A weekly newsletter on creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.
Tuesday, 6 April 2004
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your weekly newsletter on Creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.
My apologies for a late issue today. I was in Bilbao the past two days and have only had a chance to edit today's issue of Report 103 this evening.
As always, if you have news about creativity, please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103.
A (BAKER'S) DOZEN CHARACTERISTICS OF CREATIVE PEOPLE
Over the years, I have had the pleasure to know a number of creative people. From artists, to entrepreneurs to teachers to writers to civil servants. While my creative acquaintances have come from a variety of backgrounds and numerous countries, they do have a number of characteristics in common.
1. Always having ideas
Creative people have more ideas than they know what to do with. They are constantly being inspired and spew out ideas one after the other. Some of those ideas are daft, some are brilliant, many are fair. But thanks the sheer quantity of ideas, creative people come up with more brilliant ideas than most. That's what makes them creative.
2. Open mindedness
In order to be creative, it is essential to have an open mind. It is necessary to make new connections between various concepts and to envision doing things in new ways. Anyone with a closed mind will find it impossible to be creative.
As surprising as it may seem, creative people are highly logical thinkers. But their logic is often different from most people's. “Because it is always done this way”, “because we did it this way before and it worked”, “because I cannot be bothered to implement a new strategy” are not acceptable logical arguments for creative thinkers.
Creative people, by nature, do not follow the crowd. They have their own ideas and are determined to follow those ideas. They are often loners. Some have trouble collaborating with other people. Others positively thrive on working in groups. But all have a need to explore their own methods of doing things.
5. Sense of humour
Most creative people have wonderful senses of humour. After all, jokes are perfect examples of creative thinking: looking at people and situations in new and different ways – ways that are funny.
6. Love books
Creative people generally love books and read voraciously. That's not surprising. Books fuel their need for new knowledge and new perspectives as well as exercise the mind.
7. Short attention span
Creative people often have short attention spans. They bore easily and need to feed their minds with new problems, new stimulation and new ideas. Creative people need new challenges at work and in their lives. Otherwise they stagnate.
8. Difficult childhoods – but good homes
Creative people often suffer difficult childhoods, such as being bullied at school, frequently moving home or long illness. These difficulties taught them to find new approaches to entertaining themselves, doing school work and making friends. And learning to think in new ways became a valuable skill that helped them to overcome their problems in childhood and later. Nevertheless, they typically had good homes with at least one loving parent; which gave them reassurance and .
Creative people need determination in order to express ideas which often go against accepted ideas. They often need to “sell” their ideas to people who are perfectly happy with their tried and tested ideas. They often need to demonstrate their ideas in action simply to prove those ideas will work. All of this requires determination.
10. Often rebellious
Creative people are often – but not always – rebellious. They don't believe in doing things the way they have always been done – simply because they have always been done that way. They have determination and often go against the crowd to prove their ideas.
11. Better at the big picture than the details
By nature, creative people are more concerned with the big picture. They enjoy the challenge of solving problems, but often find implementing their solutions to be rather dull. They enjoy designing new concepts and directing those concepts, but are bored by the nuts and bolts necessary for building their concepts.
Many creative people are highly sensitive. Even though they probably suffer more rejections than most people – because they propose more ideas – they still suffer more from their rejections than do others. Creative people thrive on positive feed back and – no matter what they say – delight in compliments.
Creative people are by nature experimental. They need to try out new ideas all the time and do this by experimenting. Moreover, those experiments often lead to new, unexpected results which translate into new ideas. Experimentation does not necessarily mean mixing chemicals in a laboratory. It means trying out new ideas in order to see what happens.
HIRING CREATIVE PEOPLE FOR NON-CREATIVE COMPANIES
Advertising agencies, design shops, research institutes, universities and other places which hire large numbers of creative people are used to creative people. Indeed, they thrive on their creative environments and take pride in their less than typical approaches to work. For many other firms, however, hiring a creative person can cause all kinds of problems. As discussed in the previous article, creative people are not like other people, they have short attention spans, are determined, sometimes moody and often rebellious. They are unlikely to agree with corporate consensus and may openly question management. Creative people, with their short attention spans, are more likely to start projects which they do not complete or which are weak in the details.
But, for companies that need to change their way of doing business in order to remain competitive, creative people can be a breath of fresh air, presenting all kinds of new ideas for products, services, customer service and administration. They can impress customers with new ideas and get suppliers excited with potential for new business. Even a single highly creative manager can make big changes in a small to medium sized company – and substantial changes in large companies, given the opportunity. It is up to senior management to ensure those changes are for the best.
An interesting option for small to medium sized companies wanting to be more creative, more innovative is to hire a “Creative Director” who can provide creative ideas across the organisation, who can bring out creativity in others, who can promote creative thinking and who can lead and participate in creative teams.
The first step, prior to hiring a creative director is determining what you wish to achieve. It is all well and good deciding you want to be more creative. But for real results, you need to determine real goals. For example, you may decide that you want to launch one new product every year or you want to find unique ways to server your customers better, more effectively and less expensively. Ideally, you should have a handful of such goals for your creative director.
Hiring a creative director can also be a challenge. Unlike university degrees or professional certifications, there is no hard evidence of being creative. It is best to look for someone with a diversity of experience – as diversity will have fed her creativity. Someone who has lived and worked overseas is also likely to have fresh ideas gained from abroad.
Once you have identified some prospects, it is essential to test them. The most effective means of doing this is to write down two or four problems relevant to your firm. Send a problem or two to the prospect the think about and discuss during the interview. This will allow the prospect time to consider the problem and solutions. Present another problem or two during the interview to see how the prospect thinks on her feet.
It is important not to only analyse the solutions the prospect suggests, but also the approach the prospect takes to solve the problems. It is also useful to determine how the prospect reacts to the problems. Does she see them as a chore or a challenge?
Needless-to-say, it is highly recommended you contact previous employers and ask how the prospect performed.
MORE GOOGLE CREATIVITY
A couple of organisations have built interesting tools that incorporate Google in innovative ways. Banana Slug adds a random word to your Google search. As such, it is particularly useful if a search result provides far too many results or if you are looking for a unique angle for a research paper. Moreover, you can choose your random word to come from any of ten different categories such as themes from Shakespeare, jargon or even tarot arcana and suits. For example, entering the term “electronic commerce” and clicking the “Themes from Shakespeare” button brought up results related to “electronic commerce” and “insanity”, including: a blog relating e-commerce to insanity, an article on Danish e-commerce excess and a case study on open source software and e-commerce as the top three results. Try out BananaSlug the next time you need more interesting results for your research: www.bananaslug.com.
On the other hand, if you have a less than full fridge and want some interesting cooking ideas, pop over to “Cookin' With Google” (www.researchbuzz.org/archives/001404.shtml). Enter a few ingredients in the search box, click the button and you will get a list of links to recipes using those ingredients.
You can find the latest Google experiments at labs.google.com