How Apple understand both ‘art’ and ‘science’

Applestore bibleIt was always said that Jazz could be described as ‘a loose kind of tightness and a tight kind of looseness’.

That’s a really good description of how creativity works.

It’s the mix of art and science, logic and chaos, restriction and freedom, opening out and closing down and of course of ‘left’ and ‘right-brain’ working together.

And yet our world is polarised into two halves. We’re told and schooled and trained to be one thing or the other. The classic example is we’re forced to choose between being a scientist or an artist way early in our education. The system assumes that they are mutually exclusive and that you cannot be both.

The problem we have is that the great scientists, in all fields of physics, chemistry and biology, those that made the big discoveries, were also artists.

By the same token, the great artists and designers had to have an understanding of science.

Here are some simple definitions:*

Science = an understanding of the natural world, how it works and being able to describe it.

Art = doing something with that understanding.

Science = knowing how to make changes

Art = making changes

Let’s have a look at how this art/science paradox works in one of our favourite companies; Apple.

Let’s think about what they are known for, loved for and hated for (no-one is ambivalent when it comes to Apple)

• Gorgeous cutting edge design (of the products, the packaging and the marketing materials)

• A focus on creative lifestyle activities: music, design and film.

• They create a ‘togetherness’, a club (or cult), of like-minded creatives, geniuses, fun, coolness.

But there’s more:

• Their products are expensive and exclusive.

• They operate in a closed system of their own making.

• Users have to surrender other freedoms to fully enter their ecosphere.

All of those points are true you can use them to add to your own beliefs, depending of what’s important to you, as to whether you hate or love the company.

But whatever we think, one thing remains, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

Whether you refuse to buy an iPhone, one thing remains, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

If you baulk at iTunes’ grip on the music industry, one thing remains, Apple is still the most valuable company in the world.

They were also recently voted the UK’s most ‘cool’ brand.

There’s no getting away from it.

So we need to ask ourselves, how did they do that? Is there anything we can learn?

The one thing that I’ve noticed is that they employ a loose kind of tightness and a tight kind of looseness – at the same time. We all think they’re arty and cool and yet their business acumen is more solid than anyone on Earth. We all think that amazing design is the big acumen and the ease-of-use that results from it gives us freedom to create and yet they control our thoughts.

There’s the story that Steve Jobs dropped the prototype iPod into a fish tank to see if tiny bubbles would come out from the device (they did). If there was air in the device, there was space and if there was space there was an opportunity to make the device smaller.

There’s the story of the room full of prototype iPhone boxes, all slightly different designs, so they could find exactly the right kind of user unboxing experience. If you’ve ever opened a new iPhone you’ll know they got it right. Can you think of many other companies that go to that level of control of the consumer experience?

Applestore employees are given a training handbook which has a section on ‘Getting to yes’ by controlling the language the employees use when talking to customers. Some of the most interesting, and revealing are shown in he photo below. Look at the heading ‘Do Not Use’. This is not a manual of suggestions, these are commandments.

So instead of ‘bomb’ or ‘crash’ they have to say ‘unexpectedly quits’ or ‘does not respond’. Instead of software ‘bug’ they have to say ‘condition’.

Fanatical control over your business is good. Looking at the big picture and encouraging artistic freedom is good. The real trick is to have them both at the same time.

That’s what Apple does.

That’s creativity.

That’s Jazz.

(* other definitions are available)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

Are we all, in fact, in a ‘Creative Industry’?

Creativity is often related almost exclusively with the so-called ‘arts’. When I say ‘creative industries’ you don’t think of a firm of solicitors do you? You’d probably think of a web design company, film company, animation studio, graphic design or music related business. Why is that?

With the concept of creativity we generally have to admit it must mean you have to actually ‘make’ something. I often use the broader term to ‘manifest’ something, i.e. the act of creation ‘brings something into existence’ something that wasn’t previously there.

This is clearly true of all the so-called ‘creative industries’. They use their creativity to manifest websites, films, animations, designs, pieces of music and so on.

But a baked bean factory ‘manifests’ something too, tins of baked beans. A car plant manifests something too, so too does a construction company. So why aren’t these firms labelled ‘creative industries’ as well?

Part of the reason is that in general, what they create, make or manifest is perceived as a commodity. So we may think the graphic designer or photographer is the artist, the ‘creative’, if you like, but the printer who actually makes their design into a printed artifact is not.

So it seems we have two stages here: creative conception (design, writing, making music etc) and the creative construction (printing, recording etc).

I would say it’s wrong to say that one was artistry and the other not. It would be wrong to say one was technical and the other not. Both types have specific skills and particular tools. You could even say both have particular talents. Compare a musician to the recording engineer for example. Are not both creative, one conceptually, one corporally.

We’ll think of the designer of the car as being creative of course but we don’t rate the construction and manufacture on a production line as being creative at all. We might give a little creative credit to the artisan who stitches the fabrics and leather by hand for the seats, but even that’ll be given a little grudgingly.

We often view craftspeople and artisans differently from artists as if the craftsperson makes repeated works, or makes money from what they make they’re somehow not ‘an artist’. They are of course both creative. The artist may be more of a creative conceptualist and the artisan more of a creative constructualist.

Let’s go back to business models and look at the next part of the chain within all industries; the service part. These are the vital parts of a business that make everything happen: sales, people and resources management, marketing, accounts and law. (Some of these are labelled as ‘professionals’ which is a bit outdated, and perhaps even patronising to both those who do it and those who don’t. There’s nothing un-professional about good sales or good design that’s better than a good accountant or good solicitor.)

These service based roles may not actively manifest an end creation by their own hands but they enable more end manifestations to happen. They enable the factory to mass produce goods. They enable the creation of increased wealth. They are necessary for scale. So why aren’t these service roles also labelled as creative? T

They should be. They are the Creative Continuators. They make the creativity of the artists and artisans go further and achieve more.

Here’s a summary of the component roles with our newly defined creative industries:

• The creative conceptualists

• The creative constructionists

• The creative continuationists

A modern example of a company within a previously designated non-creative industry yet is intrinsically linked with creativity is Apple Inc. They manufacture stuff. We can be gushingly romantic and point out that their products are often works or art (the original iMac from 1997 was actually exhibited as such).

But let’s face it, in reality they make mass manufactured stuff, no different to an attractive poster print, no different to a nice car, not really any different to a nice beaked bean tin.

But we do see that company in a different light. We do see them as a creative company, even if the computer, hi-fi or mobile communications industries that they work within are not ones we’d traditionally label as ‘creative industries’.

It’s because Apple have realised that they are indeed a creative industries business and that every part of that business contains highly creative people, whether they’re working in software development, manufacture, design, retail, marketing or whatever.

The big question is – does you business need to do the same?

What creative roles do you actually employ and do you treat them as such (or do you stick to the 19th Century industrialist model of management and worker drones?)

What role do YOU fulfill and where do you sit in the 21st Century’s ‘creative industries’?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

What the Beatles got wrong, part 1: Don’t flitter to the glitter

The success and longevity of the Beatles as a cultural and creative force is undeniable. And, as discussed here, their legend has a solid place in history.

But is wasn’t all plain sailing. To the people of 1962 (1964 in America) the Beatles seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, fully formed. Behind their overnight success lay many years of hard work, heartbreak, sweat and coincidence. They then went onto have hit after hit, everything they touched seemed to turn to gold for longer than seemed believable, evolving and innovating and getting better and better.

But there were a few, at first unnoticeable errors and mistakes and then later bigger decisions which nearly sank the ship.

Beatles 1968 by Ayd Instone

The Beatles in 1968. Drawing by Ayd Instone

Most people are aware of the criticism of the Magical Mystery Tour TV (the less-than) Special and the Get Back/Let it Be misery, so here are some perhaps lesser-known and hopefully more insightful decisions made, that had repercussions for the Beatles and their post-Beatles lives.

There are quite a few, so let’s choose just just one for now and it’s this:

They thought their All Powerful god-like success could be transferred to projects outside their experience and knowledge

In 1968 the Beatles launched Apple Corps (The name was a joke as it was pronounced Apple Core, although a more accurate pronunciation would have been Apple Corpse). It was a mess from the start. They attempted to transfer the hippy mentality of boundless creativity and expression, or freedom, peace and love into a retail outlet and a open door talent agency.

The Apple store lasted a few months before they knocked it on the head by announcing that everything in it was free. It brought out the worst in people who reportedly stampeded and fought to get their hands on kaftans and beaded garments. In the ugly scene that day, they even ripped out the shelving and flooring. That was the end of the Apple Store.

Apple’s idea that anyone who has a talent should just send in their stuff or turn up at the door showed another level of naivety. Like every record company and publisher, then and now, they were inundated with the bad, the ugly and the untalented. Of the handful of new acts they did pick up, only Mary Hopkin, Badfinger and James Taylor amounted to anything and they’d been discovered by the Beatles themselves, not from the slush pile of submissions.

Lennon showed admirable idealism in a 1968 interview about their business plans, for championing the unheard talented, creative masses, but also revealed his ignorance when he said that the Beatles were also going to be involved in “…what you call it, manufacturing …or something”. They really had no idea. Less than a year later Lennon admitted that if Apple continued to lose money at the rate it was, “We’d be broke in three months.”

Their decisions were bad and the implementation poor. But looking again at the ideas, they are actually very sound indeed.

The Apple Boutique was the first store of what is now an accepted concept. A shop that sells multi-cultural clothing and World music. Unheard of in 1968 and now everywhere.

The idea of encouraging talent, to give it the break it deserves is a magnificent idea. They just went about it the wrong way by using the old methods of opening the floodgate with no thought to how to manage it. Compare it with the different ideas of running initiative in schools or even television talent contests such as the X Factor. They have similar aims, but more manageable processes.

When I do my creativity talks and training, or my book writing workshops, one of the common ‘problems’ people have is that they say they ‘have too many ideas’.

So the problem is not, ‘not having a clue’, it’s more like being able to make the right choice from your ideas, to do the right thing at the right time.

The answer to this problem is easier than you might imagine: you chose the idea that you feel you can do best, that you will enjoy the most and that will give the greatest reward (in whatever measurement you choose to measure success, be it fulfillment, money or whatever).

We need to realise that we shouldn’t flitter to the glitter of the next and most brightly glimmering exciting looking idea. We should expand and innovate around our core and make the jump into something completely new only when it too has a solid foundation, just like the thing we’re leaping from.

This is the problem the Beatles had. They had too many ideas that all sounded to them as brilliant as every single idea they came up with. The mistake they made was to jump into these crazy ideas without looking where they were leaping.

The Beatles diversion into ‘business’ with Apple Corps showed them, eventually, that they were very, very good at making music. But little else. Sometimes we need to realise that it’s no bad thing to be very, very good at doing just the one big thing. If you’re going to expand into new areas, get the talent in to help so you don’t take your eye off the ball that you can play so well.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

Creativity and the Beatles

This is adapted from my forthcoming book, Creativity and the Beatles.

Most people are wrong

CrowdMost people don’t like creativity. They say they do, but they don’t. They say they’re creative, but they’re not. They say, “we need more creativity around here” but they do nothing to allow that to happen. They say “we value creativity around here” but they actively seek to stamp it out.

Most people tell me that “you’re either creative or you’re not” and “genius is born, not made”, despite the massive evidence and research done to prove the opposite.

Most people have very good reasons why they can’t pursue their dreams, use their talents in their work, do work they enjoy, set up their own business, write their book, make a difference. Most people are very eloquent when it comes to telling me why it can’t be done. (They must have really thought it through.)

What I’ve found is that most people appear arrogant and certain but are in reality dramatically lacking in confidence in their abilities and self worth. Most people appear to be confident and optimistic about the future but in reality they’re panicking that they can clearly see the end of the line zooming up ahead of them and their money is running out. Most people lash out and blame. Most people say “It’s not fair”.

Most people secretly feel they could do more with their lives. Most people have told me they’d be massively philanthropic if they could just keep the wolf from the door in the rat race of their run-of-the-mill clichéd employment.

Most people think they have liberal, enlightened views, but subscribe to dogma and prejudice. Most people think they might be an idealist with passions but are trapped by routine and conservative risk-averse thinking.

Most people think I’m wacky, eccentric, bohemian, odd, nuts, crazy, colourful, even dangerous. I like dangerous. I’ve been compare to Willy Wonka and Doctor Who. I’ve been called inspirational. But I’ve also been called rubbish. I’ve been told “I don’t like your suit”.

I’ve been told, “you need to tone it down a bit” and that I need to “look more business-like”. and “there are too many photos on your website”. I’ve been told, “we don’t want you around here again, you incite people to rebel”.

I’ve been told, “we don’t want you to speak at our event, everyone will want to leave the company.”

Really? What could I possibly say that could achieve that? If that statement is true, that company is already walking on thin ice. Can a stranger come onto the stage and in 45 minutes incite everyone to totally change their lives? They give me more credit than I deserve. I wish I had that sort of power. But I don’t. All I can do is describe how things could be better, perhaps should be better, perhaps can be better.

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them (thanks to Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22).

I’ve been told I need to be more like most people. Most people want us all to be like most people. Most people are wrong.

When we’re driving somewhere and can’t get there because there are too many cars on the road, we tend to say, “I’m stuck in traffic”. The truth is that we’re not stuck in traffic, we ARE the traffic. The responsibility for not being part of the traffic is about taking personal responsibility. Most people hide in the crowd and yet imagine they’re different from crowd and yet make up the crowd. The decision not to be like most people is a tough personal one. It comes with risks and dangers. But it also comes with rewards, satisfaction and joy.

Perhaps Steve Jobs and Apple put it best:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”*

Let’s all make the decision today.

Let’s not be most people.

* Did you know that text is written on the icon for “All my files” (in Lion) and TextEdit (In Snow Leopard) in Mac OSX?

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

Think Different

Today I gave a talk on creativity and branding, as I so often do.

I arrived at the venue early, it was 6.15am. As usual in waiting situations, I picked up my iPhone and looked on Twitter. This is what I read:

“There have been three apples that have changed the world: the one that Eve ate, the one that fell on Newton’s head and the one that Steve Jobs created.”

I don’t know who originated that quote, but I had to open my talk with it as soon as more tweets confirmed the sad news. I had to change the direction and tone of my talk too as it sank in. The vision of a man who had died that morning, a man whom, I had never met, had, in fact changed the way I live and work by providing the tools that made my business possible and enjoyable.

Apple is now the most valuable business in the world. It has more cash in the bank than  the USA (around $76 billion). It was Steve Job’s vision and creativity that got it there.

Certainly there were and are thousands of brilliant people involved in invention, in design, in engineering, in production and in marketing that all contributed to that success. But the fact that we know who Steve Job is shows how important he was. It’s rare that an industry leader gains so much respect, both from within their company and their industry and from their customer base.

To the dissenters, dismissers and envious critics out there: you don’t get it do you? Millions upon millions of people gave their hard earned cash to a company that provided tools that they love to use. It really is that simple. Steve Jobs wanted to change technological tools and gadgets from things that got in the way of enjoyment, expression and lifestyle to things that enhanced them.

Not only was his vision of customer satisfaction unique, his marketing powers were second to none. But perhaps his greatest talent was as a showman and raconteur. If you ever saw the unveiling of a new Apple product by him, live on stage, you come close to seeing why so many admire him to the point of cult status.

Steve Jobs’ lifetime contribution to our civilisation matters. It has impacted you if you’ve ever used a computer post 1976. It matters if you’ve ever used a mobile phone post 2007. It matters if you’ve ever listened to music that didn’t come off a spinning disc or magnetic tape. Whether you own or have used Apple products is irrelevant, the technology industry has been transformed by their influence like no other. Just look at how many me-too iPhone like devices are on offer now. The iPhone raised the game. What mobile phones offered before was just no longer good enough.

Although they didn’t invent them, we have Apple to thank for computers that have graphics  on the screen to operate them instead of just text. Desktop publishing, graphic design, printing and music production have Apple to thank for the methods of their use in business. For many years, Apple equipment was the domain of ‘creatives’ because they provided tools that did the job without dictating a way of using them that interfered with your creativity. Now, the products are for all, making the complex easy, allowing more and more people to be creative in ways unimagined just a few years ago. And doing it all in such a cool way.

As readily as Apple incorporated new techniques and invention, they weren’t afraid of dropping them for something better. We call that innovation. Other companies were scared to do it and missed the boat. The first iMac in 1998 shocked the industry by daring not to have a floppy disc drive. The MacBookAir doesn’t have a CD drive. The iPad doesn’t need a mouse or stylus. Our children’s children will find the idea of a ‘mouse’ unusual and quaint thanks to Steve Jobs taking the concept of ‘multitouch’ and making it work, making it easy and making it intuitive.

Steve Jobs personified the idea of the modern creative genius in a way few others do. It’s not too outrageous to say, as some have, that he represents a modern Leonardo Da Vinci by the way he, like Leonardo, recognised that true and powerful creativity is about bringing many disciplines together and getting them to work together.

Will Apple survive and thrive without Jobs? I think the answer is ‘yes’ and the reason is, something that Steve Jobs said a few months ago when asked, what was his greatest product? Was it the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, the iPad or something else? He reply was that the greatest product was in fact Apple itself. I believe he was right.

If Steve Jobs was Apple then the innovation and creativity died with him. But because Apple is Steve Jobs, his vision lives on in the company and we can, as Steve said a few weeks ago, look forward to its greatest moments that are yet to come…

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” 

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

– Steve Jobs

Learn more about writing and publishing your book:

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

Are you doing all you can?

The media has been full of doom and gloom stories about the economic situation with phrases like ‘global recession’ being bandied about. I’ve spoken to a hundred small to medium businesses this year already and a fair proportion of them have caught some sort of scarcity lurgy that has made them believe that the outside world situation is causing an uncontrollable loss of sales for them. perhaps it is to some extent but you can only be certain and blame the outside world when you know for a fact that you are doing all you can.

Most businesses are running with sloppy sales and marketing, don’t follow ideas through and don’t have excellent customer service. They’re very good at hosting their own little pity parties (Zig Ziglar said “I feel like bring some cheese to make it a cheese and whine party”).

One excuse is that “people aren’t buying”. Then why are ASDA creating 7,000 new jobs in 14 new stores and the extension of 15 existing ones? “Oh, but that’s food etc, our service is a non-essential one”. If that’s true then why is BSkB creating 1000 new job?

“Yes, but we are a real luxury, quality, high end product/service”. Yes, and so is Apple Inc. No-one really needs to by a Mac – there are much cheaper PCs on the market yet they sold 2.5 million in the last 3 months (up 9% on last year). No-one needs an iPod but they sold 23 million in the last 3 months (up 3% on last year). No-one really needs an iPhone but they sold 4.4 million in 3 months (up 88% on last year). Apple made their best ever profit in the last 3 months of $1.61 billion. Read that again a PROFIT of £1.61 BILLION!. Turnover was $10.7bn.

How did they do it? Read more here.

Are you doing all you can?

For more see:

Hard Times? Apple posts record profits

So times are hard and people aren’t buying stuff? Apple have announced that they made a net profit of $1.61bn (£1.15bn) and posted record revenue of $10.7bn for the last three months of 2008. (For the same quarter the previous year, Apple’s profit was $1.58bn and its revenue was $9.6bn.)

In this three months Apple sold:

Macs: 2,524,000, up 9%.
iPods: 22,727,000 iPods, up 3%.
iPhones: 4,363,000, up 88%

Does anyone need an iPod or Mac? Not really. But they certainly want them. How can we increase the value of our stuff so that our clients really want it?

Perhaps we can see clues by having a look at Apple’s philosophy as told by Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who is overseeing Apple’s day-to-day operations during Steve Jobs’ absence:

“(Apple has) over 35,000 employees that I would call “all wicked smart”. And that’s in all areas of the company, from engineering to marketing to operations and sales and all the rest … We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We’re constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple, not the complex … and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence …and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change … those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”

Just read that quote again and ask yourself if any of it could apply to your business. It should.

For more see:

The Apple of Your i

Is the iPod the best mp3 player around? Possibly, it’s certainly outselling all the others put together, controling over 70% of the market. Interesting that it has the least features of all its competitors. So what’s going on? Anyone who owns an iPod or an Apple Mac knows. Apple products appeal emotionally and asthetically. Other manufacturers seem to ‘over design’ and over complicate things. This is why Apple is doing so well at the moment; their products appeal to the right brain directives of wholeness, meaning and empathy.

According to Steve Jobs, Aple CEO and co-founder, one major reason for the iPod’s success was its relative simplicity.

“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products—they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried make something much more holistic and simple.”

Jobs was asked if he was worried about Microsoft’s new media player (Zune) and its “community” features:

“In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.”

Proving that the best solution is usually the simplest. Always ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to achieve here?’ In the case Steve mentions above you want to share your music to get connected with someone. The idea isn’t to prove wireless technology. Some companies seem to have lost awareness of the benefits in their race to prove how good their features are. Not Apple, and the sales figures speak for themselves.

For more see: