Physics and Ideation: Creativity and Mismatched Socks

I’ve been thinking about lessons we can take from the physics community to more successfully develop ideas — and I’ve been wearing mismatched socks.  I blame Louisa Gilder and her wonderful exploration into the weird path physics took towards accepting entanglement over the past century. In 1964 John Bell lit a small fire at the foundations of modern physics using timber put in place by Einstein 30 years prior. It launched a few investigations but in truth mostly smoldered for another 17 years until he stated the implications of his theory a bit differently.  He spoke about Bertlmann’s Socks.  “Dr. Bertlmann likes to wear two socks of different colors. Which color he will have on a given foot on a given day is quite unpredictable. But when you see that the first sock is pink you can be already sure that the second sock will not be pink. Observation of … Continue reading

Procrastination = Creativity | There Is Hope!

“Productive mediocrity requires discipline of an ordinary kind.” Quote from W.A. Pannapacker’s article How To Procrastinate Like Leonardo da Vinci. (UPDATE: subscription now required to get to this article.) Evidently Leonardo never saw a project he couldn’t avoid finishing.  But maybe procrastination is the wrong word for his tendency to ‘solve and move on.’ Do you have any of these frustrating creative folks on your staff?  Been working them over with GTD (Getting Things Done) seminars and yearly reviews that express frustration at implementation but awe over concept? Did the brilliant strategic thinker get so caught up in seemingly unimportant details that all work stopped? Stop trying to change your dreamers.  Create an environment that lets them kick start solutions and then move on – leaving talented managers to wrap up the details.  Use your staff in ways that builds on their strength…and avoids their blind spots. It may be … Continue reading

Two Sides to the Creativity Coin

My partner has been writing an awesome series on “Creativity Killers.” Each and every one dead on as to their effects on an organization’s ability to be creative. Fred and I both agree that most organization’s wield these “weapons” too often with much success — even when they profess to be an organization that embraces innovation and change. For many years we have worked with clients on the need to create a strong creative culture — one that embraces those who go outside the status quo. Last night I picked up a book (Orbiting the Giant Hairball) from the man who taught me much about creative thinking and how to not get caught up in the “hairball” — Gordon McKenzie. As the creative guru and and professed burr-under-the-saddle at Hallmark Cards while I was there in the late 80’s/early 90’s, he provided me with great insights on stretching “paradigms” to … Continue reading

Creative Fire Extinguisher #6 – Efficient Use Of Time

In the name of efficiency we are slowly driving fuzzy time out of our day. Fuzzy time is difficult to value because it is hard to attach creative end-product to such ‘unproductive’ time. As corporate managers have become better at measuring the time it takes to do a job, the more fuzzy time gets diverted to the employee’s supposedly personal time. So you want to kill creativity? Maximize measured productivity. How can we protect fuzzy time? How can we make sure it doesn’t get swallowed up by other chores pulling at employees? Through a combination of rewarding creativity and allowing more individualized control over scheduling you can actually empower an employee to lighten up and think more about what they are doing. Of course, CFE #6 automatically puts you on the teeter totter with CFE #7,Waisting Time. (Ahh… encouraging creativity. It’s not easy, but at least it’s fun!)

Creative Fire Extinguisher #5 – The Universal Buy In

Similar to CFE #4 in that it pushes decision making responsibility away from an individual and towards a group is the wonderfully inclusionairy Universal Buy-In. And your manager says, “Go Ye Into The Corporation And Implementeth Thy Idea With The Voluntary Help From All Such Departments That Are Touchethed By Thy Idea Or Hear Of Your Idea Or Simply Who Speaketh Loudly and Catcheth My Ear And Wanteth To Add Imputheth Into Ye Idea That I Liketh So Much.” If you hold a powerful creative spark this may be all the go ahead you need to drive a great idea through the organization. Most of the time, it is simply a great way to freeze things the way they are. Driving change with the voluntary help of various support groups means that if any group decides not to participate for any reason your project is dead. Driving change requires enough management support … Continue reading