How to Fly A Horse Book Summary, by Kevin Ashton

Download "How to Fly A Horse Book Summary, by Kevin Ashton" as PDF


Want to get the main points of How to Fly A Horse in 20 minutes or less? Read the world’s #1 book summary of How to Fly A Horse by Kevin Ashton here.

Read a quick 1-Page Summary, a Full Summary, or watch video summaries curated by our expert team.

Video Summaries of How to Fly A Horse

We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on How to Fly A Horse, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by Kevin Ashton.

1-Page Summary of How to Fly A Horse

Overview

In addition to providing extensive analysis, Johnson also looks at how individual and organizational creativity can be cultivated.

Have you ever stood in awe beside a Picasso or Rodin? Have you ever witnessed the latest tech whiz kid make a billion and thought, I wish I could do something like that?

Most people think that creativity is a gift given to only one person in the world. However, this is not true. Creativity comes from collaboration and teamwork.

Creativity is a common misconception. It’s actually quite simple and can be learned by anyone. In this article, you’ll learn how creativity works by looking at key points about it, such as why everyone should build on the ideas of others; how a 12-year-old slave revolutionized the vanilla industry; and how Steve Jobs designed the iPhone step by step.

Big Idea #1: Creativity is the result of thinking about a problem and trying to solve it.

We’ve heard that Mozart could compose entire symphonies in his head before they were written. We also know that some inventors are different from the rest of us.

Creativity is not a myth. In fact, all creators are equal to each other. Creativity only seems like a magical gift that some people have and others do not. But this isn’t true at all! If you look closely at the lives of any great creator, it’s clear that they were very careful about their work and always made sure they did everything right before releasing anything into the world.

Archimedes was a Greek mathematician who lived in the third century B.C. He is famous for his discovery of density and how he came to that conclusion. One day, while taking a bath, he noticed that the water level rose and fell as he entered and exited the tub. This observation led him to discover that volume could be measured by displacement (the difference between how much water there is before an object is immersed compared with after). After making this discovery, though, Archimedes didn’t immediately realize its importance or potential applications; rather, it took many years of thinking about what had happened during his bath and experimenting with different solutions until he finally realized the significance of his work.

The act of creating something is simply thinking about how to solve a problem, and experiments have shown that this is true. For example, psychologist Karl Duncker’s Box Experiment showed that there are three solutions to the problem of attaching a candle to a door with only matches and tacks: melting wax on the back of the candle, using tacks to attach it directly or placing the candle in an empty box and then attaching it. The processes by which people arrived at these solutions were also similar for each person who attempted them.

For example, the people who thought of tacking the tack box to the door went through a similar process. They eliminated other ideas and then built a platform using their tacks.

Big Idea #2: Creation is simply adding to a long line of innovations, which are made by ordinary people.

Innovation is not the product of a moment’s inspiration. It takes more than just one person to innovate and create something new.

Everything we make depends on thousands of people and generations of ancestors, who contributed to our idea.

Creativity requires building on past discoveries, as it’s impossible to come up with something that is completely new. For example, the discovery of how vanilla beans can be pollinated was made by a slave in La Réunion who built upon the work of botanists and other scientists before him.

He passed on this knowledge to Edmond when he showed him how to manually fertilize watermelon. Later, Edmond realized that a similar process could be used on vanilla orchids, which was critical in the pollination of vanilla plants. Without Ferréol and Sprengel, as well as countless thinkers before them, Edmond would never have been able to create a method of pollinating vanilla orchids.

‘ ‘

The process of creating new innovations is ongoing, and each one presents a fresh opportunity for future innovation. Each solution will bring many benefits, but it also creates new problems that need to be solved creatively.

Coca-Cola was invented as a patent medicine and then later developed into a canned drink. This solved the problem of soldiers in Korea wanting to have portable soda cans with them at all times.

Coca-Cola has had its own share of problems. The drink contains high levels of fructose corn syrup, which contributes to obesity in America. Excessive caffeine can cause vomiting or diarrhea and the aluminium cans take a long time to decompose if they’re thrown away.

However, solving the problem of aluminum waste also brought about a widespread introduction to recycling.

Big Idea #3: Creating something requires taking small steps rather than making big leaps.

The first phones were very different from today’s smartphones. But the transition was not a sudden change. Rather, it came in small steps. In fact, creation comes from asking minor questions and finding solutions to them. It is also about discovering new questions.

For example, Steve Jobs didn’t just come up with the iPhone in a single night. Rather, he asked himself why smartphones don’t work and what could be done to improve them.

The keyboard was clunky and inconvenient. The solution? Make a screen bigger so you can use your fingers to navigate the device. However, people didn’t want to carry around a mouse with them all the time. So Jobs made it smaller and put it on top of the keyboard, which became known as a mouse. But then he realized that people would lose their mice easily, so he came up with an idea for something called a stylus that could be attached to the phone itself. It wasn’t until after these solutions were created that Jobs had his “eureka” moment: Why not combine all three into one device? In this way we can see how Steve Jobs’ creative process worked: He took several existing ideas and combined them in order to create something new – without ever being aware of what he was doing! This is why we need to make sure we’re open-minded when trying to solve problems or come up with new ideas; otherwise we may miss out on important information because our attention is directed elsewhere (inattentional blindness).

Big Idea #4: The importance of hard work and failure.

Don’t expect to be an overnight success. You will have to work hard and accept failure before you can produce anything great. If you want the results, you will have to put in the hours of work it takes to achieve them. It requires total commitment and a willingness to say “no” when distractions come your way. Some people find rituals helpful for staying on track throughout their day, like Igor Stravinsky, who played a Bach fugue every morning before working from 10:00 AM until lunchtime, then composed after lunch and orchestrated or transcribed music in the afternoon.

He worked hard for years, not waiting for inspiration to strike him. He didn’t expect that his first few attempts would be perfect or even good enough. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to cope with failure when you’re trying to create something new. Stephen King is a great example of someone who does this well: he regularly throws out 300 pages in order to produce a book that’s outstanding and successful.

People who try and fail often get rejected. However, this can be valuable because it allows you to see what needs to change for your next attempt.

Do not be like Franz Reichelt, who ignored the experts and went ahead with his parachute design despite it being flawed. He leapt from the Eiffel Tower in 1912 but died as a result of that mistake.

Big Idea #5: To be effective in a team, always ask for examples.

While you can get plenty of work done on your own, it’s sometimes better to work with a team that shares your goals. Small groups are the best kind of teams for creative projects because they’re highly motivated and isolated from other distractions. Groups of two are even better than those big groups in which everyone has their own opinion about what should be done.

The main focus of this group will be to have creative conversations in which creative problems are identified and solved. The team members will establish a series of goals, toward which they can work on their own.

Creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, use this method to create episodes for the show. They first identify problems together and then work individually on different aspects of the episode. However, sometimes you’ll find yourself in teams where creative thinking isn’t encouraged because it threatens the status quo. Those companies should realize that creativity is important to bring new ideas into a company’s culture. One way to encourage creativity is by using a process called “show me” which revolves around showing people something instead of just telling them about it. This helps people understand an idea better, and also allows them to test its validity right away so they can see if it works or not. Take Clarence Kelly Johnson who as a newcomer at Lockheed Martin boldly stated that their airplane design was flawed when he saw his boss Hall Hibbard with it one day; however, his boss asked him why he thought so and what would be better? So Johnson worked on improving the design by changing some things like adding two tails onto the plane making America’s first jet fighter!

Full Summary of How to Fly A Horse

Overall Summary

This book talks about the creative process in business and other fields. The author has been a successful businessman, so his credibility is high. He believes that creativity is involved in most things we do, including art and medicine.

Ashton’s main point is that creativity is a natural part of being human. It’s not reserved for special people, but can be learned by anyone who works hard at it. People often think of creativity as something magical or mystical, when in fact it simply results from thinking processes that everyone has available to them.

The writer of this passage makes use of scientific research and stories throughout his book to explain how people actually come up with great ideas. The author debunks myths, such as Mozart’s musical ability or Einstein’s theory of relativity, by examining their work processes instead. According to the author, every potential creative genius goes through many steps to produce their masterpiece—evaluate a situation, solve problems, repeat—and this can be seen in almost any person who produces an impressive idea or momentous work. That kind of creativity is no different from what one sees in everyday life and normal jobs and activities; it is really just taking lessons learned from those daily routines and applying them wherever needed for creative thinking.

The book starts with the author’s main thesis about creativity. He then talks about other aspects of the creative process, like failure and how experts and beginners view problems differently.

Ashton also talks about the importance of recognizing that creation is a group effort. He uses specific examples to show how no one creates in isolation, and we all rely on the work of others who came before us. Therefore, giving credit for discoveries and inventions seems misguided. We are all contributing to a continuum of ideas, borrowing some while passing on others. Another important issue he addresses is whether creating has negative consequences or not. Ashton acknowledges that bad things may result from new ideas or inventions but argues that most times it’s hard to predict this beforehand, so when they do happen our best response is to solve the problem through more creation because creation is what humans do.

Preface: “The Myth”

This Preface starts with a story about Mozart. A letter he supposedly wrote claimed that his musical compositions came to him in their entirety, and all he had to do was write them down. It turned out that the letter was a forgery; real letters from Mozart said otherwise. Ashton calls the notion that only certain people are creative “the creativity myth.” He admits believing in this myth at one time.

He writes that his early career was frustrating because he wasn’t able to be creative. However, when he worked on a project in which he needed to keep track of lipstick inventory, it changed his perspective. He used the Internet and radio microchips to solve the problem, but then realized that being creative is work rather than magic.

Chapter 1: “Creating Is Ordinary”

The author argues that creating is not rare and special, but rather common to everyone. However, it was only recently recognized as a skill that can be taught and learned. The United States did not begin granting patents until 1790, when the first patent office opened in Washington DC. Since then six million different people have received a patent (the rate has clearly increased over time). This proves that “Creating is not for an elite few”.

On the other hand, creation is everywhere. This idea originated in the Renaissance and continued until recently. In fact, advances in neuroscience have shown that creating is like solving problems. Allen Newell was one of the first to promote this idea, and Robert Weisberg continued it by saying “creative thinking” isn’t different from regular thinking—it’s just a creative outcome.

There are scientific studies to show this. People who are the most “intelligent” do not necessarily have more creativity because that involves a lot of hard work and not everything is dependent on just your IQ.

Chapter 2: “Thinking Is Like Walking”

Ashton goes further in Chapter 2 by saying that creating is just ordinary thinking. He traces this back to Otto Selz, who said that everyone thinks the same way when they’re walking. This idea was popularized by Karl Duncker and David Krech, who had similar ideas about how we think. They showed us how innovation requires step-by-step thinking rather than a flash of insight.

To test this, Duncker had given high school students a number of problems to solve. The most famous is known as the “Candle Problem” or the “Box Problem.” Students had to figure out how to attach a candle to a wooden door so that it burns normally if all they had was a candle, some tacks, and an empty box of matches. To do this, you have to think about the box in an unconventional way: empty it out and tack it on top of the door. Then stand up your candle inside of it. Most people don’t figure this out because they rely too much on conventional knowledge rather than thinking outside of things’ intended use (i.e., using the box for its intended purpose). Later studies with similar problems found that everyone worked through them in very similar ways—they would move from one small step at a time towards their solution until something clicked in their mind and everything made sense.

Duncker said that in order to create something new, you must ask yourself two questions: “Why doesn’t it work?” and “What should I change to make it work?”. It’s not always obvious that something isn’t working. Ashton warns against complacency by saying Steve Jobs of Apple Computers was never satisfied with what he created. He thought about ways to improve his products even when they appeared successful. An idea is different from creation because the latter is the result of action. The Wright brothers are a good example; many people had an idea for human flight before them, but only they were able to work through all the steps necessary for success: That’s creation.

Chapter 3: “Expect Adversity”

This chapter deals with the rejection and failure that are inevitable during the creative process. It begins with a story about Judah Folkman, who was mocked by his colleagues for proposing an idea that sounded crazy at the time. However, he stuck to his theory until he was able to prove it right through experimentation.

Ashton’s main point here is that failure and rejection are part of the creative process. People need to accept this fact, as it will help them deal with both when they encounter them in their own work. Ashton emphasizes that a common misconception about creativity is that people warmly welcome new ideas when in fact the opposite is true. “Unfortunately, anyone who loves your idea the first time they hear it either loves you or wants something,” he writes.

The author presents another example of rejection from early in the 20th century. A man named Franz Reichelt designed a kind of parachute-like clothing that he claimed would allow one to glide gently through the air to a soft landing. He scoffed at a competitor who had recently tested his more conventional parachute by attaching a dummy to it and throwing it from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Reichelt was so certain of his own design that he said he himself would jump from the tower while wearing it. He did and promptly plummeted to his death.

Chapter 4: “How We See”

Ashton begins the essay by telling a story about a pathologist named Robin Warren who discovered that bacteria caused ulcers. This contradicted the long-held belief that bacteria could not grow in stomachs because of their high acidity level. Eventually, he proved his theory and won the Nobel Prize for his efforts. However, according to Ashton, Warren wasn’t the first person to notice this: “H. pylori has been found in medical literature dating back to 1875”.

Research has shown that people have intention blindness and selective attention, which means they don’t notice things in their surroundings. In one example, people walking and talking on cell phones didn’t see a clown riding his unicycle across the street because they were focused elsewhere. The H. pylori bacterium was ignored for years by researchers based on past assumptions about it.

Selective attention is a double-edged sword. It’s a result of expertise, but it can also be used to look at situations with fresh eyes. This is true in all fields, such as chess: Experts are able to scan the board faster than those just one level below them because they know what to look for and when something isn’t right. At the same time, experts learn how to view things from a beginner’s perspective—something Ashton calls “beginner’s mind.”

Finally, Ashton wonders how Warren Buffett knew he was right when he saw something new. The answer is to take small steps through the process of direction and constantly test your thinking. You can change your thinking at each step if you’re wrong or need more information.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my new book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

Chapter 5: “Where Credit Is Due”

Chapter 5 discusses the importance of giving credit to new ideas. Rosalind Franklin, a crystallographer who studied viruses, discovered how RNA worked and died before she could receive the Nobel Prize for her work. However, James Watson and Francis Crick stole her research and received a Nobel Prize for it. The author then describes how women were discriminated against in science until fairly recently when they finally gained equal access to scientific opportunities. Even today, women don’t get proper recognition as scientists because of gender bias in society.

Chapter 6 explores what Ashton calls “the two faces of creativity”: divergent thinking (coming up with lots of ideas) versus convergent thinking (eliminating bad ones). He says that designers use both kinds of thinking but that most people tend to favor one over the other—and he argues that we should all try harder to be more creative by developing our weaker side so we can see things from different perspectives. He also suggests ways you can do this through games like Tetris or Sudoku.

A man named Robert Merton studied the sociology of science. He found that scientists are not as objective as they claim to be, and that it’s problematic to assign credit for an idea to one person. Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Ashton shows, however, that at least five other people used this phrase before Newton did. This applies equally well in research: Ashton argues that we should think about how many generations support each other in their work.

The author then traces Franklin’s research back to the researchers who came before her, showing how their work made it possible for her to do what she did. In an ironic twist, because of her genetic research, future generations were able to receive a test that could detect this gene mutation and save lives. Because humans need creation in order to survive, limiting our creators is unthinkable.

Chapter 6: “Chains of Consequence”

This chapter examines the consequences of new creations—that is, what follows from them, whether it is good or bad, and what to do about this. Ashton begins with a story of Luddites who were against progress because they lost their jobs when machines took over. However, in reality most members of that working class benefited from technology advances.

During the 19th century, machines replaced manual labor and created new jobs for people with more education. This was because machines needed to be maintained, as well as inventing new ones. Businesses also had to be managed, which led to a need for more educated workers. Therefore, public education increased so that children of weavers were able to get better jobs than their parents did without automation.

Because of the complexity of technology, its consequences are difficult to predict. To illustrate this, the author describes how a can of Coca-Cola is made. It involves bauxite from Australia, coca leaves from South America, and corn (to make high-fructose corn syrup) from the US among other ingredients. The author traces the history of how Coca-Cola came to be all the way back to humans’ need for water through vessels that carried drinks far away from their source until it became a refreshment drink with medicinal uses. No one could have foresaw these unintended consequences such as rising obesity rates (from corn syrup sweetener) and environmental effects on discarded cans.

There are always people who oppose new technology because of the problems it can cause. Ashton argues, however, that “the answer to invention’s problems is not less invention but more.” He calls this cycle of our species “the answer to invention’s problems.”

Chapter 7: “The Gas in Your Tank”

The topic of this chapter is motivation, where it comes from and how to maintain it. The author argues that the best motivation is internal, as external rewards can be detrimental in the long run. He gives an example of Woody Allen, who refuses to attend awards ceremonies because he doesn’t want outside influence on his work.

Ashton claims that the strongest motivation comes from within. He backs this up with research done by Teresa Amabile, who has studied the link between creativity and motivation. Her studies show that when we’re doing something for external rewards (such as money or grades), it tends to have a negative effect on our creative output. Another study shows that when monkeys are given food in exchange for performing tasks—even if they enjoy those activities—they perform worse than monkeys who aren’t being rewarded at all. For problems with only one correct answer (like math), reward seemed to have no impact, but it impeded the progress of problems where there’s more uncertainty and discovery is required. Amabile found further support for her theory through another experiment: people enjoyed solving puzzles more when they were asked to do them without any reward than if they had received an offer of $20 for each puzzle successfully completed. These results suggest that self-motivation is very powerful, and may even be superior to extrinsic motivation like money or other external rewards.

Ashton addresses the issue of writer’s block. He says that it does not exist, but rather “write-something-I-think-is-good” block exists. People can work, but they expect too much from themselves. The cure is to just start writing and producing something even if you think it isn’t good enough because no one produces their best all the time. Writer’s block implies that motivation comes externally since a “block” would imply waiting for an external flash of insight which never happens. If you have a passion to create then give it an outlet by working consistently and finding rituals that help you be productive. Stravinsky said, “Work brings inspiration if inspiration is not discernible in the beginning”

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my new book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

Chapter 8: “Creating Organizations”

Chapter 8 focuses on the importance of creating and how organizations can do that. The author uses a story about the development of the first fighter plane to use jet engines in the US military, which was assigned to Lockheed Corporation under strict time constraints, as an example. He then goes into detail about how they achieved it.

The recipe for success in a creative environment is to have an open mind and be willing to test out new ideas. It also helps if the company has a culture of encouraging people to speak up and take risks, as well as being able to admit mistakes. Other aspects that can lead to creative organizations include having engineers work with mechanics on projects, working in secret locations or isolated areas, valuing action over planning, and having equal input from both sides of the coin (engineers vs. mechanics).

Ashton discusses this point in depth. He presents an exercise developed by designer Peter Skillman and a colleague involving uncooked spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest structure that can support the marshmallow on top in 18 minutes. Children are better at building taller structures than adults because they jump right into action without wasting time talking about it first. Adults tend to talk too much before taking any action—especially when there’s a power struggle involved regarding hierarchy between people who used to be friends or colleagues but now have different jobs or titles.

Aside from language, the other important thing that the Marshmallow Test highlighted was how there isn’t a hierarchy among kindergarteners. Ashton also notes that “Organizations are made of people interacting.” Microsociology studies organizations and their interactions with one another to figure out why some companies are more creative than others. The key is minimizing meetings because they’re not productive or effective at all. They cause employees to disengage and stop caring because it’s almost like an environment where people say one thing while doing something entirely different. Thus, the most creative organizations focus on rituals of doing over rituals of talking and minimize hierarchy in order to foster positive interactions between employees.

Chapter 9: “Good-Bye, Genius”

The author wants to reinforce the importance of creating opportunities for everyone. He uses a story about Francis Galton, who was one of the first advocates of eugenics, which is a belief that humans could evolve by eliminating certain genetic groups and promoting others in reproduction. The modern notion of “genius” comes from this book, but Ashton argues it should be defined as something we all possess: spirit.

Ashton concludes that creativity is essential to humankind. As we face problems, our ability to be creative helps us find solutions. He points out that the reason Thomas Malthus’s predictions about population outpacing resources have not come true is because of increased population comes increased creativity, and as long as everyone has the opportunity to be creative, we will continue to stay ahead of the problems by creating more solutions. Therefore, Ashton believes that “we beat change with change.”

How to Fly A Horse Book Summary, by Kevin Ashton
Share:

Enjoy this summary?

Subscribe to get my next book summary in your email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to get smarter, faster?

Subscribe to my newsletter to get free book summaries and startup notes.
x