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Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

ISBN: 978-0-470-92222-4
256 pages
February 2011, Jossey-Bass
Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity (0470922222) cover image


A 5-part process that will transform your organization — or your career — into a non-stop creativity juggernaut

We live in an era when business cycles are measured in months, not years. The only way to sustain long term innovation and growth is through creativity-at all levels of an organization. Disciplined Dreaming shows you how to create profitable new ideas, empower all your employees to be creative, and sustain your competitive advantage over the long term. Linkner distills his years of experience in business and jazz — as well as hundreds of interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and artists — into a 5-step process that will make creativity easy for you and your organization. The methodology is simple, backed by proven results.

  • Empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to meet creative challenges posed by the marketplace
  • Turns the mystery of creativity into a simple-to-use process
  • Shows how creativity can be used for everything from innovative, game-shifting breakthroughs to incremental advances and daily improvements to business processes
  • Offers dozens of practical exercises, thought-starters, workouts to grow "creative muscles," and case studies

Disciplined Dreaming shows even the stuffiest corporate bureaucracies how to cultivate creativity in order to become more competitive in today's shifting marketplace.

•       #4 New York Times Best Seller (Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous)

•       #8 New York Times Best Seller (Hardcover Business)

•       #2 Wall Street Journal Best Seller (Hardcover Business)

•       #9 Wall Street Journal Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)

•       #9 Washington Post Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)

•       #1 USA Today Best Seller (Money)

•       #10 Entertainment Weekly Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)

•       #10 Publishers Weekly Bestseller (Hardcover Nonfiction)

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

1 The Case for Creativity 7

2 Disciplined Dreaming: Your System for Creativity 19


3 Defining the Creativity Challenge 41

4 Driving Curiosity and Awareness 59

STEP TWO Prepare

5 Gaining the Keys to a Creative Mind and Culture 81

6 Preparing Your Environment to Promote Creative Passion 109


7 Discovering the Ways of Creativity 125


8 Generating Creative Sparks 143

9 Igniting the Sparks of Creativity: The Eight Most Powerful Techniques 163


10 Bringing Your Ideas to Life: The Launch 185

Epilogue: The Power of One 205

Appendix A: The Top Six Creativity Myths (and Truths) 207

Appendix B: Additional Warm-Up Exercises to Jump-Start Creativity 211

Notes 213

Acknowledgments 219

About the Author 221

Index 223

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Author Information

Josh Linkner is founder and chairman of ePrize, a dominant player in the promotions industry serving 74 of the top 100 brands. He is a four-time entrepreneur, venture capitalist, accomplished jazz musician, and highly sought-after keynote speaker. He has won several business, technology, and design awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Crain's 40 under 40, Automation Alley's CEO of the Year, and the Detroit Executive of the Year.
For more information, please visit www.joshlinkner.com

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#4 New York Times Best Seller (Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous)
#8 New York Times Best Seller (Hardcover Business)
#2 Wall Street Journal Best Seller (Hardcover Business)
#9 Wall Street Journal Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)
#9 Washington Post Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)
#1 USA Today Best Seller (Money)
#10 Entertainment Weekly Best Seller (Hardcover Nonfiction)
#10 Publishers Weekly Bestseller (Hardcover Nonfiction)

“In today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace the most important resource any business has is the creative thinking of its people. In Disciplined Dreaming, Josh Linkner lays out a road map that will guide individuals, teams, and companies to higher levels of creativity. It is a journey that will lead to better ideas and breakthrough thinkingand those who take it will also have a lot of fun along the way.”
Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company

“The creativity gap is real and it’s getting worse. Josh Linkner challenges you to become a disruptive force for change, and I hope you will.”
—Seth Godin, author, Linchpin and Purple Cow

“Josh Linkner is a tremendous business leader who has established a successful and sustainable company, as well as a culture that nurtures employees to help them maximize their potential.”
—Hon. Jennifer M. Granholm, governor, State of Michigan

“At Zappos, one of our core values is to be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. Disciplined Dreaming can help spark your creative potential.”
—Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com and author, Delivering Happiness

“The world has changed dramatically, and we have now entered a new era of creativity. Disciplined Dreaming is a roadmap to new ideas, and helps business leaders at all levels unleash their creativity in order to reach their full potential. This important and thoughtful book is a must-read to compete in the next era of business, and life.”
—Charlene Li, founder, Altimiter Group and author, Groundswell and Open Leadership

“There’s a lot business people can learn from jazz musicians. The days of managing by musical score are gone—today, victory goes to the improviser. If you are not tinkering with your business every day, sooner or later the markets will begin to tinker with you—and it won’t be pleasant. Disciplined Dreaming helps you avoid these pitfalls and provides a systematic approach to becoming that winning improviser.”
—Keith McFarland, #1 best-selling author, The Breakthrough Company and Bounce

“It is often said there are dreamers and there are doers. Never before has someone connected the dots and clarified the path between ‘dreaming’ and ‘doing’ like Josh Linkner has in Disciplined Dreaming. This is a must-read for the innovators and creators who want to cross over to the execution side and make their dreams come to life.”
Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder, Quicken Loans, and majority owner, Cleveland Cavaliers

“Creativity fuels the growth engine that drives results. Disciplined Dreaming gives us a practical and inspirational roadmap to move us from incremental improvements to radical breakthroughs. Josh Linkner has successfully built some of the most creative companies in the world and shows us the way.”
—Jeff DeGraff, professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and author, Leading Innovation and Creativity at Work

“Now all those days I spent dreaming can be put to good use. Disciplined Dreaming helps you harness your creativity. Well worth your time.”
—Keith Crain, chairman and CEO, Crain Communications

“In Disciplined Dreaming, Josh Linkner offers a guide for encouraging and protecting creativity as one of the few sustainable advantages in a relentlessly competitive environment. I would recommend it highly for the leaders and advisors to any high growth organization.”
—Victor E. Parker, managing director, Spectrum Equity Investors

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Press Release

February 16, 2011
Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

“Organizations today can only survive if they harness and monetize the untapped creativity that thrives beneath the surface,” writes Josh Linkner, Founder and Chairman of ePrize, in DISCIPLINED DREAMING: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity (February 22, 2011/Jossey-Bass/$26.95).  “Creativity is not just another way for companies to succeed—it is actually a necessity. Without it, organizations may not survive.”

Linkner is a creative powerhouse who has been improvising jazz guitar riffs for audiences since he was 13, and who also created four highly successful high-tech companies over the last 20 years, including GlobalLink New Media, an award-winning web development firm, and ePrize, which has produced over 5,000 industry-leading interactive promotions across 36 countries, for 74 of the Top 100 brands.

DISCIPLINED DREAMING presents a synthesis of techniques that Josh has used and found to be successful in business and in jazz improvisation.  These techniques produce a systematic approach to creativity—a virtual machine for idea generation—that allows companies, teams and individuals to develop, manage, and thoughtfully direct their creativity in order to become more nimble, more adept and more competitive. With DISCIPLINED DREAMING, you will learn how to:

  • Break free from myths and barriers to unleash creativity
  • Tap into the hidden brainpower inside yourself and your company
  • Establish an ongoing system to nurture and harvest your team’s best ideas
  • Avoid the costly mistakes of flawed idea selection and measurement
  • Increase your ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Learn how to adapt more quickly and proactively to changes in the marketplace
  • Apply focused creativity to specific business problems of all sizes and shapes

The DISCIPLINED DREAMING system consists of five steps, which Josh explains in detail in the book:

  • Step 1: ASK – The first step is to define the creative challenge. Identifying the problem clearly helps to focus the energy of your team and drive curiosity and awareness.
  • Step 2: PREPARE – The second step is to prepare the culture, mind, and environment for optimal idea generation.
  • Step 3: DISCOVER – The third step is to find inspiration and search for fruitful, surprising sources of ideas. Determining a new and unusual idea-source can catalyze the process of idea generation.
  • Step 4: IGNITE – The fourth step is to generate ideas. Here is where we can ignite our creativity and, using powerful new proven techniques, enjoy more and better ideas.
  • Step 5: LAUNCH – The fifth step asks the reader to step back and use a framework to evaluate new ideas and put the best ones into action.

Josh has also conducted more than two hundred personal interviews with CEO’s, billionaires, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, educators, and non-profit leaders, asking them how they generate ideas, manage the creative process, nurture creative cultures, and build their own creative abilities. Their collective experience has been synthesized and incorporated into the five steps.  At the heart of the book are dozens of fun techniques that can be adopted by the reader and put to use immediately.

The DISCIPLINED DREAMING process works for all types and sizes of organizations, from Fortune 100 multinationals to startups to non-profits and governmental agencies. It can be applied to all types of creative challenges, from startling, disruptive, breakthrough innovations to incremental advances and small improvements. The methodology is simple and backed by proven results.

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