Cover image for The five faces of genius : the skills to master ideas at work
The five faces of genius : the skills to master ideas at work
Moser-Wellman, Annette.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2001.
Physical Description:
208 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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HD53 .M67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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An essential primer of creative thinking techniques for success in today's new economy--and beyondWhat do Mozart, da Vinci, and Jeff Bezos, founder of, have in common? They have all mastered skills of creative genius.As the world rapidly changes the face of business and traditional models become obsolete overnight, companies are no longer looking for business managers who are experts at the system. They need people who can use their creativity to constantly reinvent the system. They want business artists.Annette Moser-Wellman identifies five common creative styles or Faces of Genius: the Seer, the Observer, the Alchemist, the Fool, and the Sage. By using examples from geniuses old and new, she breaks down each face into specific techniques and provides exercises that anyone can use immediately to begin to think more creatively. The Five Faces of Genius teaches business professionals how to develop the creative skills necessary for success by emulating the techniques of past and present geniuses in the arts, sciences, and business.

Author Notes

Annette Moser-Wellman is the President of FireMark, Inc. a consulting & marketing firm that offers workshops in creative business thinking. Her Seattle-based company has clients across the country including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Starbucks, & Hewlitt Packard.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Moser-Wellman posits that the most valuable resource you can bring to your work and to your employer is your creativity; it's your ideas that matter. The five paths to ideas, she insists, are seer, observer, alchemist, fool, and sage. Seers see pictures in their mind's eye, and these pictures become the impetus for ingenious ideas. Observers notice the details of the world around them and collect them to construct a new idea. The alchemist brings together separate domains--different ideas, disciplines, or systems of thought--and connects them in a unique way to develop breakthrough ideas. The fool, she writes, has the power to celebrate weakness, practicing three related skills: excelling at inversion, seeking the sense in absurdity, and having unending perseverance. The sage uses the powers of simplification as the primary means to inspiration. Sages reduce problems to their essence and in the process create a very clever idea. Simplicity is their credo. Will all this work? The author is the president of a consulting firm. It must work for her. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

Moser-Wellman, a Seattle consultant whose clients include Starbucks and Coca-Cola, believes that creative genius is behind business success stories from McDonald's to, and is a business's most valuable asset in times of great change. While acknowledging that each of us expresses creativity differently, she argues that there are five principles that the most successful creative thinkers have mastered and that the rest of us can learn and profit from. In Moser-Wellman's rendering, these principles are types of "genius," embodied in the Seer, who can visualize a problem; the Observer, who meticulously notes important details; the Alchemist, who can find connections between seemingly unrelated domains; the Fool, who can find a breakthrough solution by persevering and turning weaknesses into opportunities; and the Sage, who can find answers by reducing a problem to its simplest form. To help readers identify their natural creative strengths, she provides a survey with 40 engaging questions (e.g., "If I were on the show Seinfeld, I would likely be cast as a) Jerry Seinfeld b) Kramer"). Less a programmatic regimen than a provocative roster of creative approaches, this compelling book offers plenty of insights for those open to them. Agent, Jan Miller. (Mar.)Forecast: Though her insights are solid, Moser-Wellman's approach is likely to be too soft to draw a significant audience unless she turns out to be a promotional wizard on her five-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.



Chapter One "It is my business to create." --WILLIAM BLAKE How did Albert Einstein get the idea for the theory of relativity? What was Georgia O'Keeffe's inspiration for her paintings? How did Andy Grove create the computer giant Intel? Have you ever wondered how history's best got their ideas?     Most of us believe geniuses are in a league of their own. What we don't realize is that these highly creative people use skills we all can learn. People aren't genius; ideas are--and each of us is capable of our own breakthrough ideas.      Here are the thinking skills of some of the most highly inventive people in history--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frank Lloyd Wright, Leonardo da Vinci, and more. When you understand their path to ideas--how they developed breakthroughs--you'll be able to master your imagination in business. You will discover your creative style--how your imagination operates and how to become an idea leader. You'll learn to be a more vital member of your team and to ensure that your ideas see the light of day within your organization. You will discover the parts of you that are genius.     Your company needs your genius. We are in a business renaissance, and as in a renaissance, artists, scientists, poets, and thinkers are at the forefront of change. They master possibility, paint on empty canvases, and define the rules of the next age. To lead the changes in business today, you need to think like an artist and master your imagination. Your currency is your ideas.     Here's how I learned the importance of ideas. In the mid-1990s I was a successful manager at a world-renowned advertising agency. Yet, I was looking toward the future and wanted to know how I could accelerate my performance and advance within the company. A trusted colleague was on his way to a new job and I asked him for some honest feedback. What I heard shocked me.     "Jack, tell me. What can I do to improve my work with the team?"     "Well, Annette. You're smart. You're a great manager. You get things done. But you are too focused on `strategy.' You spend too much time thinking about the problem. The team wants your creative solutions. What are your ideas ? You need to increase your facility with ideas."     Increase my facility with ideas? I couldn't believe it! I thought my imagination was pretty good--I'd been using it for years. But his words haunted me: not "strategy," but "ideas." I had to admit, Jack was right. I often tried to understand, even argue, about what needed to be done instead of how to create ideas to get there. How could I increase the quality and quantity of my ideas at work? To be more successful at work, I would have to learn to think more creatively.     I decided to learn about creativity from the best. If I could understand the mental architecture--the thinking skills--of the most highly creative people in history, perhaps I could become more inventive at work. I could sit at the feet of genius and learn to improve my business imagination. I began poring over the innovations of the most well-respected artists, scientists, inventors, and business geniuses of history. With each one I asked, "How did this mind make the contribution? What were the mental principles at work that led to the breakthrough?"     What I found inspired and changed me. I discovered that the creative mind is the same no matter where you find it--in art, in dance, in science--even in business. It took the same skills for Robert Frost to write a poem or for Bob Dylan to write a ballad as it did for Howard Schultz to create the idea for the Starbucks empire or for Ray Kroc to reinvent American dining when he franchised McDonald's. The same tools of invention used by artists and scientists to create their breakthroughs are used by business people to create breakthroughs in industry. I had found where art meets business.     I laid the examples of breakthroughs over my desk. As I studied, five common principles of creativity emerged. I even gave them names so I could remember them: the Seer, the Observer, the Alchemist, the Fool, and the Sage. I called the framework the Five Faces of Genius: the mental architecture--the thinking skills--behind some of the greatest contributions in history.     I put the power of the Five Faces of Genius to work at the agency, and the framework became my toolbox for creative thinking. Every time I began working on a project or had to solve a problem, I'd run through the principles in my mind. Immediately I felt the results. I started mastering ideas---sales ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for my clients' businesses, ideas for my firm's business. I stopped worrying about smart answers and started looking for creative answers. I began hearing the compliment, "You never come to me without an idea." I relied not just on my head but also on my intuition and ingenuity to solve problems. I stopped living like a business manager and began living like an artist. I began to find a part of the creative genius within me.     As I shared the framework with friends, co-workers, and colleagues, they immediately saw how the Five Faces of Genius would help them. I heard, "I need to find a way to be more creative in what I do at work. Can you teach me?" I heard, "My customer is not just paying for my service, they expect ideas, too." Some told me "idea development" was now a part of their performance evaluation. "I need to figure out how to be more imaginative in my job." My struggle wasn't just my own. It was the same struggle for a generation of other managers. The information economy had changed the landscape of business, and more of us realized the importance of being an idea champion at work.     Today, I am the founder and president of a company called FireMark, which teaches business people to think more creatively using the Five Faces of Genius. Our clients include such renowned and diverse companies as Coca-Cola, Andersen Consulting, Kraft Foods, and Starbucks. My company helps others use the skills to discover new ideas--the uncharted territory of the business--and teaches them how to bring their imagination to work.     In these pages you'll find skills to master breakthrough in the idea economy--how to navigate your imagination and find a deeper energy for your work. A seminar participant says it best, "When I began to master all the Five Faces of Genius skills, I found I had creative powers I never knew I had. Now when I get my group together at work, say to come up with ways to grow our business, I ask the questions the Faces would ask and it helps us dream big. I am enjoying being the `idea ambassador.' My job is much more fun and meaningful to me."     Now, some of you are saying, "But my management doesn't want imaginative solutions. I'm just expected to follow directions." Or, "My job description is about getting things done." Or, "My team has good ideas; getting them through the organization is the hardest part." And this may be true. There is no denying that the organization corrals innovation, but this is what I want you to know: The most valuable resource you bring to your work and to your firm is your creativity. More than what you get done, more than the role you play, more than your title, more than your "output"--it's your ideas that matter. In a business renaissance, when a leading firm can crumble in a minute (Boston Chicken) and another be born in an instant (, even your firm needs business artists.     To become a business artist you don't have to put toys in your office or shoot your colleagues with Neff guns. You don't have to have the word "creative" in your title. You simply have to commit to finding your genius within. You have a creative spirit worth nurturing. Dedicate yourself to discovering it.     Get ready for some of the most valuable skills you may ever learn. The Five Faces of Genius are the raw rubrics of creativity, and once you know them you can apply them to your business challenges. Principles that can help you master your life at work and even your life. We live in an age of change. Don't be a person who responds to change. Be the person who creates it.      The poet William Blake claimed it was his business to create. It is your business to create as well. It is finally what you create, what you contribute, what you call into being at work, that will be your personal legacy. And legacies are not just for artists, philosophers, or Nobel Prize winners alone. A creative legacy is your birthright, too.     You and I spend more time working than any other single activity in our lives. Work is exactly the place that demands the most from us but often where we expect the least. But when you pioneer creativity in your work, you find your creative spirit, and you can transform your soul and change the lives of those around you. The world is waiting to discover your genius. Begin here. Copyright © 2001 Annette Moser-Wellman. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

I. Finding the Business Genius Withinp. 1
II. The Five Faces of Geniusp. 7
1. The Seerp. 21
2. The Observerp. 46
3. The Alchemistp. 70
4. The Foolp. 90
5. The Sagep. 115
III. Putting the Five Faces of Genius to Workp. 139
IV. Discovering Your Genius Withinp. 183
Notesp. 195
Indexp. 201