Benjamin Franklin An American Life the First Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

The first specific interesting concept I encountered was in Michalko (2001, p. 11). The concept was "Connecting the Unconnected." The ability to see connections where there ordinarily are no such connections, according to the author, is one of the traits of "creative geniuses, where they have "a facility to connect the unconnected by forcing relationships that enable them to see things to which others are blind." This is one of the faculties of creative thinking, where individuals engage in what Michalko terms "productive" rather than "reproductive" thinking. When faced with a challenge or problem, such individuals see things in a myriad of possible ways, which then enables the individual to find unusual solutions. This happened to Benjamin Franklin when he invented the lightning rod. Against all conventional wisdom, Franklin used a kite when there was a thunderstorm and, with this dangerous experiment, was able to prove that lightning was electricity. This, in turn, enabled him to invent the lightning rod, finding a solution to a problem that has plagued the human race throughout its existence. This kind of creative thinking also enabled Mr. Franklin to be one of the greatest inventors and scientists of his time.

Another trait in "geniuses" or creative thinkers is the ability to "awaken the collaborative spirit (Michalko, 2001, p. 13). The author claims that "The notion that the collective intelligence of a group is larger than the intelligence of an individual can be traced back to primitive times when hunter-gatherer bands would meet to discuss and solve common problems." This is something that is also recognized by businesses and groups throughout the world today. Brainstorming, for example, is a technique that many businesses use to stimulate creativity among their employees and to further enhance the effectiveness and innovation of their products and services. Michalko's claim is not, however, only that people need to recognize the effectiveness of collaboration for business and other creative processes. He takes the notion further by mentioning that, although most individuals do recognize the importance of collaboration, the main difficulty is getting as far as thinking collaboratively in an effective way. In our society, individuals are very focused on individualism. This is particularly the case in western societies such as the United States. This sense of individualism is a trait that enables individuals to work hard to achieve success in the world. However, it is also to the detriment of the accomplishments that are possible collectively. This is also something that Benjamin Franklin understood, especially in his work as president. Even as president, Franklin never had a taste for the pomp and entitlement that went with the presidency, or with what Isaacson (2003, p. 3) refers to as "inherited aristocracy." Instead, Franklin was always a collaborator with and "friend" to his people. This is one of the things that made his presidency so successful; he was able to work both as individual and within the collective, and in any environment that required collaboration. This was part of his genius not only as scientist and inventor, but also as person. Indeed, as Isaacson (2003, p. 2) states in his introduction: "…the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself."

Another concept, offered by Sims (2011, p. 51) is "failing quickly to learn fast." This means that any failure is an opportunity to learn. This can offer very important life lessons, such as investing wisely, better time management, and the like. This is also something that Benjamin Franklin was able to understand very early in his life. Isaacson (2003) relates an episode from Franklin's childhood, in which he was so impressed with a whistle that he spent all the change in his pocket to buy it. Upon showing the item to his friends and siblings, instead of being impressed, they scoffed at the young Franklin for paying at least "four times" what it was worth. This quick failure taught Franklin the lesson of frugality. This is a lesson he took with him throughout his life in everything he did. It was a quick and intense failure, and one that was unpleasant, but one that provided a valuable lesson that brought benefits throughout Franklin's life. This is…

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