Any artist who had believed the world of art had plateaued by the early 1900s was undoubtedly surprised by the invention of cubism in 1910.
When the first wireless phones were invented, people thought that was it for communication. The technology couldn’t get any better. What more could you possibly want than to go anywhere within a 60 mile radius of a cell tower and still be able to talk, albeit brokenly, with anyone else using a brick-sized device in-hand?
Of course, the signals the phones used to make calls became stronger, the technology required to connect to cellular networks grew ridiculously powerful, and the phones themselves were able to do more within a smaller package. Now we know that those first, clunky wireless phones were far from the best version of themselves. In-fact, the idea of a phone is almost entirely outdated now, replaced by the pocket-sized supercomputer known as the iPhone. But nobody in the time of wireless bricks could have seen the iPhone coming, until it did. Not to mention the internet, email, or instant messaging.
Nobody could have predicted how cubism would change the way painters viewed the subjects they were painting.
Or consider a different object: a pillow. The pillow I use to sleep at night is really uncomfortable. I’ve tried dozens and dozens of different pillows and I can’t seem to find one that works right for me. But who would ever think the pillow could possibly be a staple of creative problem solving?
Despite the fact many of us use a pillow every single night, the pillow of today is far from perfect. There’s a clear opportunity to get creative and solve the “pillow problem.” It’s why companies like Casper are experimenting with different types of pillows, and the Ostrich pillow is such an entertaining concept.
If you wake up thinking “this is it, there’s nothing new to solve or invent,” just take a look at the world around you. You’ll undoubtedly find countless things that need fixing, improvements, or a full revolution. And you can change them, no matter how big or small they are.
If creativity is the capacity to think of new and useful ideas, it’s clear that there will always be a need for new and useful things. This is true not only of physical goods, but of arts and hobbies too.
The invention of cubism was a radical shift for the entire art world. Just because millions of paintings had been made before cubism became an established style didn’t mean there wasn’t any room for a new, creative approach.
The first step to solving the pillow problem understanding that nothing can really ever plateau. There’s always a way to make something better, more useful, less complex, more stable. Once you realize that, the next step is to be curious enough to figure out what might change, then taking steps to change it.