The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice – Book Summary

Book Summary by Karen Nichols

Title: The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

Author: Todd Henry

Published by: Penguin Books Ltd. London, England 2011

According to Todd Henry, if at work you “solve problems, innovate, develop systems, design things, write, think or strategize,” then you are among those newly tagged as Creatives. Creatives create value where it didn’t exist before. They think up ideas, solutions and new ways to do things.   Some professionals are surprised, as I was, to find themselves labeled a creative when they started out in seemingly uncreative professions such as accounting or IT.   But the fact remains these “Accidental Creatives” are more and more frequently being asked to be brilliant or generate great ideas, solutions or strategies at a moment’s notice.

Being a successful creative, needs to start way “up stream” from the day the brilliant idea is needed.   Todd Henry gives some wonderfully concrete tips to follow to set you up for being brilliant at a moment’s notice.

  1. Focus: Zeroing in on what’s Important – Develop the capacity to focus deeply. To do this one must stop being reactionary and instill rules that will support deep focus. Define the real problem, Refine list of priorities and Cluster or organize to minimize distractions.
  2. Relationships: Being Brilliant Together – Creative work isolates you because most of it must be done alone. But your relationships with others provide some of your most valuable resources and ideas. Purposeful choosing of intelligent and mentally challenging relationships can be the aerobic activity for your healthy mind.
  1. Energy: Your Invisible Ally – Energy management is at least as critical to success as time management.   Just like a vine needs to be pruned in order to flourish, your commitments also need to be pruned to allow time for your creative mind to flourish. Only keep those commitments/activities that offer value and don’t forget adding in purposeful “negative space” or time between activities where more ideas seem to sprout.
  1. Stimuli: What Goes in Must come Out – Information and experiences are absorbed stimuli. Just like you are what you eat, your brain is full of what you choose to put in it. If you spend hours watching crazy YouTube videos and episodes of Jersey Shore you might not be setting the table for brilliant ideas. Healthier stimuli may open your mind’s eye to new ways of seeing the world.
  1. Hours: The Currency of Productivity: Learn the difference between efficient use of hours and effective use of hours. One hour of effective work can replace five of frantic activity. Implement a “lifestyle of structuring your time to an effective mind set rather than an efficiency one.” A frantic, always on, non-rhythmic manner of work drains your creative bank account.

This book helps both the intentional and accidental creatives alike get the most out of their creative processes by establishing structure and purposeful training to stay engaged and productive over long periods of time. The accidental creatives, those who didn’t intentionally choose to be part of this abstract profession clearly need the most help in learning to do what most traditional creative people do instinctively.

TODD HENRY is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative, a consultancy that helps organizations generate brilliant ideas. In 2006 he started The Accidental Creative, one of the top business podcasts. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and coach.

His 16 minute Ted Talk can be seen here:

His blog with lots more helpful tips can be found here:


Henry, T. (2011). The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

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