I went back to the June 2006 cover of IN: Inside Innovation, a quarterly supplement I founded at BusinessWeek to look at Marissa Mayer’s 9 Notions of Innovation. The subtitle was "Marissa Mayer, The Talent Scout.“ Mayer has Stanford U degrees in symbolic systems and computer science and patents in Artificial Intelligence. She was the first female engineer at Google, its #20 hire and took charge of search products and the user experience.
1-Ideas comes from everywhere. Google expects everyone to innovate, even the finance team
2- Share everything you can. Every idea, every project, every deadline–it’s all accessible to everyone on the internet
3- You’re brilliant, we’re hiring. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin approve hires. They favor intelligence over experience.
4- A license to pursue dreams. Employees get a "free” day a week. Half of new launches come from this “20% time.”
5- Innovation, not instant perfection. Google launches early and often in small beta tests, before releasing new features widely.
6- Don’t politic, use data. Mayer discourages the use of “I like” in meetings, pushing staffers to use metrics.
7- Creativity loves restraint. Give people a vision, rules about how to get there, and deadlines.
8- Worry about usage and users, not money. Provide something simple to use and easy to love. The money will follow.
9- Don’t kill projects–morph them. There’s always a kernel of something good that can be salvaged.“
The controversy surrounding Mayer’s decision to end remote working and have everyone be physically present in the office is reflected in these notions of how you generate innovation. It is a very Silicon Valley, techie model of brilliant engineers coming up with new techie functions that are then tossed out into the world to see if there is an audience for them. It often works. It more often fails.
There is a much better way–understand what is culturally meaningful to people and THEN generate the innovation that satisfies their aspirations. Or do both simultaneously and have engineers and designers work together to design new products and services.
Either way, what Google and Yahoo need right now is to get the cultural meaning part right. They need to move beyond the engineer-centric reliance on numbers and data to tell them about the world and get into the world itself to understand it. They might find that the employees staying home and raising their children have important ideas for the products and services that are meaningful to millions of people.
I talk about Knowledge Mining and Framing in Creative Intelligence. It just may be that Mayer and her old bosses at Google need to rely less on the "best” intelligence of their engineers and more on the creative intelligence of people who embody the lives of their customers. Then they could reframe who and how they employ and what they actually offer up in the marketplace.
I did a cover story on Marissa Mayer in 2006 for IN: Inside Innovation and spent time with her. She was many things at Google, but her most important role was as a designer. There was pressure from Google’s engineers to put all the functions they could dream up on that page but Mayer kept Google’s engagement with its audience simple, clean and clear. It beckoned us to use it. Google’s search page had aura and still does.
Mayer’s other big role was innovation. She did much of the hiring and shaped much of the way innovation happened at Google. Mayer knows that creativity is social. Creativity comes out of the interplay of people and ideas. Which is why, as head of Yahoo, she wants everyone to be physically present.
But simply “being there” may not be the kind of social interaction that generates the creativity Mayer seeks. I write in Creative Intelligence that “As much as we love stories about serendipity,” seeking out the right people may be as important, if not more so, than accidentally bumping into them. It’s very hard to play with strangers that you can’t trust.“
Creativity tends to flow out of small teams of people who trust each other and know how to play with one another to puzzle out new challenges. They also tend share deep knowledge of specific fields. I believe that this is the "magic circle” that generates the best creativity.
And if that is true, then it just might be possible to use the great new videoconferencing technologies like HALO and Telepresence to bring these small teams together wherever they are, including home. I’ve personally used them and you can talk to people anywhere and its like chatting across the table. They are emotionally powerful.
Cisco is putting Telepresence into apartments in Korea. Yahoo should consider putting them into the apartments and houses of those potential creators who are now working at home. If serendipity isn’t all that its cracked up to be and sociability is the key to creativity, then you just might be able to build those magic circles with people tending to their kids at home.
“Taking a look at your life and experiences to think about what you already embody can provide you with new levels of creative confidence. Because embodied knowledge is tacit, we have to consciously make an effort to understand and value it.”—Knowledge Mining chapter of Creative Intelligence.
“Creative Intelligence is about tools, not lightbulbs. Its something we do, not something that happens to us. It’s about what happens before those moments of insight, but also after. It’s the hard work and the collaborations that can help bring your idea out of your mind and into the world.”—
This is from The Search for The Search For The Secrets of Creativity section of Creative Intelligence.
In my Fast Company piece on 3 Paths Toward a More Creative Life, I talked about the need to disconnect from our hyper-connected life to foster creativity and suggested walking. But what a dope! I left out running and biking!
Thanks to the people who commented on the FC post who talked about how running and biking help their creativity. I’m betting swimmers send in a post as well.
Anything that cuts you off from the racing flow of information and hyper-engagement that makes up most of our lives should do the trick.
“We can all implement our own 20 percent (creative time) strategies, committing to a certain amount of time each week to pursuing areas that interest us…We can spend some of that time "mining the past” of industries that interest us. We should be setting up at least one meeting a week with an expert in our fields and asking What’s exciting and inspiring these days?
We can also ask experts what’s NOT there. What is everyone getting wrong?
““There is nothing ‘rare’ about creativity; it is something we can all cultivate. People who might never consider themselves "creative” are drawing on many of the same skills as those of a musician or writer would use.“”—
Csikszentmihalyi on Renaissance Italy and Creativity
Creativity is a social phenomenon more than an individual event.
Mihaly Csikszmentmihalyi is best know, of course, for his work on individual flow. But he also analyzed Renaissance Italy to explore why Florence, at a certain point in history, was able to produce such an amazing number of brilliant artists.
In my book, Creative Intelligence, I say that he asked, What are the social conditions that lead to creativity? How can we make ourselves part of that social matrix? These are critical questions in our quest in becoming more creative.
Meg Whitman is trying to save Hewlett-Packard, a once and glorious high-tech company. HP has been in trouble for nearly a decade. So far, the remedies tried have involved improving efficiencies–firing over 30,000 people, outsourcing production, flattening that old pyramid. It’s time to try something different–reigniting HP’s creativity.
In my book, Creative Intelligence, I bring together a panel of former HP engineers who talk about their incredibly creative early years at HP–and how it ended. They describe the labs–which I call “magic circles”–where researchers explored all kinds of things without much restrictions–and the GMs who came by to screen the new ideas, curate them and then provide the resources to scale creativity into creation. I call them the “wanderers.” The founders of HP, Mrs. Hewlett and Packard managed their company by wandering around.
The magic circles of labs (play-grounds really) linked to wanderers who scaled generated organic innovation for HP. The company created new scientific instruments, ink-jet printers, computers–a panoply of new products coming out of the creativity of its engineers and researchers and then scaled by skillful brokers of corporate resources.
It ended when the GMs, who were often engineers themselves, were replaced by the biz dev guys. It ended when deep knowledge about science and experienced intuition about chances of success were replaced by wanderers who were business people using numbers to make decisions. It ended when HP started to fire the bottom 5% of employees every year to “improve” its human capital–destroying the trust among colleagues needed to play, try things out, take risks, fail and go on without repercussions. That ended the creation of exciting new products with fat profit margins for HP (the last was HALO, that wonderful conferencing technology, that HP never developed and sold off).
Organic innovation is what HP needs now. It has failed to buy innovation in its many purchases of companies. It has failed to turn around by promoting more efficiency. Its time for creativity. The example of HP in its heyday provides the narrative for #5 of my Creative Competencies–Pivoting/Scaling. It’s what Meg Whitman needs to do.
I remember my first ride on the Segway, Dean Kamen’s incredible invention. I got up on the two-wheel thing, pushed forward and I was away, moving quickly, turning, having great fun. The Segway was supposed to change everything–how we moved along in cities, how we left cars behind, how we saved energy, how we went to war, etc. It didn’t.
In the end, it was a wonderful piece of technology in search of human purpose. It became an expensive novelty.If it had been framed differently, if the culture and history of transportation had been mined deeply, if it had been made more cheaply–in short, if Kamen had used a few of the 5 Creative Competencies in Creative Intelligence, his technology might have found traction with a big audience.
Google is doing the same thing with its Google Glasses. It’s new technology is very cool but there is no connection to people. Right now it is a gadget made by gadgeteers for other gadgeteers in search of a broader popular audience. Throwing new invention over the wall to designers is an old way of doing things that sometimes works just fine (hey, Search is great, right?) but often does not (remember the old VCRs with a million useless functions?
“There is nothing ‘rare’ about creativity; it is something we can all cultivate. Creative Intelligence can be found across many fields and disciplines, in all spheres of life. Most important, Creative Intelligence is social: We increase our creative ability by learning from others, collaborating and sharing.”—
“Today’s most creative individuals see their work as a calling; that belief in their work gives them the energy to move forward and inspire others to join them in what is a social movement. They cultivate their charisma on order to serve their calling, and so can you.”—
This is in the section of Creative Intelligence called “The Search for the Secrets of Creativity.”
Thanks for pushing Creative Intelligence ever higher on Amazon in preorder, even before it officially comes out on March 5. In ebook, it is at #17 in Amazon’s Creativity & Genius category. And it is #55 in Cognitive Science. In hardcover, Creative Intelligence hit #84 on Monday in the Decision-Making & Problem Solving category.
Preorders build momentum and can “tip” the book into the fast selling lane once it is released. So please pass the word.
Boosting Brain Research: Make it Culturally Relevant
President Obama wants a decade-long program to deepen our understanding of the human brain. It would build a map of brain activity and, quoting the NYT “do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.” There are three goals–fight diseases, especially Alzheimer’s, increase artificial intelligence, and since DARPA is involved, bolster cyber-security.
I have one suggestion–to the array of neuroscientists, nano scientists and representatives from Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm running the brain project, he add cultural anthropologists, sociologists and designers. Combining the social with the scientific will accomplish two things:
1) Make the science relevant. One of the biggest economic and social failures of recent years has, in fact, been the Human Genome Project. There were big promises of huge economic benefits and, despite a federal study showing a “return” of $800 billion over a decade, we can see little of it. There is one project turning algae into energy producing organisms that I can think of. In addition, the Genome Project has not led to big breakthroughs in medicine either, despite promises that it would. It has, in fact, been disappointing.
Adding social scientists early to the program increases the chances that the direction of the research from the start might be more meaningful, both socially and economically. Had social scientists been attached to Monsanto’s genetic modification work, the company might not have had the enormous opposition to its GM seeds in Europe. It might have focussed on health and taste rather than efficiency and yield.
2) Americans fetishize the brain. The brain has become a secular divinity, in which we see everything coming out of it. The result is that the locus of control is seen to be outside ourselves. Just as religious people believe in fate or God’s will, so too the brain. As we focus on the brain “causing” creativity or thinking. we tend to think that exceptional brains will give us more exceptional behavior. And we hope that in the end we’ll be able to stimulate a portion of the brain and that will make us smarter, or better in some way.
I’m all for understanding more about the brain but I’m wary about how we, as a culture, use the brain to “explain” our lives. Learning and doing and understanding what is meaningful in context are the keys to making society and our lives better. Brain scans reflect our behaviors as much as the brain “causes” them. In Java, the shadow play shows the shadows of puppets acting out great political and social dramas. The Javanese understand the meaning of the shadows. They don’t confuse reality with reflection.
Creative Intelligence Quote: Nurture Your "Bandito Creatives"
“Companies should be nurturing their "bandito creatives,” men and women who’ve already demonstrated a willingness to break the conventional rules if that’s wht it takes to do their jobs creatively. Find them and map their networks. Ask them: Who are you talking to inside and outside the company? Who are the most original thinkers you know? Who do you go for inspiration? And, most important of all, how can we help you build out your “off-the-books” network?
I talked about the ritual of the gift in my Creativity and Capitalism course at Parsons this past Monday. In a rare occurrence, Valentines Day and the Chinese New Year fall together so a good chunk of the world is giving gifts over the next few days.
In addition, Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter talked to these students last week–a wonderful presentation–and he framed Kickstarter within the idea of gifting–not investing. A NYT piece came out over the weekend that did the same.
I asked my students about giving and receiving gifts and it was clear that giving gifts is fraught with tension. The ritual of the gift is actually very complex, very emotional and very powerful. Knowing what the other person REALLY wants requires skills of deep empathy, that men especially apparently lack, according to many of the women in the class. They steal themselves for getting hurt in the act of gift giving. And then pretending not to have been hurt.
Many would just as soon do it the Chinese way–red envelopes filled with money. People can then go out and buy their own gifts. We are moving in that direction with gift certificates and wedding registries. Maybe we need Valentines Day registers–do they already exist? I don’t know.
How much to give–the value of the gift also came up in class. Should it be equal or unequal? Can it ever really be equal?
Should use wrap necessities inside the ritual of the gift–like giving a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine? Ha. Most thought not but a few didn’t mind.
When you think about it, the gift is one of the most common of our social rituals. Schwag–free gifts–is given at the end of nearly every big occasion now from weddings to award ceremonies. There isn’t an event on any night in any big city in the US where gifts are not being given out. Much of this schwag is personal–and much is commercial, filled with products donated by companies wanted you to BUY something.
Kickstarter reminds us of the power and importance of the gift. You offer the gift of your money, you participation, your advice and, finally, your consumption, to a maker–an artist, film-maker, book writer and, increasingly a techie type/designer making a cool new product. Usually it is the parents and friends of the person doing the making that gifts first, building the momentum for the rest of us to offer our gifts.
Kickstarter socializes making through the gift–its a very different model than the buying and selling model we are used to.
Hmm.. Come to think of it. If you haven’t already given that Valentines Day gift, you could go on Kickstarter and “gift” your honey by gifting some dough to something she or he is really into. But then again, you’ll have to actually know what kind of music or film or book your honey really likes.
I remember the first time I met a team of designers from Samsung. It was at an annual Industrial Designers Excellence Awards dinner (before they changed “Industrial” to “International”). I remember five middle aged men wearing identical boxy black suits with white shirts and dark ties. Their haircuts were the same too. Samsung began to spend billions on design and for years, boxy-suited design guys would show up.
Then, one year, the middle-aged guys brought two young men who didn’t wear boxy-suits. They had spiky hair, brightly colored ties and tight, European suits on. Ah, things were changing. This was mid to late 90s.
I can think of no other Asia company that has spent more on design than Samsung and the company has risen high into the ranks of design award winners. But until very recently, Samsung’s design has nearly always been derivative. Samsung uses a Fast-Follower approach to both design and business. It rarely leads and uses vast amounts of research to follow trends in the market. Apple, of course, is much of that market, so Samsung follows Apple very closely. This has made Samsung hugely profitable and hugely huge in size. But it has not made the company a leader.
The New York Times article is a good summary of the design/business culture of Samsung.
Not leading has not bothered Samsung much. I consulted for them years ago on a panel in NYC. Of course, the panel of mostly US designers told the Samsung people they should be more creative, more innovative and lead. But the Samsung design and marketing people didn’t think it was that necessary. They were making products that others could use as platforms to create apps and services to engage people. They could build the aura. And that would be sufficient.
Maybe Samsung is right. Last year I was in a movie theatre, being forced to see ads (which I hate unless the ads are really entertaining–just like everyone else, right?). There was this ad for a Samsung Galaxy phone that showed two people taping their cells together to exchange videos. Hmmm… Very cool. I think there was one about a daughter sharing a tape with her dad. Then there was a racy one between a wife and her husband.
Talk about engagement. It beckoned, it grabbed you and kept you in a relationship. It made you want more. It was personal and intimate. It was aura.
So Samsung is beginning to get aura. That’s very exciting indeed.
“Bruce Nussbaum is one of America’s most interesting design minds. His latest work is both a clarion call and a guidebook for moving creativity to the center of our lives.” Blurb on my new book, Creative Intelligence, by Dan Pink.
Dan Pink, of course, is one of my heroes. His book “A Whole New Mind” was a breakthrough in understanding how creativity really works. “Drive” is terrific and his current book, “To Sell is Human” is a best-seller.
Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter, presented in my Creativity & Capitalism class in Parsons on Monday. He was absolutely great and the 85 undergrads in the auditorium really like him. One of the points he made at the end of his talk was the role of family and friends in financing so many of the Kickstarter projects. They often provide the initial money, get the funding momentum going until “outsiders” start kicking in money.
This is fascinating to me. In a global era of digitalized crowd sourcing and crowd funding, the role of family and friends to startups remains crucial. I thought about it and again and again you hear stories of startups beginning with money from parents and uncles and buddies and classmates betting on someone they know. By far, it seems that angel investors are people we know and trust.
Kickstarter amplifies this social phenomenon by legitimizing people’s startup dreams. If you can make it to actually presenting on Kickstarter–coming up with a great idea, doing that pitch video–your family and friends have even more motivation to help you. “Harry, come look at young Stevie’s camera idea! I always knew he was so smart. Let’s give him some money.”
Family and friends form the core of what I’m calling your Network Radius. That radius is the functional part of your network that provides resources to implement your creativity. It expands out from blood relatives to close friends to buddies to VC strangers to the public stock market. Knowing your Network Radius is critical to being a successful entrepreneur.
In Creative Intelligence I talk about Creativity Circles and Pivot Circles. The book is coming out in just a few days. But Charles has me thinking of the next round of thinking about creativity. That would include the idea of a Network Radius that cuts across both Circles, linking them.
If I were teaching a course in creativity and entrepreneurialism, a course in Indie Capitalism, this is what I would be putting up on the screen.
“On a cold winter night at a safe house in Manhattan some- where near Bloomingdale’s, CIA Director William Casey told me about the CIA’s methods for recruiting spies in World War II. It was 1983, and I had received a call the week before from a woman claiming to be the assistant to William Casey, the chief of the CIA. Thinking it was a joke by a friend, I laughed and laughed, until Casey cut in with “Hiya, Bruce….”
Thus begins a section in Chapter 2, The Search for the Secrets of Creativity, that takes us from the OSS in World War 11 through Csikzentmihalyi’s work on social flow in Florence, Design Thinking, VUCA and the Five Competencies of Creative Intelligence.
The SuperBowl game last night gave us an incredible lesson in the power of flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized this wonderful term (Rolla May in the 50s called it the “peak experience”) where we enter “the zone,” get “in the groove,” or “on a roll.” Flow is statr of heightened awareness, focus and accomplishment. “Chicks,” as he is sometimes called, is known for describing an individual state of being, but his work on Florence also talks about the social conditions of flow, where things come together to promote a general flow. Flow becomes a social phenomena.
Anyone who has played team sports know this to be true. There are certain conditions that make for extraordinary team play. Sometimes we are aware of them and often we are not. Last night, the Ravens entered a flow state from the moment the game began and played a smooth, skillful, winning game. The team, as one social unit, was in the winning groove.
Until the lights went off and knocked them out of their groove. The team improvised on the ground, it powered with amazing throws and catches. It was just awesome. Somehow, that half hour in the dark broke the flow state for the Ravens and they almost lost the game. They were going to lose the game but were saved by the 49rs–who had entered their own flow state BECAUSE of the lights going out. But the 49ers fumbled their play and the Ravens ground to a close victory.
In my book Creative Intelligence, I quote Keith Richards from his biography, Life. His agent forces Richards and Mick Jagger into a room and tells them not to come out until they’ve written a song–which neither has ever done. They write “As Tears Go By,” later sung by 17 year-old Marianne Faithful. Richards discovers he can do (working with Jagger) what he never thought he could do–write songs.
He says he’s in the room “…and then something else took over in this process. I don’t want to say magical, but you can’t put your finger on it . It was a revelation, an epiphany, this discover that I had a gift I had no idea existed. Song writing.” The flow state came when he worked as a team with Jagger under intense pressure.
The flow state is a critical part of creativity and we know little about it really. We know it is mostly social, not individual, it is unusual yet can be structured and made to happen, and it is fragile–the lights can go out on it. You can manage it–up to a point. You can put people together as a team to generate flow but keeping that flow going is perhaps the most delicate management task of all.
The first translation of my book Creative Intelligence has just come through with Uni-Books in Taiwan and it will be in complex Chinese characters. That means Chinese readers in Taiwan, Hongkong, Singapore and elsewhere who read in this style of written Chinese will be able to access the Five Creative Competencies discussed in the book and why creativity is key to startups and entrepreneurial capitalism.
I’m hoping the next translation will be in simple Chinese characters from a mainland publisher so that all of China can read about creativity and innovation. Creativity is so essential for China to take the next economic step now that its era of cheap labor is ending.
If you read in English, you can preorder Creative Intelligence, in print or ebook, at:
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:
I about to leave to give a talk about Bill Moggridge. This is what I’m planning to say. I knew Bill for many years but only got to understand him when he moved to New York to run the National Design Museum. I hope he likes it. I hope Karin likes it. What Bill Moggridge Taught Me About Aura.
1/30/13 Cooper Hewitt National Design MuseumTribute to Bill
(Putting my old leather cap on my head as I begin to speak)….
I’m wearing this old cap today because Bill loved it. When Leslie and I met Bill and Karin for dinner after they had moved to New York, it was getting cold and I wore this hat. Bill, towering over me as he did, gave me one of those incredible Bill smiles and gently lifted it off my head and placed it on his. It perched there, a bit too small, as he beamed.
There’s nothing much to this hat. It’s leather, it’s worn, its old–and as a result of all that, it has a great patina. A depth. A tangibility. And its useful. It beckons you. It has a story to tell you if you want to take the time to listen. Bill took the time.
And not just with my hat. My copper pot as well. We invited Karin and Bill over to our house for the Thanksgiving Day parade. He hadn’t seen one before and we have a good view of the floats going by from our apartment. Now Leslie and I have been collecting stuff since our early years in Asia. We have Chinese blue and white, Korean celadon, Japanese prints and Native American pots and paintings. But the one thing that Bill was attracted to was our old copper pot. We never polish it and it has all the marks of age–drip marks, discolorations, the bottom is bent. It has, in short, character. The wonderful shape, the handle and that patina beckon you. You want to interact with it, engage it, and use it.
But you wouldn’t know any of that if you didn’t take the time to actually see the copper pot for what it really is. Bill took the time. He slowed things down (which is pretty unique in New York City). He took the time to to really observe, to really engage. Bill understood the nature of aura and, of course, in his pioneering work, he understood that we can design our interactions with things and actually generate auratic power.
But while his professional reputation was built on his incredible ability to understand our connection to things, it was his wonderful ability to connect TO us that made Bill so loving and such an object of OUR love.
I remember when he interviewed me for his book, Designing Media, back in 2008. We went outside. Now Bill was remarkable in so many ways and one of them was his desire to master the tools of social media and use them. So he included the interviews on a disc in the printed book–and he did all the videoing himself.
So we’re outside someplace, maybe it was Chicago, and I sit down, Bill sets up and I start talking about how my new boss at BusinessWeek walked into my office and told me he was closing down the editorial page (which paid my salary) and I had to find something else to do. Just like that.
So I start talking into the camera about launching a new Innovation & Design channel and asking Tim Brown for advice on who to hire–the amazing Jessie Scanlon–gesticulating and moving my hands as I do when I get excited–and 20 seconds into my spiel, vrooom, vrooom. This loud noise overhead drowns me out. We had set up the interview underneath an airport landing path and a commercial jet drowns me out.
So we start again and I get into how for the first time in business journalism, we crowdsourced content and went outside the silos and …..vrooom, vrooom. The noise drowns me out.
Now I am getting really nervous. So I say, OK, let’s do it faster so we can finish before the next jet flies through. And I really race through now–how CORE77 saved the day with content and money, how Jessie was editing at the speed of light, and ….vroom, vrooom. Again. Now, those of you who know me know that I am really a very, very, very nervous person. And by this time, my nerves were shot to hell.
But not Bill. Even though HE had to stop and rewind and it was HIS book and this was HIS only chance to get my interview, Bill was calm. He looked at me and saw my nervousness. And he quietly talked to me. Don’t worry, he said. It’ll be fine. Bruce, we can splice the bits together. We can even find another time to talk if this doesn’t work. Bill reframed his interaction with me from the guy behind the camera asking questions to the man understanding my nervousness and offering solace and solutions.
And so I learned Bill’s greatest contribution in interaction design was the design of his interactions with people. He took the time to really look and really listen to people. He took the time to slow the time to engage with us.
I’ve been doing work lately deconstructing the nature of experience and engagement between people and products. And I can see the seeds of that work coming from Bill. Yet in the design of his own personal interactions with people, Bill showed me something richer. Each of us can beckon people with our interest in their lives, our curiosity in what they do, our appreciation in what they accomplish.
Bill beckoned us with that understanding, that charismatic power. In our thoughts of him, our remembrances, Bill still beckons us. And always will.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.