Otto von Bismarck once said, “Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.” In Paul Sloane’s latest book, Think Like an Innovator, you will learn from the struggles and accomplishments of 76 of the world’s greatest thinkers: artists, business leaders, geniuses, inventors, mavericks, pioneers, scientists and visionaries.

To ‘think like an innovator’ is something that nearly everyone aspires to. After all, who doesn’t want to be more creative or artistic in their endeavors? How many people dream of coming up with a great idea that will bring them fame and fortune? To feed this visionary need there are tools and resources to help people develop their creative abilities, but to become a successful innovator one needs more than just creativity.

For instance, the ability to convince others or simply ignore their disbelief and criticism is one characteristic that differentiates the trailblazers from the people who have great ideas, but never see them through to fruition. A person needs to possess passion, self-confidence, patience, and above all, persistence.

In his new book, Think Like an Innovator, Paul Sloane gathered a diverse collection of people with these attributes. He describes their personal background, challenges faced, the solutions they proposed, and finally, the lessons learned —practical advise for you to apply in your own situation.

The book contains more insights than I will attempt to list here, but there were a few themes that stood out to me; bits of wisdom that creative thinkers should keep in mind:

  • Be original: David Bowie, Miles Davis, Freddie Mercury, Salvador Dalí, Picasso, J.K. Rowling, and the list goes on—each had a distinct and sometimes controversial perspective of what their art should be. They stayed true to their beliefs and overcame great obstacles, no matter what the critics said.
  • Be curious and question everything: the inventors of Velcro, Penicillin, and a mechanic who invented a simple device that could save millions of lives during child-birth all kept an open mind and active curiosity about ordinary events in their daily lives. Outstanding inventions can come from the simplest observations.
  • Trust your people:  transparent organizations with little bureaucracy and self-organizing teams have achieved sophisticated products, a loyal workforce and fortunes to boot.
  • Mix with people from outside your profession (and comfort zone): Hans Christian Andersen used to listen to wild stories from inmates in a lunatic asylum. And one of the world’s most successful mining giants was not a miner. He listened to scientists, data analysts and geologists instead of the mining experts. Diversity of thought and experience is vital to divergent thinking and problem solving.

Other themes and lessons include:

  • Hardship and hard work come with the territory
  • Take risks, break the rules, use brazen stunts or be offensive when needed
  • Design a platform, not a product
  • Don’t be afraid to copy and combine
  • Learn from your customers
  • Storytelling and effective communication are a powerful tools for the innovator

For the experienced entrepreneur or innovation manager, you will find many well known names in this book, but you’re also bound to find interesting unknown details about their lives or new perspectives about their work. Sloane managed to pack a great deal of wisdom in a light and easy-to-read format, perfect for reading on the go or in bite-sized portions.

By Amelia Johannsen

About the author

Paul Sloane is the author of many books, such as The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation. Find more information at

About the reviewer

Amelia Johannsen is a digital communications professional working on a variety of projects internationally. She is passionate about functional design and collaborative innovation used to create a more compassionate and sustainable world. As a freelance writer, she contributes to projects such as, The Green Exchange and Handmade Barcelona, while her free time is best spent traveling and in the pottery studio. Feel free to connect on Linkedin.