Innovation is not welcome: a warning to creatives

Man shruggingInnovation is the process of making something better, or doing something better. It’s applied creativity. In some small way, almost everything could be made better. There are plenty of things that are crying out to be made better. Innovation is certainly needed. But it is not always welcome.

People don’t like change. They say they do, but they don’t. They don’t like things that are different and they certainly don’t like people who are different. This is a double blow to creative people like you because not only are creative people the ones who drive change by doing different things, they are also different themselves. They may even look, sound and act different to normal people. Normal people don’t like that.

This is a warning to creatives: you and your ideas are not welcome around normal people.

Who do you think you are getting ideas above your station? You’re paid to do a job, not to think. You’re paid to keep the status quo, not to upset the applecart. You’re paid to continue the ideals of the company, not to modify them (even if it makes them better).

Trying to get a new job? Who wants a troublemaker? Who wants a loose canon on deck? Who wants someone who’s multi-disciplined? They have a coat peg here for a job description, not an evolving mind. (If you don’t believe me on this, just check out any job advert and you’ll see that from a cleaner to an executive, the job description involves things that must be done, not things that could be thought.)

Trying to start you’re own business? You’ve got to stand out from the crowd to be seen, but if you stand out too much you may look flakey. If you look too exciting and fun you may be thought of as flighty and not serious (but of course if you look too ordinary you won’t be seen at all).

Most inventions and developments took ages and ages for the normals to catch on. The herd are too frightened to try anything new so they wait to see what everyone else does first.

If you’re too innovative, they often can’t even see what you’re offering, it is simply invisible to them, they can’t compute it. You remember that story about the ships coming over the horizon to the shores of South America for the first time? The story goes, that the natives, not ever having seen a ship, couldn’t see it. This is of course a load of hyperbole, it’s more likely that they simply explained it away and initially just ignored the phenomenon. Something like that anyway.

My favourite example of this is the Beatles 7th album in 1966, Revolver. It is now cited by all the experts as probably the most innovative rock LP ever recorded, certainly the most influential LP of the 1960s and definitely better than the one everyone usually thinks is better, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

But what happened on its release was unusual. It went to number one, obviously, but the critics of the day couldn’t review it. They couldn’t review it because it was too innovative to review. You can get hold of these reviews today and read them for yourself. They didn’t have the literary skill to properly describe what they were listening to. Even people you’d expect more from such as Ray Davies from the Kinks said he ‘didn’t get it’.

It took the listening public a year to ‘get it’ by which time the Beatles had released a less innovative LP, Sgt. Pepper, which was lapped up as the greatest human artifact every created in history. But they weren’t really praising Sgt. Pepper (they thought they were), they were praising Revolver, which had finally stretched the audience to be able to listen to rock music. All rock journalism changed that year, along with everything else in culture. Revolver was just too advanced in 1966.

Now, that was just a record we’re talking about and not really very important, but the same problem can happen with your new products, your new services and even your new ideas: if they are too innovative people just aren’t ready for them. They just won’t ‘get them’.

I’ve spoken in front of the wrong audiences many times. They didn’t get my topic of creative thinking. They didn’t get my guitar. They didn’t like my purple suit. They didn’t like my mad hair. It was too much. They just didn’t ‘get it’.

So what do I do? Unlike the Beatles, I can’t rely on my popular cultural icon status to be able to release Revolver onto an unsuspecting public. I did get a haircut. But I have to either dumb my message and approach down to an acceptable level or find a different audience, one that is ready. One or the other.

I suspect that you have a great new product or service and yet you can’t get anyone to take it up. I bet you have a great new idea but are struggling to find people to ‘get it’.

My guess is that, because it’s you, and I know you’re one of these ‘creative types’, it’s probably not because what you’ve got isn’t any good. It’s probably because what you’ve got is TOO good. Too good to be true and just too different.

I’m not in a position to offer advice. (I’m in the position to buy a new suit). But if I were to give advice, perhaps it would be this: keep looking for ways to find your audience. They’re not going to be down the street. They’re not going to be coincidentally in the next conference or networking event you rock up to. You’ll probably find, like me, that they’ll be 3% of your audience hidden in every batch of normals you come across. Our challenge is to increase those odds by being more strategic.

The other thing you could try would be to stop being so darn clever and knuckle down to be mediocre and boring just like everyone else. Play it safe and sound, that’s best.

But I can’t imagine you can do that anymore than I can. We just don’t have ‘being ordinary’ in us, do we?

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.

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Is creativity a form of madness?

People have been asking my opinion on this article and the research behind it. So here it is.

Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’

Are creative people ‘mad’? Is creativity a ‘madness’? Or do they mean that we had all better watch out, because if you’re one of those creative types, you’re probably going to go mad and be depressed, and if you try to ‘get creative’ you may even end up killing yourself.

This is, of course, not what the researchers are saying.

“Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable.

For example, the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity.

Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece.”

The fact that lots of famous authors killed themselves, or were depressed, proves little as there are plenty of authors who are happy and still alive. There’s a tendency with statistics to point to the conclusion you want to make.

For me, the danger with the popular media view on this topic is that creativity and mental illness are portrayed as interchangeable. Beth Murphy of the mental health charity Mind agrees, “It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses”

And by the same token, we shouldn’t label creative people as ‘mad’.

I’ve been introduced on stage as being “totally bonkers, off the wall and crazy mad” which wasn’t really very helpful when all I was really doing was being interesting and entertaining in a unique way, with a guitar. It just shows how totally boring the other speakers on the bill must have been.

The media also often gets cause and effect confused. It may be that a ‘mental illness’ such as bipolar disorder helps an individual in a creative role to be more productive and creative OR it could mean that someone with bipolar disorder seeks out a role in a creative industry. Either way, we may find a higher proportion of people with bipolar disorder in a creative role. It says nothing about a disorder being necessary for that role. However, the research showed that someone working in a creative role is no more likely to have a mental disorder than anyone else, thus nullifying the commonly held inference and making this paragraph, like most journalism on the topic, void.

Here’s another article that makes me a bit cross:

Creative minds ‘mimic schizophrenia’

Which of course is not true. It’s not true because creativity is such a vast human endeavour and schizophrenia is an invented term to label certain types of mental illness conditions. We might as well say “Oranges mimic Tuesdays”. Except that would be totally mad.

It’s not the research that I’m questioning here, but the inferences that are being made.

I think we need to be more careful about the definition of what ‘mental illness’ is. If someone’s condition serves them, supports their work, is part of who they are and causes no long-term internal distress, then I don’t see why the medical profession, the media or anyone else has the right to call a person as having a ‘disorder’ when all they really are, is different.

If someone is suffering and in pain and can’t function in a way that serves them, then that’s a problem, obviously, and treatment may be needed. But if they’re suffering solely because of the way society has labeled them, treats them and doesn’t accommodate them, then that’s wrong.

In an age of political correctness, has society’s prejudice not been eradicated at all but instead changed its style? Has it moved from it being acceptable to discriminate out of malice or fun to discriminating by labelling anything different from a normal standard as being a ‘disorder’ and looking down elitist normal noses with pity at the poor disordered sick people.

It would make more sense if we found someone who was totally boring, who had created nothing, contributed nothing, who had lived a dull life – to be labelled as ‘mentally ill’. I’d say that person was really sick and in need of treatment.

It’s the creative people who innovate, who invent, who drive the human race forward with their discoveries, that save lives, that enrich souls. And for what? So that dull people, who never look up from looking at their shuffling feet can moan that jumping safely from the edge of space is a waste of a Sunday evening when they could have been watching the X-Factor results.

John Lennon once said that “everything is the opposite of what it is” which sounds like a nonsense statement until you think about how often it appears to be true…

If to be creative, I had to drink from the cup of madness and risk insanity, rather than become a norm, a drone, whose life’s purpose was only to remain within the accepted parameters of ordinariness – I’d drink deeply, and accept the highs and the lows as a price worth paying for a life worth living.

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:

The anatomy of a dinosaur business

anatomy of a dinosaur business right brain thinking

The meteor that will wipe out dinosaur thinking in today’s world has already hit. And just like the crisis that befell the dinosaurs 60 million years ago, whatever it was, it didn’t wipe them all out overnight. There was an extinction phase during which a few species waddled on before finally becoming extinct and known only to us in the fossil record.

We are living in a new extinction phase now. How can we survive and thrive in this rapidly changing landscape? How can we stand out, add more value, cope with different expectations and be remarkable?

To survive, our creativity needs to be unlocked and applied in new and challenging ways. Only the agile and the warm-blooded innovators will make it. Those that are inflexible and dogmatic will not. We all need to step out of the imagined boundaries that keep us small and embrace our true creative potential.

But what is a dinosaur business? Here are the main characteristics shared by both the extinct giant reptiles and the soon-to-be-extinct businesses:

Dinosaur businesses are:

Designed to perform only one task, to hunt in one particular way.

They’ll never be able to truly embrace social media, new technology, relationship marketing and selling.

Lack of vision: Unable to see the big picture.

They may have great systems, but the constituent parts don’t always work as a coherent whole, all working together for a common aim. There’s no inspiring vision or direction. They’re focused solely on the bottom line, never looking up to see how their purpose may need to change.

Low I.Q. due to small nerve centre.

Decisions are made by a small group of people, usually all the same type of people from the same type of background who come up with the same ideas. They don’t seem able to inspire ideas from the rest of the workforce, let alone trust and implement any of them.

Cannot hear advice and unable to process and respond quickly to new information.

With operation systems being so inflexible and out-of-date, they’re unable to make changes due to new data, cultural changes, economic changes, market or attitude changes.

Incapable of manipulating situations and people in a delicate and personal manner.

They can’t inspire people to do their best, don’t share in a vision and treat people as a ‘resource’ that is nameless, stripping people of their personality and individuality. In return they get a bland workforce who work to live rather than live to work and couldn’t care less about the business, watching the clock to see when they can get away to do something worthwhile.

Needs to consume a lot of resources just to stay alive.

They’re so heavily loaded with personnel, buildings and plant that it takes a fortune just to keep the doors open. They probably waste a lot of resources too. Lean is not a word they have heard of.

Slow moving.  Unable to change direction quickly.

The momentum of their operations is so old fashioned and set in stone that they struggle to modify anything even when they see the need to.

Can’t regulate internal temperature, not totally self governing. Reliant on external bodies.

They’re often reliant on banks, investors and shareholders who can limit their movement and changes. Often a change in a law can throw a massive spanner in the works.

Powerful and strong but ungainly and cannot function without causing damage to the environment.

From massive energy usage, having to heat and cool large offices, fuel for large fleets of vehicles, unnecessary round the world shipping right down to departmental waste and individuals not caring about spend, they waste resources and create massive environmental footprints.

Cold bloodied, lack of care or compassion

From the extremes of environmental pollution and slave labour to careless health and safety measures, they caee about the bottom line over and above everything else, including people and communities (and often the law).

Cannot function without being destructive and competitive. The only strategy is to attack and consume.

Collaborate and share are words they don’t recognise. Their purpose is the be the last one standing and don’t care who or what get’s in their way. It’s war.

Don't tell the dinosaurs - right brain marketing for business

You may think those attributes are found only in massive and long established businesses. But you have a think. Do any of them apply to you too? If so, shake off the dinosaur and embrace the quick thinking vitality of the creatures that will very soon inherit the Earth, making it a better place in the process.

If you’re in a business, you might like to take a look at this masterclass about this topic, available as in-house training as well as for CEO groups.

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 deliver an innovation workshop in your business or CEO group or to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference.

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The Power of ‘What If?’

The Power of What if? Ayd Instone innovation creativity conference keynoteHow can we trigger innovative thought, consistently, deliberately and when we need it?

One way is to use the power of a simple question. It’s a question at the heart of creativity, invention and imagination. It’s the force behind all creative storytelling, especially Science Fiction which can be defined as ‘What If?’ extrapolated into a story).

The question ‘What If?’ can be thought of as an energy field that can power our creativity. Just like most energies, it can be used to manifest both positive and negative effects with very different results. The qualifying factor to the question is how we relate it to time.

If we ask ‘what if?’ about the past, which we have no control over, it can easily lead to feelings of regret. E.g. “What if that had never happened?”, “What if I’d worked harder?”

But if we apply it to the future it fires our possibility thinking and leads, either directly or indirectly, to hope.

“What if there was a better way to do this?”

If we imagine an undesired outcome in the future, our brains begin to work on methods to prevent that future coming to past, or at least find the path of least damage. Imagining even our worst fears of the future gives us hope because we are still in the present with some chance, however small, to shape and even change the future.

If we imagine a desired outcome, our brains begin to fill in the gaps to speed the passage of the present into the desired future by directing our subconscious to incubate the problem until solutions or opportunities present themselves.

The application of ‘what if?’ fires the imagination and problem solving capacities of the brain and that imagination begins to manifest the emotions of the outcome.

This isn’t an application of the supernatural, so-called ‘law of attraction’. This isn’t about asking the universe, or God, or wishful thinking. This is the relatively simple neuroscience of the imagination.

Negative emotions based on regret will slow us down, but positive emotions based on desired outcomes, hope and wonder, will drive us and motivate us to seek out and manifest the desired outcome.

Wondering ‘what if?’ defines us as scientists, exploring the universe of possibilities. Taking action on those possibilities to manifest an outcomes makes us artists. It’s this blend of being both artist and scientist is what it means to be a creative mind.

Asking the question and seeking the answer is the start of creative innovation. That’s the power of ‘what if?’

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:

The invisible barrier to creativity and the 90 degree twist

What does my bath, the motor car, R2D2 and a dinosaur on Doctor Who have in common? Read on to find out…

If you’ve seen me speak live you’ll have seen a certain audience participation part where I humiliate a member of the audience on stage to prove that they are limiting their creativity. It’s a simple trick that I won’t reveal here, you’ll have to see me on stage to find out what it is. I’ve been using it since 1993 when it was invented by a friend of mine in a play about what stops us from achieving the success we’re capable of.

Don’t worry, the person helping me on stage isn’t really humiliated. They even get a free book. It’s the audience who realise what the experiment means and that they DO have invisible barriers that stop them from achieving. When they’re pointed out in someone else,  it dawns on them that they’re actually free to do so much more.

We face invisible barriers all the time, every day. They’re usually hidden in the ‘that’s the way we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Sometimes we try to innovate  but the end result is only half hearted because the invisible barrier is still there.

I was almost caught out with a mundane, everyday example this month. We’re re-designing our bathroom. It’s a rectangular room with the bath on one longer side and the shower, basin and toilet on the other longer side. We were dictated in our choices of new bathroom furniture by not considering that they could all be moved from their original positions. As soon as we realised we could rotate the bath 90 degrees and have it along the shorter wall, the room ceased to be a ‘corridor’ and became a usable space.

So the barrier there was an unthinking thought that the bath couldn’t be moved. Maybe I didn’t think of moving it because I knew that I don’t personally have the skills to move the plumbing. That was the restriction that held back the best idea.

Innovation is often described as ‘doing something better or in a better way’. But more often than not, true innovation isn’t just doing something ‘a little bit better’ it’s also about doing it different by turning it 90 degrees. By that I mean that the ‘change’ that is made is not always an obvious and progressive one that you’ll get to if you spend enough time thinking about it. If you do that method, the train track of thought will always get to the same destination. What we need to do is think at 90 degrees; to change HOW we think about the problem, to circumnavigate the invisible barrier that keeps us on the train track or in our comfort zone of what’s obviously possible.

Henry Ford was reported as saying that if he’d asked the public what innovation they would have wanted in their transportation in 1884 they would probably have replied, “please get us faster horses”. What they got the following year was a different solution, one at 90 degrees to the problem: the motor car.

Sticking with the motor car as an example, did you know that the first cars didn’t have steering wheels? It seems like an obvious solution to ‘how do you change direction on a wheeled vehicle’ that we scarcely think that it too was an innovation that had to be thought of. The first cars had reigns, the same as the horse drawn carriages that preceded them. You pulled the left reign or lever and it rotated the front wheels to the left. Pull the right lever and you go to the right. The 90 degree innovation was to join the two levers up and make them into a circle. Add a rack and pinion so that the rotary motion of the steering wheel is turned into linear motion of the lever which then pushes or pulls the wheels left or right.

In the early 1970s, the BBC special effects department on Doctor Who pioneered a new technique that would revolutionise the film and tv special effects industry. They called it Colour Separation Overlay, or CSO for short. It was a fairly straight forward technique of replacing one colour in the television signal with the signal from another camera. So one camera would film an actor standing in front of a yellow background and another camera would film another scene. When the signals were added, everything yellow in the signal was replaced by the image from the second camera. It looked like the actor was somewhere else entirely. Brilliant. (These days the technique is often referred to as chromakey or blue-screen, since the colour chosen is often blue.)

Those early effects, although crude by todays standards, were amazing. It was a brilliant innovation, but there was still an invisible barrier in place that took the experts a while to spot. In those 1970s episodes you’ll see the character of Doctor Who in a cave. They’d filmed Jon Pertwee in front of a CSO screen and then film a cave and put them together. The Doctor is now in a cave! A year earlier they’d simply have taken Pertwee to the cave and filmed him there. They weren’t really taking advantage of the technique.

Then, when a script required dinosaurs to march through London, they knew they could really put it to the test. They made a model of the dinosaur and filmed it against the CSO screen using stop motion animation and then keyed the footage onto the footage of the streets. It was only after they’d gone to all the effort and expense of doing it that someone pointed out that the dinosaur model didn’t have to be life-size. It could as easily been six inches tall. They effect might even have been better if it had been. They had missed the 90 degree twist.

When George Lucas began filming the first Star Wars film in 1976 he had to make innovations every day to make that film that delivered so many new effects and methods. A curious one is the story of R2D2. As you remember, he’s a small dustbin-sized robot with three legs and a domed head. The fact that he’s small and a robot made the Lucas’ effects people immediately jump to the obvious conclusion that the prop should be remote radio controlled. They worked with test models, overcame the problem of radio interference, gave R2D2 the third leg for balance. It was working.

Then they went to film the first scene in the deserts of Tunisia. Sand. As you can imagine, a heavy prop on tiny wheels didn’t really work on sand. They would either have to lay rails (as the BBC had done with the Daleks in quarries on Doctor Who two years earlier) or rethink the sand. The 90 degree innovation was to lose the third leg and place a small actor inside the prop so it could ‘waddle’ across the sand. It worked, and the rest is history, making a star of former circus act, Kenny Baker.

Even the best of us can miss the obvious. But at least George Lucas didn’t build life-size starships…

What’s the 90 degree twist in your life and business that will smash through the invisible barrier of sameness and obviousness to create that innovation that takes you to a new level?

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:

How can we be more creative?

It’s a common enough question. Most people realise that we need to be more creative. Creativity is about new ways of doing things and new things done. So in a world where change is certain, creativity is the method we have to be able to cope with and surf on that change.

There are numerous books written on the subject (three of them are mine) and immeasurable articles telling us the top tips on how we can unlock our creativity. Some put forward things they call tools (like MindMaps, Thinking Hats or other mind games). Some say there is a process you have to go through. And some say simply, ‘do something different’.

But it seems that there are a few things you need:

• some level of self confidence in your abilities,

• a lack of judgmental thinking (i.e. you’re open to ideas without labeling them right, wrong or can’t be done).

• time

• focus (i.e. free from distractions that do not concern the task in hand)

It sounds easy. If that was all that was needed, wouldn’t more people have more brilliant ideas? Why are so many people, well, so uninspired? Surely there’s some other missing ingredient, some magic spark?

Creativity can be reduced down to connections being made between other ideas that make connections between different neurons in the brain which then results in some action being taken to manifest the new combination (the new idea).

So if we’re not having ideas, it’s that process that isn’t happening.

Let’s look back at the things we need and see why their needed and why one or more of them is often missing.

Self confidence in our abilities: this is the main reason people don’t manifest their greatness, don’t go for their dreams, don’t have the best ideas and don’t carry them through. Deep down at some level they have doubt. Doubt in some aspect of their ability, their personality or what they feel others might think. In some way all of us have doubt. We fear we won’t be loved or that we’re not lovable. We fear we’re not good enough and that paralyses our creativity. The origin of this doubt is complex, it can be a remnant from childhood, a defence mechanism to keep us out of embarrassment or a belief based on evidence from the past that may be real, but we fear failure so much that we can’t get past it to try again.

Non-judgmental thinking: we’re trained to think critically, to test and measure, to examine the facts and reject the false. That’s a good thing. But we sometimes jump too quickly to criticise and judge, squashing potentially great ideas when they’re in a delicate primordial state. This type of thinking shuts down the connection process in the brain.

Time: we’re all to busy. far to busy to find the time to sit quietly and think, or to take a walk or whatever it takes to allow our brains to make the secret connections we need it to make. One thing is certain – the brain doesn’t perform at it’s most creative under undue stress. It will find an answer, the task will be done, but at a cost. The brain will only make the most obvious connection, the quickest route to the solution. This is why we appear to work well under pressure. But in reality, that work is rarely truly ground breaking. Finding the right time is important too. It’s not likely the be after lunch or when you’re tired.

Focus: This is also connected to time. We’re so busy multitasking and live in a world of distraction that even if we think we’ve found a time slot to be creative in, we contaminate it with emails, tweets, other tasks, worry and interruptions. Creativity is a solo activity, a solo activity that also works when creative individuals create a solo team that acts as one mind.

If that is beginning to sound complex again, it can be reduced down to this: to be more creative we need to do whatever is possible to enable more and more varied connections between our neurons. Now since we can’t sit there and ‘do’ that, we have to follow the suggestions described above which create the opportunity for those neurons to connect and build mindflow.

If we do that, then the other tools DO come into play: read more, travel more, do different things, draw more, write more, play more.

If we are able to do that, when we are later faced with a new problem, such as ‘how can I make more money’ – we will have more resources (i.e. more connections in our neural net) to draw upon. Our brain becomes less like a railway track that always takes us back and forth on the same line, and becomes more like paths through the wood, that takes us left, right, back, forward, where paths merge and have dead ends but may well just lead to a secret glade where the answer to our problem awaits.

Get connecting.

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
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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

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What’s your Creative Dynamic profile?

The creative process that the brain goes though has been split into 7 stages by psychologists. The stages apply for any creative endeavor whether it’s sculpture, scientific discovery, generating new ideas or problem solving.

The stages are:

1. Intuition – holistically defining the problem

2. Saturation – research, fact finding and gaining skills

3. Incubation – sleeping on it

4. Inspiration – the subconscious forces an idea to the conscious mind

5. Evaluation – testing and measuring

6. Elaboration – modifying and improving the idea

7. Implementation – taking action

Even though our minds have to work through all these stages, there are ones that we prefer. This is what I’m calling our Creative Dynamic. If we understand where we like to sit in the creative process it will give us clues as to what could be holding us back (we’re stuck in our favoured stage) as well has showing us where we, and others fit when compiling creative teams.

Have a read through the profiles and see which best describes you and your attitude to creativity.


The Intuitives

These are the people who have a sense, a feel that something is wrong or that something needs to change. Subconsciously they are able to see the big picture, but may not be able to express it straight away. They usually have no data, or interest in finding data to back up their gut feeling. They are able to spot patterns, but not interpret them.

Pro: they have spotted something, which will be real, that few others can see

Con: on their own they may not be able to express the idea or move in any direction to solve or implement it

Where are they? Many women will be natural intuitives. But don’t overlook men who may be less process driven. Intuitive may be sociable, good connectors, emotive and emotional. Sometimes they’ll follow their whims so are attracted to entrepreneurship and leadership.

SaturationThe Saturators

These are people who love having all the facts. They collect data and do detailed research. They are keen to learn new skills and methods, but may never apply them. They rarely notice patterns.

Pro: they will find the information and detail that others will fall short of finding

Con: they will never have enough data and rarely stop to do something productive with it.

Where are they? You’ll find them where there are systems and regulations. They have collections on databases or shelves. They may be jack of all trades but be masters of facts and figures. They make the wrong type of leaders as they value data higher than people.

IncubationThe Incubators/Inspirators

These are the people who are capable of subconsciously processing patterns to create new patterns to find answers. When they do, the Incubator becomes and Inspirator.

Pro: they interpret data to find new ideas, new answers and make connections few other would make.

InspirationCon: they need the right conditions to work and sometimes are too slow to deliver.

Where are they? Often labeled ‘creatives’, they may look and act different as they try to separate themselves from regulation or routine that they know hiders their incubation skills. They are too distant to be leaders in the Western sense (but ideally suited in the Eastern sense).

EvaluationThe Evaluators

These are the analysts who examine what others have come up with to test and measure to see if the new ideas can be used.

Pro: they test to destruction. They are firmly routed in reality and will easily cut off unnecessary fluff and throw our impractical ideas

Con: they cannot invent or create on their own. They can only make judgements on other peoples ideas.

Where are they? They find themselves at home analysing data so naturally you’ll find them in accounts and quality departments.

ElaborationThe Elaborators

These are an interesting bunch of creators who instead of generating new ideas, work best when adapting existing ones. They are in many ways a combination of types 1 to 5.

Pro: best suited to innovation. Let them loose on a system and they will improve it.

Con: sometimes a new idea is needed and changing around what you’ve already got isn’t good enough. They can’t make the quantum leap needed for something totally new and different.

Where are they? They make good pro-active leaders, quick to adapt and adopt. Good in the field so may be great sales or marketing people. They shouldn’t have too much overall authority as they will fiddle and change too many parts that may cause confusion.

ImplimentationThe Implementers

These are the practical engineers who will act upon and put into practice the new ideas and actions.

Pro: They can be trusted to put a plan into action without messing it up.

Con: they need instruction and work to do. They do not innovate on their own, but stick to the rules and carry out orders.

Where are they? On the ground. The dependable, reliable troops. At the coal face, on the factory floor, getting the job done. Shouldn’t be in a leadership role as they will never give up getting their hands dirty and don’t really care about the bigger picture in any great way.

So where did you feel most comfortable? Who else’s profile did you recognise? Do you allow yourself and people around you to play to their strengths? If you do, you’ll find a much greater level of creative mind-flow leading to bigger and better ideas and increased productivity.

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Using creativity to get more from less

Using creativity to get more from less. That was the title of the Masterclass I ran for MPI UK and Ireland’s Conference entitled ‘Delivering Creative Events within Budget’.  It’s interesting that the title of the session was also, in a way, a definition of creativity.

It’s great that so many businesses are suddenly interested in using their creativity more. They’ve realised that if money is tight – it’s time to think. What we discovered on the day was that the success of a meeting is not always proportional to the amount of money spent on it. We looked at what would happen if we did things differently – took all our methods and processes for organising a meeting and then put them back together again in a totally different way.

I always like to open with a song. Sometimes I write a bespoke song but this time I already had written one that encapsulated what we were going to discuss (a more interesting way of saying what we’re going to cover than a bullet-point list). There’s one line in the song that says, “Just one good idea, could see your way clear”. Ideas cost nothing. Your next idea could be the big one, could be the one that changes everything.

Are you capable of generating a genius idea that could revolutionise your business? Can anyone or everyone be creative? The answer, of course is ‘yes’. Being creative, being able to solve problems, to innovate and make things better is part of being human. We can all do it. But some don’t. Why is that do you think? Why is it that some people are just dull? Why is it that most of us aren’t quite as creative and inventive as we think we should be? What’s going on?

The answer is that people have blockages around their potential, like a restrictive barrier that they (or sometimes well meaning parents, teachers or others) have placed there. The zone within the barrier becomes your comfort zone and you cease to be able to move outside of it. The barrier could be lack of confidence in your own abilities or fear of looking foolish. Sometimes these are masked by self congratulatory statements like “I’m sensible and reliable. I don’t want to be one of those ‘creative’ people”.

So the first thing we need to do to generate more ideas is to get rid of such nonsense by finding out what the real barriers to innovation are. We do this by asking questions like “Why can’t we do that? Why not?” and “What if?”. If the answer is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”, then you know you’ve found an artificial barrier to progress. Smash through it.

The second thing we need to do is to be aware that the people we work with will have similar barriers to their idea generation ability. Make sure you help them by creating an environment where people feel they’re able to contribute without judgement (judgemental thinking is the real creativity killer).

The third thing to realise is that we should never attempt to generate ‘great ideas’. By qualifying them as ‘great’ before we even start means you’re already judging and filtering. Don’t. Those things activate the wrong part of the brain and will close down further ideas. That’s why it’s a better idea to actually try to think of ‘bad’ ideas. This works because it’s fun, which helps in itself. It works because some of the bad ideas are actually great ideas that you would never have thought of otherwise, or, sometimes if you invert the bad idea you find something amazing that works. All ideas are valuable and welcome, even ‘poor’ ones because they all spur on further ideas. That’s why you must never cut them short.

This is the process we then applied to the meetings industry. We divided the room into teams who would each generate 21 ideas for one of the four areas of the industry we deemed were ripe for innovation:

1. Before the meeting: how can we get people more excited?

2. The logistics of the meeting: how can we provide a richer experience?
3. Core activities: how can we add more value and gain better results for the client
4. Legacy:how can we make the messages stick, the meeting memorable, and have lasting impact?Each team generated (in a very short space of time I must add) at least 21 ideas on how those things could be achieved. That’s at least 126 ideas.If you go through this process, the next stage is to then take those raw ideas and invert them, modify them, combine them. Think what they make you think about and generate more by improving them. Then choose which ones you are going to act on, and do it. Creative thinking is only the halfway point. Creative ‘doing’ is what we need.

If we expand our thinking by getting rid of perceived imagined barriers, build confidence with those we work with, create a positive atmosphere of optimistic excitement we will find that we can all generate the kind of ideas that can improve every aspect of what we do.

By being more creative we really can achieve more with less.

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Creativity Leadership

What is a business leader? Often it’s the person who makes the final decision, perhaps the owner, chairperson, chief executive or senior manager Are these people creative? Should they be?

Being in a senior position in an organisation does, by its very nature, move a business leader away from the day-to-day ‘on the ground’ elements of that business. That’s why they employ managers to manage and workers to work. The downside of being in this type of leadership position is that the main source and use of creativity in the organisation appears to be completely out of the leaders hands and control. Having managers to run systems and workers to actually do the job is supposed to mean that leaders don’t get their hands dirty anymore, freeing them up to see the bigger picture.

This means that they are in no position to be able to apply innovation, to find new and better ways of doing things because they simply don’t have the details and facts on how the systems and process work on the micro scale.

This is why business leaders have to take a slightly different approach when it comes to unlocking creativity or increasing innovation in their organisations. The first thing they have to realise is that the most creative people in their business who are really in charge of innovation are not themselves. Instead it is the people who have all the data on how things work, all the people who are working inside the machinery of the business. It is so often micro-changes within, on the shop floor, that will make the big differences. It still needs someone who has the ability to take an overview of the whole system, but that someone must know all the facts, costs, timings and structure of that system. This is why it is so important to make sure that workers see the big picture and that line managers have the ability and confidence to notice where improvements can be made.

A business leader therefore takes on a new type of leadership role. They are not concerned with running systems, like a line manager does, or even managing those managers. A 21st century business leaders main role is to manage, or rather facilitate, the creativity of those managers and departments. The key to successful creativity leadership is the ability to foster an environment conducive to ideas, development and change in a structured and progressive way. This is the essence of creativity leadership.

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