Richard Florida was kind enough to read my book and offer this blurb–“Creative Intelligence lays out the forces that will drive us toward a prosperous future. Read this book if you want to be inspired and provoked to lead the way.”
Creative Intelligence is now on pre-order and you can get it in print or ebook from various sources, including:
The official book launch date is March 5. I’m a little nervous but it’s all very exciting.
The first class of the new Cornell-Technion school of engineering (which appears to be what is being built in NYC) opened in Google’s NYC headquarters this week. That’s not good news. Goggle is a remarkable company but it is totally male/tech/engineering driven. I guess Technion is that way too. Brilliant guys come up with terrific new tech ideas and then–and only then–try to find a cultural/social need for them. Clearly that tech-driven strategy works but it feels very 20th century.
Most of the hot new startups are founded by designers or people with a big exposure to design. We have the Design Fund and a couple of dozen new companies to prove that. And then there is New York City. This city, my city, runs on culture, not technology. The hottest firms here, RGA, Kickstarter and the media and marketing firms, know this.
The real business of business in New York is mining the existential. It’s excavating the meaning of America’s changing demographics, ethnic shifts, gender changes, class movements. Its about understanding global cities and urban cultures.
Creativity is about mining this kind of social and cultural knowledge and connecting it to the appropriate technologies–some of them new, some old. The food truck revolution–a part of the revived Maker Culture–involves OLD technology–trucks.
The real reason I wanted Stanford to win the contest to build a new school in NYC was not that it would bring its world-class engineering to the city. A Stanford win would have brought the D-School to New York. It would have brought design, creativity and innovation to the mix of technology and business.
Cornell Technion needs a C-School, a Creativity School, to really work in NYC.
In our post global world, we have continued to see a critical need for a deeper understanding of innovation, global collaboration and sociocultural interaction. We reject the idea that designers are right-brainers and analysts are left-brainers…we all have to be whole-brainers to create the future we envision. We are connected more than ever, and have created powerful tools to help us harness this connectivity. Moreover, our daily behaviors, even on an individual level, are changing dramatically as a result of these new tools. This also spells change for large organizations, businesses – even countries – and raises questions about how design can not only affect change, but shape the process towards a designed outcome. The Helsinki Design Lab calls this stewardship —
“ the art of balancing agency and reflexivity. For us it’s the conscious design that builds political, economic, and social interests towards a desired state; it’s the art of getting there. And when we speak about design in this context, we speak of it as a leadership model: a way of leading in an uncertain world, where iteration is the key to connecting opportunity to impact. In our work, design and stewardship are interconnected.””—2013 HarvardxDesign Manifesto (via museastoria)
At the HarvardXDesign conference – a great event for the B-School– I was on a panel that did a crit on two teams from across Harvard that were the best of 9 teams competing in the challenge of How Would You Redesign Education in America. Kickstarter’s Charles Adler, IIt Institute of Design’s Patrick Whitney, Continuum’s Harry West were on the panel as well.
The second team presented their idea of doing a log on failure from the time you are in K-12 through your life that could constitute of Portfolio of Failure. The idea, of course, was to allow us to see our failures, plot them, and learn from them. I could hear the refrain in my ears “Fail early, fail, fast, fail often.” Now I know the context of the conversation around failure–its about prototyping, moving fast, learning quickly, evolving to get to a workable and perhaps best solution.
But I’ve never liked this embrace of failure. We learn as much from our successes as from our failure and I suspect we learn much more. Besides, I failed a lot in school. I didn’t test all that well and didn’t get straight As. Failure made me feel awful. And I think failure makes kids in urban public schools or on the rez feel just as bad if not much worse. Many are already close to despair in their lives. Failure is deeply meaningful to them. It has serious consequences. Get labelled a “Failure” and it can ruin your life. As a pedagogical methodology, embracing failure is the last thing these kids need.
The thing about this fetching of failure is that is can work if you’re at Stanford or Harvard and you were lucky enough to be born into a well-off family and went to a good school and were brought up to be and feel accomplished and secure enough to make failure a feature of your learning.
But be aware of the fallacy of failure. It is celebrated only when you succeed. If you continue to fail, you’re going to be– A Failure. So the fetishism of failure really means you can fail a couple of time–two or three or maybe three times– but no more. How many entrepreneurs are celebrated for their sixth or seventh try?
Failure is usually associated with problem-solving. There’s an assumption that there is one right problem with one right answer and if you can’t get it, you fail. But what if you don’t even know what the problems are and there are lots of ways of dealing with them? I prefer the Play mode of dealing with challenges. When you play, there are rules but they change as you play the game. There are different outcomes to playing a game, different ways of winning. When something doesn’t work, you try another. You do work arounds. Is that Failure? I don’t think so. Do kids who go to Montessori school think of themselves as Failures when their blocks don’t quite fit together? I doubt it.
So maybe it’s time to challenge this orthodoxy of Fail, Fail, Fail so you can Succeed, Succeed, Succeed. It’s all about the learning and the knowledge and you don’t have to embrace a cult of failure to get that.
There was a good discussion about the design of things and the design of relationships at the opener of the Harvard design conference put on by students at the Harvard B-School. They have put together a great conference for today that includes a wonderful speaker series plus a Design Challenge for teams that i will be judging, along with Harry West of Continuum and others, later in the day. Bringing together people from all over Harvard into teams that include design students to work on a challenge is a terrific way to show how design is powerful.
Off to the conference….
Check out the latest issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek–The Design Issue. This is great news. When McGraw-Hill sold it to Bloomberg a few years back, design coverage pretty much disappeared. It’s back in a splendid package of stories that offer insights by many of the best designers around the globe. And the design of magazine layout is pretty swell too. Who did it? http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-24/the-design-issue.
BBW launched its first Design Conference a few months back and appears to be ramping up its coverage at a critical time. The Designers Fund and the long list of designers starting successful companies is merging the entrepreneur/startup/design/innovation/creativity spaces. All business media has to cover design and creativity these days.
I’m on an Acela train heading to Harvard where a design conference is about to be held that is organized by Harvard Business School students in conjunction with Harvard’s new I-Lab (as in Innovation). Sign of the times. The students belong to the HBS design club. Design clubs are the fastest growing clubs in business schools.
Creativity is the source of real economic value and we are rediscovering that today. Sure, you can squeeze profits out with efficiency and lower cost supply chaining. But BIG profits comes with original products that have deep meaning for people who can engage with them. That involves using Creative Intelligence to generate Economic Value, Growth and Profits. I call it Indie Capitalism.
Great to see BusinessWeek back in the game.
I am taking the Acela up to Harvard today to attend the X Design Conference put on by its B-School students. Yes, the design club of the HBS has put together a remarkable 2-day conference. Together with Harvard’s new I-Lab, Innovation Lab, they are bringing together people from all over the university to listen to some great speakers and actually do design together. http://www.harvardxdesign.com/
Teams will compete on a design challenge on Saturday and a panel will assess their work and give gold stars. I’m on the panel and look forward to seeing what these Harvard folks can do.
With the I-Lab up and running and Harvard B-School students now committing to design, innovation and creativity instead of just mathematics, and efficiency, I’m prepared to change my mind about the place. Sounds like Harvard is building up its Creative Intelligence–and bolstering the creative capacities of its students. Now maybe they’ll become more entrepreneurial and build new companies instead of just managing old ones.
I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos for a dozen years and yes, it is very exciting, to be cheek to cheek with the global elite. I found that the orthodoxy expressed in the big, opening speeches were almost always wrong. But the insights revealed in the smaller meetings were usually right.
At this Davos meeting, the key them is “Resiliency.” In the face of what I call a VUCA world in my forthcoming book, Creative Intelligence, Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, Ambiguous, speakers are saying we need to build resilient organizations. “Resilience” is a hot topic in corporate circles. But punch into the idea and you come up with little. Resilience for what? Survival. Stasis. Stability. And how do you become resilient? Be agile, flexible, fluid. We know that already.
A better Davos theme would be Creativity. Creativity takes you somewhere. It is at the heart of economic value and growth. It requires a set of competencies that most business people don’t already know–or have forgotten. It gives you the tools to be more than resilient. It enables you to discover, scale and progress.
But what is going on inside the meetings where you do get insights? Plenty. Financial Times US editor Gillian Tett reports that cybercrime is super-hot. Corporations are under constant attack but are afraid of asking governments, including Washington for help. Tett says the situation is similar to the financial crisis swerve just experienced. Many people in banks saw bad things happening that would inevitably lead to a blow-up but didn’t want to go to the government for help. Individually they were scared but collectively unwilling to act. Cybercrime looks very much like that to her today.
Tett is using an explanatory frame from one crisis that she covered as a journalist to help her understand and predict a future crisis. Framing is a critical competence of Creative Intelligence.
President Obama will speak about the State of the Union soon and he will talk about many things except, perhaps the most important–the state of innovation in America. In my book, Creative Intelligence, I argue that for the past 30 years, there has been lots of innovation but it has been narrowly focussed in Finance, IT and social media.
In fact, only 9% of all public and private companies in the US do any sort of innovation at all. Think about that. Look at the profits of all US corporations over the past few decades and you can see that where innovation has occurred, profits have done particularly well. Finance, surprisingly to many of us in the Design/Creativity/Innovation space, has seen its profits soar from about 10% of the total of all profits to 40% of the total in the past 20 years because of financial innovation. I would argue that this has been a disaster for the economy as a whole but the fact remains.
What policies do we need out of Washington to spur innovation and creativity? How do we generate a million-fold increase in startups? How do we push entrepreneurial capitalism over finance capitalism? These are the key questions that the President should address in his State of the Union.
The RAND Corporation has just come out with a new report on electronic health records and reversed its 2005 prediction that they would help save billions of dollars. Now it says electronic health records might actually cost more than paper. What went wrong?
Framing. One of the most important skills in business and in our own personal lives is how we design our engagements with the world. We have dozens of different kinds of engagements every day and each is different. How we interact with friends, colleagues, children, bosses, doctors, parents varies dramatically. In the past, our engagements were limited in number and predictable. We were born into most of them. Now, thanks to social media technologies, we can actually create thousands of new engagements. We need to be aware of them and design them to get the outcomes we prefer. We need to frame those engagements to our benefit.
That has not happened with electronic health records. RAND and the federal government wanted electronic health records to do two things–lower costs and bring better health benefits to individuals by giving them more data. The problem was that the market incentive for the private companies writing the software was to use electronic records to boost the efficiency of billing by hospitals and physicians to raise their profits and income.That led to higher, not lower costs.
The engagement that was framed and designed to improve was the financial one between provider and consumer. The engagement that needed to be framed and improved by electronic files was the flow of medical data among providers and between providers and consumers. This most probably could save big sums of money and certainly help people in their own medical care.
In creating new forms of relationships and organizations, framing the right engagement is key. We still have time to do that with electronic medical records.
“Fashion is the recurrence of the new.” Walter Benjamin.
So is Music and Food.
Gas leaks, battery fires, faulty wiring, electrical service software errors–Boeing’s new 787 is experiencing a series of problems that is hurting the brand, slowing the roll-out and costing the company many millions of dollars. Any new jet comes with teething problems and one with entirely new composite materials can be expected to have more than its share. But the three-year delay in launch and cascading problems suggest that Boeing’s original strategy of outsourcing most of the design, engineering and manufacture of the Dreamliner is proving seriously costly.
For most of the past decade, globalization of innovation has been in vogue, with consultants promising huge cost savings and speedier results. As manufacturing went global, it appeared to make sense to outsource the creative aspects of making as well. In addition, nationalistic pressures by potential buyers of big-ticket items, especially commercial jet planes, demanded a piece of the action as a quid pro quo in purchasing them. Besides, Apple shifted all production of its high-tech iPhones, iPads and Macs to China and that’s worked, so the business logic went.
For Boeing, the logic hasn’t worked. The 787, like all commercial jets, is really a super-complex, hand-crafted product, composed of new materials, designed in new ways and assembled by new methods. The best innovation strategy for this kind of cutting edge innovation may well be internal, organic teams who have control over most, if not all, of the complex procedures. Agile, resilient teams of skilled people who trust each other to share information and learn quickly by doing are the best organization units for this kind of innovation. They make up “magic circles” of creativity who can craft original designs and then scale their efforts for production. Organic, networked circles of creativity and craft can be better managed and are often more efficient than totally outsourced design and manufacturing. The poor quality control experienced by Boeing over its suppliers in Europe and Asia might have been prevented had the company done more of its creativity and crafting in-house.
Boeing’s decision to outsource 30% to 40% of the 787 was made in the context of a contentious history with it’s engineering unions. In retrospect, the higher cost of keeping a creative, competent and in-house capability happy would probably have been a tiny fraction of what Boeing is paying today in penalties for delays, fixes to errors and brand erosion. Circles of highly creative, innovative teams are expensive but the scaling of their efforts may be more efficient and cost-effective in the long run for companies intent on playing at the edge. Apple never outsourced its design and engineering and demanded total control over the manufacture and assembly of its products. Apple’s handful of “magic circle” of design and engineering teams has worked on nearly all of its products over the decades. Boeing and business consultants should take note.
Walter Benjamin—“The eternal recurrence of the new.” He refers to fashion as a pure form of capitalism. New product lines are produced twice a year, every year. The clothes are commodified, consumed, then replaced and the cycle goes on. It is Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction—but through the prism of fashion.
But Benjamin might as well have been referring to entrepreneurial capitalism or Indie Capitalism. Think about it— “the eternal recurrence of the new.”
The concept of “resilience” is very hot and you can see why in NYC’s reaction to Sandy. The city did not proved resilient in providing electricity for social media to allow people to organize in the days immediately after the storm hit. There are tens of thousands of people going cold today because the city agencies are not agile enough to provide housing. There is gasoline rationing. Organic and inorganic networks rely on resilience to deal with challenges, especially unexpected challenges that cannot be totally planned for. We need to build more resilience into our systems–and our lives.
I just printed out the galleys to my new book, Creative Intelligence, and I’m standing looking down at it–in awe. Here it is, physically, in front of me after years of work. It’s quite a moment.
I teach my students to map their creativity–to be aware of their engagements, their process and their inspirations, in addition to their technique. Be reflective, in the moment. Above all, know what is meaningful.
Seeing my book emerge this morning in physical form is such a meaningful moment for me.
Why are Republicans anti-city? One of the reasons for their loss that us not getting attention is the anti-urban policy stance of the Republican Party. Anti-mass transit. Anti-high speed train. Anti-support for education & museums. Anti-intellectual. Anti-immigrant. Anti-bike. The GOP is anti-Jane Jacobs. Add it up and the anti-city stance of Republicans is anti-creativity and anti-innovation.
Gen Y voters went mostly for President Obama on Tuesday for his social policies. But the Republicans could just have easily attracted this rising demographic with new business policies– if they had taken time to learn about Gen Y culture.
Gen Y may be the most entrepreneurial generation in a century but neither party appears to understand that. In this election neither party put forth an economic policy that bolsters economic growth through start-ups, crowd funding, local sourcing, additive manufacturing (3D printing), venture capital or scaling creativity into new creative companies that employ hundreds of people in the US. This is the stuff of an entrepreneurial capitalism, an Indie Capitalism, that Gen Y is trying to build that could replace the disastrous Finance/Shareholder Capitalism that has led to the immiseration of the middle class.
The talk now in Washington is about going over a “fiscal cliff.” We need to talk about more fundamental economic issues–How to promote economic growth through innovation and creativity. The Democrat and Republican parties need to tune more into the rising Gen Y and less into the fading Boomers.
Click here to pre-order CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE by Bruce Nussbaum, available March 5, 2013 from HarperBusiness
The world is quickly changing in ways we find hard to comprehend. Successful methods of dealing with problems have become outmoded. To be successful, you can’t just be good. You also need to be creative. In “Creative Intelligence”, innovation expert Bruce Nussbaum charts the making of a new literacy, “Creative Intelligence”, or CQ. From corporate CEOs trying to parse the confusing matrix of global business to K-12 teachers attempting to reach bored kids in increasingly wired classrooms, creativity is viewed as the antidote to uncertainty and complexity. “Creative Intelligence” embodies a bundle of specific literacies that increase our ability to navigate the unknown. It’s a skill-set that explorers have tacitly used for eons but which, only now, is explicitly revealing its secrets to us. Nussbaum explores how people and organizations are learning to be more creative in work and in life, and investigates the ways in which individuals, corporations, and nations are boosting their CQ-and how that translates into their abilities to make new products and solve new problems. “Creative Intelligence” shows readers how to frame problems in new ways and devise solutions that are original by drawing insight from anthropology and culture rather than psychology and the brain. Smart and eye opening, it introduces us to the next evolutionary step and our future. Ultimately, “Creative Intelligence” will show readers how to boost their creative capacity, build creative confidence, and connect creativity with capitalism in a new form - Indie Capitalism - that could, and should, replace Finance Capitalism.
Bruce Nussbaum is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, is a former Managing Editor at BusinessWeek and blogs for Fast Company and Harvard Business Review. He taught third grade science in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and studied anthropology, sociology and political science in grad school at the University of Michigan. At Business Week, he wrote dozens of cover stories but his favorites are “I’m Worried About My Job, I Can’t Get the !X@#! Thing To Work, The World’s Most Innovative Companies, The Power of Design and Get Creative, How to Build Innovative Companies.
Bruce birds Central Park and the world. He saw a black swan in Singapore but wasn’t surprised. He practices what he call "donut thinking” in his book, training to always look for what doesn’t fit the pattern (the “odd duck”). Bruce is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and used to go to the World Economic Forum in Davos all the time. He’s written two other books, The World After Oil in 1982 where he predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union and Good Intentions, where he analyzed AIDS research at the NIH. I.D. Magazine named Bruce one of the top figures in Design for 2005.
Bruce was asked to spell “polymath” in grade school. He could’t but looked it up and tried to become one when he grew up. He’s still trying.
Bruce + Banana image via Design Thinking Blog