Lessons in Creativity

Over the last few years, I have made it a personal habit to look for new ways of doing things in strange places. This has led me, among other places, to the very interesting world of improvisational theatre, to learn about the way they codify and utilize their understanding of human interaction. Recently, I have noticed a tendency of some business publications to follow their own advice (look for innovation in places other than your business field!), and interview at least one “non-business” person. In the last issue of Harvard Business Review, this person was Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer and author of 2 books. How could a choreographer possibly know something about business and change that could positively change the way we work?

Well, the 3-page interview was actually fascinating to read. Not only because of the personality of Ms Tharp, but because of the opinions she expressed about work, working creatively, change, and originality. Following, and for your pleasure, a couple of quotes from this interview:

“The best creativity is the result of habit and hard work. And luck, of course”

“Copying is taking someone else’s solutions. Learning is taking somebody else’s problems.”

“You can’t allow yourself to get comfortable with what you’re comfortable with, because then that’s all you’ll want to do.”

“True failure is a mark of accomplishment in the sense that something new and different was tried.”

While on the surface, these sentences themselves are already quite powerful (in my humble opinion, that is), what fascinates me more is that they represent to me a whole conglomerate of ideas that are slowly emerging. From personal responsibility, encouraging change and reframing failure, to the influence of chance on your work. If you spend 10mins in going through the top business and pop psychology books, you will find books related to all these ideas, being hailed as the “new” insights into our mysterious world.

Ideas, are of course just that, ideas. The challenge with our current models of business is translating these ideas into practices that managers and employees can use in their daily work lives. Something that is, and how else could it be, measurable and if possible standardized so it can be taught the same way to a lot of people, and we do not have to worry about individuality too much…I guess, we are somewhere in the middle between a rock and a tough place!


3 thoughts on “Lessons in Creativity

  1. siconroy says:

    Indeed, fascinating.

    I’m the CEO of a software company. After trialling a couple of hack days, and looking at the impact and outputs they had, we introduced a hybrid of Google’s creative working and Pixar’s university.

    We gave 15% of their time back to our team of seventy. We created an intranet where they can pitch ideas and pull in collaborators to work in teams. The intranet also serves as something similar to university syllabus module selection. Each of the founders and directors (including myself) run courses/ workshops and seminars which people can use their time to book on to.

    So far the results are fantastic. At least a couple of ideas coming out are likely to deliver cost savings of c.15-20% p.a.

    What’s interesting is that we put in place no rules or parameters. No manager sign-off or review. There is just a need to share with the rest of the company via the intranet what you plan to get out of the exploration of your ideas. Yet (and probably mainly as a result of this last point) the teams’ ideas seem to cluster around what they can do for the company, how they can improve their own working day, how they can improve general efficiency.

    When I’ve got a bit more evidence I’ll go for a HBR pitch on it… 😉

  2. […] Capacity to see New Possibilities 27Jun08 I delivered the first part of the Madgex ideas and learnings session on the Behaviours of Leaders and Managers […]

  3. […] for a presentation on ‘The Behaviours of Managers and Leaders’ for Madgex’s ideas and learnings programme was whether I’d missed a bit of my own […]

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