Few things are so identifiable yet so incalculable as creativity. Sometimes the line between great and awful is so small it’s hard to tell if it’s even there. No matter what role you play, we’re expected to understand, qualify and quantify creativity. Everyday we’re asked to be creative. To solve problems and communicate ideas in a way that logic, order and process just can’t.
With that in mind I’d like to present two quick stories around the subject of creativity. Each taken with a grain of salt and as food for thought.
Things I Believe
Written by Faris Yakob, Chief Innovation Officer at MDC Partners
I believe that ideas are new combinations. I believe that stealing is genius, but copying is the reserve of the uninspired.
I believe that originality, as currently understood, is a romantic notion, often depicted as Athena springing forth fully formed from the mind of Zeus, and just as mythical.
I believe, like the postmodernists, that you can attempt to create a higher order of meaning by standing on the semantic foundations of other creations, employing referents instead of starting from scratch.
I believe that the remix is the dominant cultural construct of a digital age, bits endlessly co-mingling with bits.
The idea of the remix can be traced back to the philosopher John Locke.
Back in the 17th century, he posited that human imagination was essentially a sampler and sequencer – cutting and pasting perceived reality into new constructs. Complex ideas are combinations of simple ones: to form an idea of a unicorn, take a horse and a horn and mix them.
All ideas work like this. The archeology of any idea involves decompiling it into its constituent elements.
Creating ideas is the same process reversed.
As Jonah Lehrer points out in his book, How We Decide:
“From the perspective of the brain – new ideas are just several old ideas had at the same time”
Stephen Johnson, in his excellent book Where Good Ideas Come From, has pointed out that only some ideas are possible at any moment – he calls this solution space the ‘adjacent possible’.
The most obvious combinations, the most obvious ideas, the most obvious creative solutions to a brief, sit at the nearest edge of the adjacent possible.
This is why the first round of responses to the same brief tend to be so similar, again and again. This is why so many ideas are the same, copying either conscious or unconscious, blending with convergent evolution, as mind tackle the same problems in different places.
How, then, to have better ideas? Better, more unusual, more interesting, more differentiating ideas exist at the furthest viable extremes of the adjacent possible.
So, in order to get them you must
1) expose yourself to the most diverse set of influences possible, and allow luck to lead you
2) get past all the obvious ideas first
This is where I diverge with Jonah Lehrer’s belief, espoused in this new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, that brainstorming does not work.
It works excellently for certain things.
One of those things is blowing through all the obvious ideas first, together, to save time. Getting access to all the existing ideas inside many people’s heads and getting them out on the table and blended together.
Hence, volume – quantities of concepts – is the key objective.
People often say there are no bad ideas in brainstorms.
This is obviously not true; there are many, many bad ideas in brainstorms.
And that’s the point.
Talent Imitates, Genius Steals
The original letter can be found here: http://farisyakob.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341ca6f253ef0167650c8e57970b-pi
Monetizing the Mundane
A short story about embracing behavior instead of changing it.
Armed with popcorn and soda you walk into your favorite theatre to enjoy a few hours of silver screen entertainment. You settle into a comfortable seat and wait for a well hyped (and well advertised) big budget movie to start. As the pre-preview commercials are winding down you’re expecting the familiar modern movie message; NO TALKING AND TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.
Instead the message reads:
What does your phone dream about when it’s asleep? Text us before you turn off your phone. When the movie is over we’ll show you.
Once the movie ends you turn on your phone to find a message with a special link. After a quick sign in (using Facebook) you get a video of your phone’s dream. A video created specifically for you.
This isn’t just a story, it is Sprint’s pre-movie ad that launched with the AVENGERS on opening weekend. With a little creativity they’ve taken the mundane (and always sponsored) message to silence or turn off your phone and made it a personalized experience.