The search for creativity … ideas and inspiration from some of the world’s most creative people

June 14, 2018

Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.

Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, and producing.

Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. “The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy” says Rollo May in The Courage to Create.

Creativity is perhaps the most crucial factor for future success. To challenge the present. To imagine the future. To add value to commodities, and machines, and artificial intelligence. To engage people. To be human. To progress.

IBM’s Global CEO Study stated: “The effects of rising complexity calls for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways and design their operations for speed and flexibility to position their organizations for twenty-first century success.”

A 2012 Adobe study on creativity shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority, only 1 in 4 people, believe they are living up to their own creative potential.

So what can we learn from some of the world’s most creative people?

David Kelley, designer … says build your “creative confidence”

Creativity is not a domain of only a chosen few, according to David Kelley founder of the world’s top design firm IDEO. And it shouldn’t be something that’s divided between “creatives” versus “practical” people. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build confidence to create.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author … says keep learning from success and failure

Author Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress”, devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of her best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love, she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple, though hard, way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, artist … says keep learning and evolving your art

Carlos Cruz-Diez is a world-renowned artist and one of the greatest living figures in kinetic and op art. He creates interactive, immersive works that invite viewers to reconsider how they perceive the world – and at 94 years old, he continues to evolve as an artist, employing the newest digital technology in his Paris atelier, where he works with his children, his grandchildren, and a team of craftspeople who help bring his ideas to life.

Maya Penn, entrepreneur … says it is about being responsible.

Maya Penn started her first company when she was just eight years old, and thinks deeply about how to be responsible both to her customers and to the planet. She shares her story, and some animations, and some designs, and some infectious energy, in this charming talk. Hopefully, it will inspire you to launch your own business, find a different career path or start a fun side project.

Dustin Yellin, artist … says follow your own path, your own ideas

Dustin Yellin makes mesmerising artwork that tells complex, myth-inspired stories. How did he develop his style? In this disarming talk, he shares the journey of an artist, starting from age eight, and his idiosyncratic way of thinking and seeing. Follow the path that leads him up to his latest major work, and be inspired by his journey so far.

Boniface Mwangi, photographer … says it is the search for why

Photographer Boniface Mwangi wanted to protest against corruption in his home country of Kenya. So he made a plan: he and some friends would stand up and heckle during a public mass meeting. But when the moment came… he stood alone. What happened next, he says, showed him who he truly was. As he says, “There are two most powerful days in your life. The day you are born, and the day you discover why.” Be warned, there are graphic images in the following talk.

Taika Waititi, film director … says it is about expressing ideas better

Taika Waititi is a visual artist, actor, writer and film director hailing from New Zealand. His short film Two Cars, One Night was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. Taika’s second feature, Boy, appeared at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals in 2010 and, more recently, his Hunt for the Wilderpeople enjoyed huge global success. In this classic TED Talk, he discusses how creativity has helped him to express his ideas and led him to where he is today.

Creativity in business

Some people say creativity has nothing to do with innovation— that innovation is a discipline, implying that creativity is not. Wrong! Creativity is also a discipline and a crucial part of the innovation equation. There is no innovation without creativity. The key metric in both creativity and innovation is value creation.

We are living in the age of creativity.

Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future defines Economic Development as:

  • Agriculture Age (farmers)
  • Industrial Age (factory workers)
  • Information Age (knowledge workers)
  • Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers)

Pink argues that left-brain linear, analytical computer-like thinking is being replaced by right-brain empathy, inventiveness, and understanding as skills most needed by business. In other words, creativity gives you a competitive advantage by adding value to your service or product and differentiating your business from the competition. Without creativity, you are doomed to compete in commodity hell.

Creativity begins with a foundation of knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a way of thinking. You can learn to be creative by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination and synthesing information. Learning to be creative is akin to learning a sport. It requires practice to develop the right muscles and a supportive environment in which to flourish.

Richard Branson has a mantra that runs through the DNA of Virgin companies. The mantra is A-B-C-D. (Always Be Connecting the Dots). Creativity is a practice, and if you practice using these five discovery skills every day, you will develop your skills in creativity and innovation.

Clay Christensen explores creativity in his book The Innovators DNA. Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of five key behaviours that optimize your brain for discovery:

  1. Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
  2. Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
  3. Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
  4. Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives
  5. Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge

Fast Company has just published the 50 Most Creative People in Business 2018.

Franz von Holzhausen, Chief Designer, Tesla Motors

When Franz joined Tesla in 2008, the electric-car startup was so inexperienced at vehicle design that it had to outsource most of the work on its original Roadster to the sports-car manufacturer Lotus. Today, its growing product lineup reflects the stylish minimalism of von Holzhausen, a veteran of GM, Mazda, and Volkswagen. “We want to show that an electric vehicle can be better than anything,” he says. “Not just better than a normal road car, but better than any supercar.”

Reese Witherspoon, Founder, Hello Sunshine

She turned Gone Girl and Wild into breakout films and followed them up with HBO’s Big Little Lies, sweeping nearly every category for which it was nominated at the 2017 Emmys. Her instinct for what women want is now being tested on multiple platforms through her pioneering 18-month-old company, Hello Sunshine. Witherspoon and her team are developing a slew of shows and films – with Apple TV, Hulu, NBC, TriStar/Sony Pictures, and more – while also building a direct-to-consumer brand through a fast-growing and influential book club, Facebook and YouTube videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and newsletters.

Chris Jaffe, VP of Product Innovation, Netflix

Netflix’s army of subscribers—125 million and counting—drive the investor confidence that saw the company’s stock rise 60% in the first four months of this year. And it’s Chris Jaffe’s task to get those folks to click on, and enjoy, enough TV shows and movies that they’ll stick around. As the company prepares to roll out 80 original movies in 2018, here’s how Jaffe is adapting user experience and playing matchmaker to keep engagement high.

Gianna Puerini, VP for Amazon Go, Amazon

Amazon earned its e-commerce bona fides more than 20 years ago by reducing the checkout process to a single click. The company’s new Amazon Go store, in downtown Seattle, represents a similar revolution. Gianna Puerini has redesigned the neighborhood grocery as a cashier-free experience. People queued up around the block when Go opened in January. Amazon is reportedly planning to open up to six more this year, and the “just walk out” concept has already been cloned in China.

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