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Books on Business: Revealing practices and styles of brilliant achievers

Sunday, June 24, 2001

By Carnegie Library's Business Librarians

"The Five Faces of Genius: The Skills to Master Ideas at Work" by Annette Moser-Wellman. Viking, 2001.

Author Moser-Wellman has combined her MBA and her master's degree in divinity to explore the wellsprings of creativity, and particularly how they can be tapped in the world of business.

By investigating the styles and practices of brilliant artists, scientists and businessmen, she has developed five models of creative endeavor.

The book explores these models, expressed as five metaphors of creative thinking: the seer with a power to visualize; the observer with a power to notice and collect details; the alchemist with a power to connect disciplines and domains; the fool with the power to find surprises and make breakthroughs; and the sage with the power to simplify.

Workers who exemplify and engage these characteristics are considered "business artists."

Each image is matched with multiple examples.

Akio Morita, founder of Sony, for example, is an observer. As he watched his children lug sound equipment to the beach, he realized it should be easier to bring music everywhere you go. This led, of course, to the birth of the Sony Walkman.

When Ray Kroc, a seer, was a milkshake mixer salesman, he had a vision of speedy, inexpensive restaurants "dotting crossroads all over the country."

Alchemists mix disparate elements, including other people's ideas, to create something new and unique, as Frank Lloyd Wright combined the structure of the natural world with architectural forms.

After each example are short exercises that allow readers to determine their dominant creative skill and their weakest one.

Moser-Wellman offers good tips on honing and using these skills.

For example, those who are meticulous in recording our appointments also can keep journal accounts of their musings, ideas and inspirations. Of course, she reminds us that what counts are the ideas that we do something about.

"The Five Faces" provides a fresh examination of the traits of highly successful people through five unique lenses.

More about this approach is on the book's Web site:

Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money and work, at 412-281-7141 or at

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