Magazine article Variety

Can 'Creativity' and 'Corporate' Somehow Work Hand in Hand?

Magazine article Variety

Can 'Creativity' and 'Corporate' Somehow Work Hand in Hand?

Article excerpt

I've been doing some binge reading lately - books about creativity and business success - but have come away feeling somewhat skeptical about their messages.

Ed Catmull's new book, titled "Creativity, Inc.," explains how, as the czar of Pixar, he banished "those unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration." I admire Catmull and his Pixar partner, John Lasseter, but worry that the company has lately been exhibiting a shortfall of inspiration as reflected in some rather disappointing releases; Pixar won't even have a movie out this year.

On the other hand, I found myself initially reassured by "Think Like a Freak," a new work by those two freakonomics proponents, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. They argue that the model for success is to go back to zero on every issue, and then "think like a child."

Trouble is, like most economists, they like to mobilize Big Data in analyzing problems, and children, by and large, don't grapple successfully with such things. Neither do I.

It turns out I even need Big Data to cope with comedy, as explained by a new book titled "The Humor Code." Its authors, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner, both academics, have summoned their algorithms to develop a "benign violation theory" to explain what makes audiences respond to humor. I appreciate their methodology, but don't find the data or the algorithms amusing.

Of course, the academic who has stirred the most noise with his Big Data theories is Thomas Picketty, whose new book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" sits atop global bestseller lists. Picketty's basic thesis banishes the conventional wisdom of free-market economists, arguing that the gap between rich and poor has been expanding irrevocably, that the trickle down theory has never actually worked and that the only way to ward off revolution long-term is to invoke a global wealth tax.

To be sure, his ideas are based on an exhaustive analysis of decades of tax records from Western countries (including the U. …

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