What is creativity? Where do our ideas and innovations come from?
It’s been a while since my last blog post. It would be easy to say that I’ve skipped blog writing because I’ve been busy with my work and hobbies… Yes, that’s maybe part of the story but the other part for sure is the lack of good subjects and issues to talk about. I’ve been waiting for good ideas – and my creativity to talk about them.
During my summer holidays I read a book called ”The Medici Effect”. It’s one of the best and most inspiring business books that I’ve read about innovations and how to boost them. It’s a business book but it is easy to read like an inspiring novel. The author, Frans Johansson, is consultant who speaks about intersectional innovations, about the importance of combining knowledge from different fields of study and the importance of self-studying when creating new innovations. He does not forget to mention that persons who make the biggest breakthrough innovations, normally also produce the most of the ideas and have also failed many times before their breakthroughs.
So why is the book called the Medici Effect? Medici Effect refers to the 15th century Italy and the city of Florence, which became one of the most important centres of creativity in history. Why? Florence acted as a hub for artists. Together they broke obstacles between fields and cultures and they found the intersection – a place that pulsated creativity and worked as a spark for remarkable, surprising and revolutionary ideas. In his book Mr. Johansson tries to explain what is a place called “intersection”, how we can find it and why it is so important for the creation of innovations.
Do we know the direction or do we create it?
Innovation itself is not as simple concept as it might look like at first glance. Johansson makes a rough division and talks about two types of innovations: the ones that make an existing product or idea more effective, thus develop it to a certain and known direction. But then we have innovations that change the world with huge steps toward unknown directions – the so-called intersectional innovations. And what is interesting is that Johansson also suggests that intersectional innovations do often not need as much “expertise” or know-how as the other type of innovations. – they require creativity, ability to think out of the box and the ability to knock down barriers of associations. As an example from the book: let’s say that we would like to set up a new restaurant. Do we set up a restaurant that is like all the others but maybe serves a different type of food made from different type and more qualitative ingredients? Or what if we instead set up a restaurant that does not charge for the food but charges for the time spent in the restaurant?
So normally intersectional innovations are surprising and fascinating, they take big steps towards new directions and they have the conditions to change the world.
Keep your eyes wide open
According to Johansson we have the best possibilities to innovate when we find a place between different fields and cultures. That is why travelling, possibility to see new cultures and to meet new persons are important for finding of “a creative mindset”. I think this is one of the reasons why I love so much travelling. Of course I love travelling because it allows me to see new interesting places and cultures, relaxes my mind and brings me away from the normal daily (and sometimes stressful) lifestyle. But I also love travelling because I get new ideas that I can use at my work. As a person working with marketing, branding and communications I need new ideas, new stories and new interesting ways to present things.
I always try to keep my eyes wide open in order to get new ideas. Sometimes it’s important to be curious and see everything that happens around you, write down the best ideas and use them in appropriate occasions. It can be question about small ideas like a layout of a brochure or business card or about bigger things like how to organize a big event.
I have spent a couple of years in Italy and normally when people ask from me what I learned during my stay in this beautiful country, I like to joke and say that I learned to always be late and to talk over others….well that’s not true (or maybe some part of it is?!). First of all, living abroad has changed the way I look at my home country, Finland, and the things that I appreciate in it. I also learned to use some more courtesy when speaking especially with older persons, I learned to appreciate art and history, and I learned to appreciate long cosy dinners with friends and family.
When we spent a lot of time, let’s say too much time, in a same place, in a same country, surrounded by same type of people, we easily create assumptions about things that are right and wrong: how should we behave, what kind of clothes should we wear, what is fancy and what is not and what is acceptable and what is not. We start to lack self-confidence and courage to behave out-of-the-box – we don’t dare to be ourselves. When we travel and see different cultures and different kinds of persons, we maybe more easily realize that there exist also other ways to do things than the ones to which we are used to. Johansson does not state that people who have been affected by different cultures have more points of views but at least these people are not tied to a particular point of view. Even thought I am a marketing minded person, I have avoided working in advertising agencies. Why? Because I think my inspiration and creativity needed ideas from different kinds of persons and fields: from information technology consultants, from technological advisors etc. – not only from marketing minded persons.
Love for learning
Intelligence is many times linked to good school marks and grades. But why? If we are good at school, have majored from a university, have a doctorate degree…yes…we can something. At least we have some sort of interest towards studying and learning and some goals that we want to reach with the help of a degree. But is it really question about intelligence if someone just studies something because it is expected from an intelligent person? Like Johansson says, books show the theory but the most important thing is to be able to use those theories in practise and use the information we have learned. When talking about innovations, normally the most important things are not learned at the university or at school – they are learned by self-study. When we decide to study by ourselves, we most probably study something that inspires us, something that we consider useful when we want to carry out our ideas.
I just happened to hear today a very touching and beautiful speech held by Per Holknekt, a Swedish man who has experienced everything from homelessness to the world champion in skateboarding, founding of 24 companies and awards of the entrepreneur of the year, merchandiser of the year and so on… He talked about inspiration, innovation and the importance of happiness and self-confidence. One of his keys to inspiration is to observe people all the time, get new ideas and make them real with a good self-confidence. He talked about the importance of capturing little ideas, realizing them and keep on making something all the time. The third valuable source of inspiration lays in our ability to learn to understand ourselves. We should not pretend to be someone we are not. Like he says, we should “dance to the beat of our own heart”. I think this is well said. How could we possibly do something clever and innovative if we didn’t even know ourselves and if we tried to do something that is considered great and fancy by others, but not by ourselves.
I don’t lie a lot if I say that I speak fluently Italian. I had a time when I had difficulties to explain to myself why on earth had I decided to study Italian and spent endless hours on studying the grammar and vocabulary. Why to study a language spoken practically only in Italy, it is not a language that is very useful in business life and I can not either use it that often in my home country. I started to question my own intentions because so many friends and other persons asked me why I chose to study Italian, why not French or German? Today I am very happy that I never stopped learning Italian: it allowed me to get a job (or an internship) in the embassy in Rome, it has allowed me to help my friend and relatives in organizing of their trips to Italy, the language has brought we a lot of great Italian friends that I love to visit every now and then. My life would have been much different, if I had given up learning the language.
I quote direct from Holknekt by saying “the comparison is hell”. With this he means that many times when we compare us to other persons, we lose some part of our self-confidence and we lose our focus on learning when we instead concentrate on things that other persons are doing. He also talked about the “Power of the word”, the importance of nice and encouraging words from others – they are important in order to boost our creativity and learning process.
“We need to be seen, we need to be believed in, and we need to be given the opportunity” (Holknekt)
I have always greatly appreciated the word thank you. Those two powerful words have an incredible effect on people’s effectiveness, motivation and self-confidence. They really count.
Before my blog posting becomes too long I want to finish it with a track from one of my favorite artists, Italian pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi. Einaudi also is a good example of an innovator who has played himself into the hearts of many people. He combines contemporary classical music with pop music and has found his place somewhere between these two genres. He wants to do music without limits. He aims to play music that does need to be explained by words but it opens up to the audience automatically.