Jonah Lehrer has a new book out about how creativity works. There are quite a few rather important ideas here for all of us. Err … assuming that we would like to be more, rather than less, creative.
The first is that creativity emerges more from groups than from isolated individuals. For that reason, people who live in cities — where they are forced into more contact with others — tend to generate more patents and make more money. Following up that theme, not all group contacts are of equal value. When we are in a group of strangers, we struggle to exchange ideas. But if we are too familiar with each other, we fall into more boring patterns of exchange.
The second is that creativity is not about coming up with new things. It is about re-combining things to meet a new use. So the Wright brothers were very good bicycle mechanics who wanted to fly. Their plane was a essentially a flying bicycle. Thus a bit of distance from the subject allows more flexibility to put old things to new uses.
The third is that more accidental interactions in a given setting produce more opportunities for exchanges of ideas that can lead to productive thinking. This is a famous story about Steve Jobs at Pixar
Steve Jobs designed that animation studio to force employees to visit the building’s main atrium: mailboxes were shifted to the lobby; meeting rooms were moved to the center of the building, followed by the cafeteria, coffee bar, gift shop and bathrooms. Jobs believed, one producer explained, that “the best meetings happened by accident, in the hallway or parking lot.”
My thought —These ideas are critical for firms that need more creativity to thrive. They can be applied in many ways, but ignore them at your peril!
And — the ultimate place for the above types of group formation, interaction, and exchanges is? That’s right. The internet.
FOLLOW - And how about this fun story of how a creative new use of a resource (fire) may have changed history
Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, has argued that the invention of cooking split the ancestors of humans from the evolutionary path that went on to include modern gorillas and chimpanzees.
The argument is that around 1 million years ago, our ancestors started putting their food over fire. The result was revolutionary.
The advantage of this method of preparing food is clear: it makes food tastier, easier to digest and makes the extraction of energy from raw ingredients quicker and more efficient. All useful things if you want to power an over-sized, energy-hungry brain without having to spend all your time foraging and chewing food.
Hmm … ever notice that human jaws are less powerful than those of other animals?