What is creativity? Is it spawning new ideas from whole cloth? Is it wild discovery and clear innovation? Where does creativity come from? Is it that Eureka moment, that flash of inspiration that comes out of the ether? Is it, as the Ancient Greeks thought, the whispers of daemons? Is it innate, something we’re either born with, or we’re not?
Delightfully, creativity isn’t any of those things:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
Asked if he thought of himself as an innovator, Mark Cuban said:
No. I don’t really have new ideas, but I manage to combine information in ways most people hadn’t considered. They aren’t new ideas, it’s just that most people don’t do their homework about their businesses and industry, so there is usually a place to sneak in and do something a little different.
Creativity takes work. A lot of work. It’s not something you’re born with. It doesn’t come out of the ether, and ideas aren’t whispered to you by daemons, or fairies, or the voice of god. It comes from observing, studying, learning, trying, playing, listening, tweaking, and fixing. It’s long hours in the lab, or at a desk, or in the field, thinking, making small adjustments or fitting new pieces together.
But that’s all great news. It means anyone can be creative. All it takes is a lot of work.
And that’s scary, because it means you can’t have a good excuse for not being creative. It’s not that you weren’t born with it. It’s not that the daemons don’t favor you, or that you’re no good at channeling spirits or connecting with the ether. It’s that you haven’t put in the time. So, what’s stopping you?