for the book is surely intentional, that it is such an accurate metaphor is not surprising. Here is all the complex genius of Robert Dilts dashed across nearly five hundred pages, yet the substance is still that of a sketch book, a working draft, a work-shop transcribed; without the elegance and substance that comes from digestion, reflection and review. There is enough raw material here for a life-time of creativity work -- take it as raw material and you will not be disappointed.

The book is indeed taken from a series of creativity work-shops run by Robert and Gino for Fiat. It has a tri-partite, fractal structure. After an overview there are three main sections: Personal Creativity, Co-Creativity, and Group Creativity. The book presupposes an NLP model of learning with the essential act of (a) the formation of an internal cognitive map and (b) connecting that map to the appropriate reference experiences which give that map practical meaning in terms of external observations and behavioural results. It delivers through a combination of cognitive packages -- descriptive and narrative text, overviews, conceptual material and models; steps down to cognitive maps (Gino Bonissone's contribution to the book) -- block and arrow diagrams of the logical structure of the text; then down again to key point summaries; and finally to reference experiences -- specific micro activities e.g. Think of three examples of creative processes and the products produced by those processes, e.g. Composition -> Symphony.

This fractal, multi-level structure is carefully and thoughtfully designed to achieve the ends the book sets out for itself. With dedication and time a reader could learn a great deal from working through each of the sections and each of the micro activities -- though, in my opinion, they would need extraordinary dedication. In an interactive group environment I suspect that the experience would be much richer and more rewarding, though the time would surely not be trivial. Personally I found the cognitive maps disappointing, the black and white text in rectangular boxes joined by straight lines seems singularly uncreative.

In summary, the competent workmanlike text expanding the boundaries in the way that Robert Dilts continues to do. There is overlap with Tools for Dreamers, there is much much more new material as well. If you are interested in developing creativity then this may be an invaluable resource, it will at the very least expand your maps of the subject.

1993 Bob Janes
This review previously appeared in Issue 22 of Rapport, the Journal of ANLP. The views expressed are those of the author, not of ANLP.

Last updated June 1, 1995
Bob Janes

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