Creative Something

Articles tagged “innovation”

Creativity doesn’t need motivation


Do you need motivation to be creative, or is it enough to simply be attentive?

It’s an interesting question to ask, particularly because the belief that you have to pursue creativity in order to achieve it has been propelled for so very long.

As Pablo Picasso once famously quipped: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Worth clarification from Picasso is whether you need to be working towards creativity for insights to occur. My gut tells me you do not. To be creative is to be attentive, not busying yourself, fiddling away in desperate pursuit of new insights.

We know creativity occurs naturally without intent anyway.

There is ample anecdotal evidence of creativity sparking in individuals who weren’t looking for unique and valuable ideas in the first place. Eureka moments exist in a moment of break anyway, not while we’re intently focused on the problem(s) at hand. Motivation is not required criteria for creativity.

Everyday people often stumble on unique ideas, typically without realizing just how creative the ideas are.

For example, we realize how easy it is to simplify something in our life. We stumble on a solution to a weekend problem. We find a way. And we do it all without every stopping to think “That wasn’t just a good idea, it was a creative one.” The reason we may not stop to reflect on the creative value of every-day ideas is because we weren’t looking for them in the first place. We weren’t motivated to find a novel solution, but we were attentive enough to notice when they appeared. Creative insights occur regardless of motivation.

To be creative doesn’t mean we must be working on a creative task or problem, instead we simply need to be working (on any problem) and be attentive to what it is we’re doing or could be doing. I like to believe that’s what Picasso meant when he said inspiration must find you working.

Attention is a powerful asset for us as creative workers to have, regardless of the work we are (or are not) doing.

We therefore don’t need to seek out creativity, we simply need to get out of our own way and let the ideas find us.

Illustration by Chris Florence.

“Be willing to try things, even if you aren’t too confident they’ll work. Sometimes you’ll get lucky.”

The five rules of inventing from the man who reinvented the frisbee and single serve coffee

Posted at 9:41 am

  1. Why is this a project to begin with?
  2. What purpose does the work serve, what is the end-goal?
  3. Who needs to be involved, and who is the project ultimately for?
  4. When does it need to be completed and when are the project milestones (if there aren’t any, make some)?
  5. Where will the work appear and where will it be worked on?
  6. How will these objectives be accomplished?

Before you start any project, answer these six questions

Posted at 12:39 pm

“Nothing truly innovative, nothing that has advanced art, business, design, or humanity, was ever created in the face of genuine certainty or perfect information.”

Jonathan Fields in Maximize Your Potential

Posted at 8:23 am

Yes, luck is an essential aspect of innovation


How exactly was a research physicist able to create the modern World Wide Web?

It seems like such a strange connection, physics and a wold-wide Internet. Yet, in the early 1980s, a London man named Tim Berners-Lee was able to create the modern-day web. By encouraging networks to interlink with hypertext (a computer text format) and web “domains,” Berners-Lee was able to take a very wide-reaching and difficult-to-use network that represented the pre-modern Internet and turn it into an early World Wide Web.

Realistically the web we love today was always a “bound-to-happen” thing. Anyone could have come up with the idea of connecting the virtual text language with the existing transmission protocol (TCP) and domain names.

But Tim Berners-Lee – again: a physicist working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research at the time – was the one who did it.

“I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to TCP and DNS ideas and – ta da! – the World Wide Web,” Berners-Lee said.

Why him?

Partially because he was in the right place (a global research company that had a need to communicate across the world) at the right time (a time in history where the technology capable of creating the web: hypertext, TCP and DNS, already existed). Berners-Lee was lucky in that sense.

We can see extremely similar cases through-out all major, historical innovations.

The iPhone has revolutionized the web countless billions across the globe communicate, and yet the smart phone as a technology had already existed for years before it. Apple was lucky in that they had access to the technology (the phone, wireless Internet, touch-screen technology) and the right audience (millions of potential customers who adored their iPods) to make the iPhone a success.

It’s a similar story for the advent of computers, automobiles, airplanes, air conditioning, silicone, satellites, radio, photography, microwaves, and so on.

When Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first humans to fly for 12 seconds using a propeller-drawn aircraft in 1903 they were immensely lucky too.

Lucky that they had access to motorized parts that had been invented before their time, lucky that they had all of the knowledge of those who had experimented with glided flight before them too. Lucky that everything allowing them to create the historical “Flyer” not only existed, but that they were in the right place and time to utilize the parts as necessary.

It’s not all about luck, of course.

All innovation requires that the inventor(s) be aware of the possibilities (like Tim Berners-Lee seeing the need for a world-wide Internet network), then act on them (like the Wright brothers putting in countless hours to make their idea work).

So yes, luck is certainly an aspect of innovation. There’s no getting around that requirement, it seems.

However, we – you and I – can do things in order to increase the likelihood of our encountering these lucky situations.

For example, while Thomas Edison is accredited as having invented the electric light bulb, electric power stations, movie cameras, and more, the reason he was able to do any of those things was because he forcefully put himself into the right place and time.

Edison filed well over 1,000 patents during his career.

The Wright brothers found their luck with their airplane after years of diligently working on bicycles and even a printing press they designed and used to print a daily newspaper.

Tim Burners-Lee had spent much of his life not only studying physics, but working with computer models and technology (like that of hypertext) in order to communicate with the teams he was helping. That work put him into a position where it would have been very difficult to not see a world-wide Internet.

In all of these scenarios the lesson is the same: luck plays a part in innovation, but it’s those who work to be in the right place and right time who get lucky. Then it’s up to those who find themselves in such circumstances to act!

As Edison famously stated: “What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

If you want to innovate, place yourself into areas where it’s most likely to happen. The best way to do that is work, tinker, diligently explore areas of your work where opportunities can make themselves known.

I’ll end with this quote that I regularly turn to when I work. From Steven Johnson’s flawlessly good book Where Good Ideas Come From:

“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.”

Welcome to the creative age


It seems that a lot of people think creativity is a total scam or just a bunch of fluff. Maybe you’re one of them.

And I don’t blame them (or you) for feeling that way.

But creativity only seems that way because, in the last decade especially, it’s seriously such an important part of modern day life. I don’t think many of us even realize exactly how important it’s become. Even for those who aren’t in a creative field like art, writing, dance, engineering, or architecture.

I believe this is the creative age of mankind, where it’s suddenly not only possible, but also somewhat expected, for many of us to do creative work.

It wasn’t always this way though.

For a really long time the world ran on anything but creativity. Even saying that word outside of an art school or beatnik gathering or hippie circle meant certain humiliation.

Back then it was easy to be occupied with things that required you to be in the same seat every day pushing the same buttons. Absolutely no thinking required. Factories needed workers to pull levers and businesses needed people to crunch numbers, but nobody was expected to exactly think, let alone think creatively.

But then something interesting happened: the needs of the world at large changed. Not all of the world, but much of it (especially the parts concerning you and me). If you’re anywhere near my age you got to witness much of this change first-hand.

Machines got faster, more efficient, and relatively cheaper. Not only computers, but machines that manufactured those computers, and the ones that manufactured other important things like automobiles, phones, and even food.

And now, as that change continues today, a lot of people around the world are suddenly finding themselves with not a lot to do. Now there are no more buttons to press or numbers to crunch, technology does much of that stuff for us.

So we enter an age where the value of a person – particularly a working person – is no longer in their ability to perform a task repeatedly for an indefinite amount of time. Any of those jobs that do remain are typically filled quickly.

There are millions of people who have found themselves without any work to do. Not because they aren’t out there trying to find it, but because – in many cases – the work simply doesn’t exist.

Businesses and entire states (and in some instances, countries) have become aware of this change. Their solution has been to create jobs where the value of a person is now their ability to think!

Voila, due to the shift in technology and resources, creativity has become a crucial responsibility for mass amounts of people.

The most common jobs that have cropped up are sales or marketing, where creativity is required to out-sell competition and to capture the attention of a society where attention spans are already overwhelmed by ads, blog posts, games, apps, TV shows, social networks, txt messaging, and more.

Copywriting, advertising, SEO, graphic design, web development, app design and development, engineering, video production, and more, are all moving parts of marketing and sales giants that are controlling the old machines that we used to have to pull levers on or crunch numbers around.

These aren’t all the jobs out there, of course, but they make up a large chunk of what many people just coming into the job industry are doing.

Even in education creativity has shifted. Again, because the jobs of the future don’t need people who can simply solve for 2+2. Jobs of tomorrow require students that can think creatively, laterally, and about things educational institutions haven’t even yet seen.

Is it really any surprise, then, that in 2012 the business networking site LinkedIn declared “creativity” as the #1 “overused buzzword”. Of 135 million working professionals, creativity was the one word that the majority of them decided to use on their resume. But is it really just a buzzword if it’s one of the leading factors of today’s economy?

Another type of person has come out of the shadows now too though: the true creative class.

Those of us who take pride in doing authentic creative work for a living.

We’re the artists who have setup shop on Etsy or Big Cartel, the authors who have self published to Amazon and Lulu, the film-makers who have been seen by millions of people. Musicians, inventors, contemporary artists, designers, actors, engineers, all striving to incorporate ourselves into a world that is now extremely creativity-based.

It makes sense why we have sites like Kickstarter suddenly swelling up into the mainstream. And why small teams like that of Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and more are driving innovation.

Creativity itself has become a sellable commodity too. There are countless books, apps, movies, blogs, consultants, and entire businesses, all focused on creativity itself as a source of growth and profit.

Some of those resources and individuals are honest and do help the creative community. My work, for example. Others are obviously after a quick dollar and don’t provide much value to anyone.

I envision a not-too-distant future where creativity and creative education act as the business model and drive an entire industry themselves. It’s why I’m focusing more of my time on creating apps to drive and fuel creativity, like Prompts for writing and Oflow for inspiration.

Despite the seemingly sudden influx of creativity in the world, the act itself – of having new ideas – hasn’t changed. It’s the same as it has been for thousands of years. So while there are people who decide to use it as such, creativity is certainly not just a gimmick. It’s not snake oil. It’s immensely valuable.

Creativity is just a part of the increasingly strange world you and I get to be part of. And it’s only going to become more of an asset as technology like that behind 3D printers and wearable computers becomes more readily available.

If you’re already a creative, I hope you’re excited about the changes and what’s to come. It means we have more opportunities to provide more value and do more of what we love. Nobody in the history of mankind has ever had that chance like we do today.

I, for one, am proud of my creativity and that of the creative communities I’m involved with.

Creativity is the age we live in now. If you don’t yet: better start loving it.

Photo by JD Hancock.