The Lab: Creativity and Culture

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9780674057197: The Lab: Creativity and Culture

Never has the spirit of innovation been more highly valued than today. Around the world, people see the hard-to-teach skills of creativity as the lifeblood of cultural change and the engine of economic development. In The Lab, David Edwards presents a blueprint for revitalizing labs with "artscience"? creative thought that erases conventional boundaries between art and science?to produce innovations that otherwise might never see the light of day. At the heart of The Lab is "cultural incubation," whereby ideas translate with free-wheeling public exchange through a kind of innovation funnel—from educational settings (as in The Lab at Harvard University), to cultural settings (as at Le Laboratoire in Paris and elsewhere), to realizations as innovative products or humanitarian initiatives (within LaboGroup and other translation labs around the globe). With examples ranging from breathable chocolate (Le Whif) to contemporary art installations that explore the neuroscience of fear, Edwards shows how a measured-risk, seed-investment, mentorship-focused network of labs can allow exotic, unexpected ideas to flourish without being killed off at the first hint of impracticality. Unique to the innovation funnel is how creator risk is encouraged but also managed by mentors and others in each lab, so that the most daring ideas—lighting African villages with microbiotic lamps, or cleaning the air with plant-based filters—can emerge within passionate and sometimes inexperienced creative bands. Lively and engaging, replete with anecdotes that bring Edwards's unique personal experience in developing artscience labs to life, The Lab approaches innovation from exciting new angles, finding invigorating ways to repurpose our most creative assets—in scientific exploration, artistic imagination, and business model-building. David Edwards teaches at Harvard University in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His creative work is described at www.davidideas.com.

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About the Author:

David Edwards is Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University and is founding director of Le Laboratoire in Paris and the Idea Translation Lab at Harvard. His work spans the arts and sciences and lies at the core of a network of multi-disciplinary labs in Europe, USA and Africa. Edwards is the founder of Medicine in Need and the Boston-based Cloud Foundation that oversees Cloud Place, a dynamic center for urban youth arts, and that launched the $100K ArtScience Innovation Prize. The youngest-ever member of the National Academy of Engineering, Edwards was a featured speaker at Davos in 2010. His creative work is described at www.davidideas.com.

Review:

The Lab is a wise and bracing call to arms, a handbook for channeling our creative selves in the early twenty-first century. For anyone hoping to unleash their inner innovator, David Edwards is essential reading (Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure)

The Lab exactingly and enjoyably describes the process of building a "funnel shaped" institution devoted to process—the node of a network that ceaselessly promotes innovation by finding the common thread that links artist and scientist when they're truly creative (as in this book). (Jay Cantor, author of On Giving Birth to One's Own Mother: Essays on Art and Society)

When artists and scientists come together, cheeks gets rosier, voices go up a few notches, eyes sparkle. They are eager to learn from each other. Just as David Edwards maintains, true innovation can only happen where science and culture intersect, and it is time for this millennial truth to become a pillar of our educational system. (Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art)

[Edwards'] enthusiasm is infectious. He comes across as a free-spirited inventor and educator. He is also a pragmatist, conceding that an emphasis on the creative process, and a high tolerance for failure, may make it harder for inventive researchers to achieve financial autonomy. In these austere times, Edwards takes a firm stance on the importance of the imagination. (Jascha Hoffman Nature 2010-11-25)

The Lab has done much to shake up ideas about the science-public nexus. (Graham Farmelo Times Higher Education 2010-12-16)

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