“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” - Erich Fromm
“Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” - Ray Kroc, business mind behind McDonald’s
I ran across the video below on fellow blogger Seth D. Cohen‘s site and I couldn’t help but share it with the world myself. The video makes some great points on how creativity works and how breakthroughs really happen.
One of the main points it makes is that we imagine creativity as something that just comes to us serendipitously. That it just falls in our lap without us seeking it out. We always talk about the happy ending of when a great idea has been acquired, but we often fail to mention the hard work that went into preparing your mind to perceive it.
The act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. When we reach the point of believing the answer is beyond us is when the answer finally hits us wholly in one shot.
The best business minds always put in the work first, with no guarantee of success. But they realize that consistent effort and knowledge-building will ultimately tilt the odds of a breakthrough to 100%.
Nothing great ever comes from operating out of fear. We all know that fear is the enemy of creativity.
When approaching a new project, we need to make sure our drive is creativity and inspiration, not that ugly beast we call fear. There are several important reasons why this is a universal truth. When you’re operating out of fear, you only do the bare minimum required to get by unharmed. “How can I escape this as quick as possible?” “How can I avoid pain and suffering?” “I don’t care if it’s good, I just want to BE DONE WITH IT!!” It’s our survival instinct. And outside of immediate physical harm, it’s of very little use to us.
When operating from fear, we also default into playing by others’ rules. We only see one solution to solve a problem, when in reality there are always numerous solutions to any problem. You’re essentially giving up any competitive advantage you might have because your fear makes you feel you have to play THEIR game, not yours. A problem might require finesse and speed like the game of basketball, whereas your shortsightedness might force you to play a game of strength and attrition like football, which plays into the opponent’s hands.
However, when we approach a new project with inspiration, we bring the ball into our court. We see alternatives that might not be visible to the naked eye. We try new things. This inspiration is our rocketship to greatness.
Now, no one said that leaving fear behind in exchange for inspiration is an easy task. It takes boldness, and boldness works best when we train it like a muscle. Not too many people have the discipline to do this. But merely thinking about what inspires you next time you feel like you’re defaulting to fear can go a long way towards sparking this boldness. Fear is the enemy of creativity, and creativity comes from inspiration. Wrestle the ball back into your court if need be.
Let’s talk about a company that gets it. That company is BetaBrand. In my eyes, there’s no way they won’t become a major primetime player in the apparel industry. Why? Because they’ve figured out to a way to shift part of their product development duties onto their customers. And in the commercial market we operate nowadays, saving time, energy, and resources is about as real as a competitive advantage gets.
How did they cleverly accomplish this? They benignly created a business model where they release a new article of clothing weekly, and only in limited amounts. (The NY Times ran a great article on their business model here.) Don’t get it twisted, this is shipping at its finest: getting a product on the market quickly, as soon as it does what it needs to do. But when you look at it closely, Betabrand is essentially creating a small amount of working prototypes, which minimizes their risk, and letting the market take the development from there. If a product just isn’t up to snuff, their run dies once the stock runs out. However if a product enjoys moderate success, then they tinker with it and you’ll see some type of new iteration down the line. For runaway successes, they then transition these to “permanent” products, like their Disco Pants or Reversible Smoking Jackets.
All this sounds like duties that a Marketing Manager or Product Development Manager would handle back in the 1990s. This was of course risky back in those days, both for the firm and for the manager’s job. This leads to risk aversion, and risk aversion stifles creativity.
By fundamentally transferring the later stages of product development onto the consumer, they foster creativity, save money on managers’ salaries, AND to top it off they line their pockets with money in the process by selling these “prototypes.” This sounds like a Win-Win-Win to me. Kudos, Betabrand. Well played. Well played indeed.
Let’s see how long until other companies wisen up and start to mimic Betabrand’s model…
“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” – Thomas Edison
If the great inventor Thomas Edison said it then it must be true. Some of you might already be good at putting in the perspiration needed to innovate and market your business, but what if you’re falling short on the inspiration part? I know I always get inspired by reading about new products that have been released to the marketplace, or by ones that are coming down the pipeline. This could be in the areas of electronics, consumer goods, fitness equipment, science, etc. See below for a couple sites that I visit often to get inspiration for new business ideas:
PSFK – Probably my favorite of these types of sites. What makes the site so good is that you get a little bit of everything. They highlight the newest proliferations is scientific breakthroughs, new gadgets, virtual gaming, grooming products, etc. You name it, they got it. Make sure to keep this site on your watch list if you’re into product development.
Wired’s Gadgetlab – Another great blog. A large part of their focus is on electronics like phones and tablets, as well as phone accessories. They also feature a lot of cool, trendy, and weird add-ons for bikes and kitchen appliances. Paradise if you’re a hipster.
TechCrunch’s gadgets – Also a site focusing mainly on phones, tablets, and peripherals. They get a lot of exclusive first-access to new stuff so they’re definitely a site to visit often.
co.design by Fast Company – This one runs the gamut in terms of ideas. They also integrate a lot of sci-fi thinking as well as graphic design elements. A cool way to stay inspired if you consider yourself an artist AND an entrepreneur.
There are a couple more sites I visit to get my brain brewing ideas, but the four I highlighted above are the cream of the crop, and a great starting point. I’d love to get more suggestions on sites I might not be aware of yet, so if any of you have more for me please write it in the comments. You can also tweet them to me @AlexCpds.
Tomorrowfy>> your ideas.
TGIF. And because of that I want to give you some reading to do as you pretend to be doing work in the office when you’re really hoping 5pm gets here quickly. Here is the weekly installment of informative News Articles, Posts, and Videos from the Brand Management world that I read. Please let me know what I overlooked or what else I should be reading (MORE LINKS AFTER THE JUMP):