Creativity at WomanTalkLive
Many of you know that I’m a huge fan of Project Runway. I love seeing what the designers come up with each week and I like imagining what I’d do to meet each challenge if I were competing.
But even more, I love witnessing the contestant’s creative process and soaking up the lessons that come with that – and this season certainly did not disappoint.
Michelle Lesniak, season 11’s Project Runway winner, had the unique pleasure of publically riding out one of the most intense creative roller coasters in the show’s history.
Starting out on the bottom in almost every challenge – thanks to the show’s new team concept in which the worst designs often meant that great work was on the chopping block – and ending up almost being eliminated close to the end, Michelle was almost out too many times to mention. Making her emotional state even worse, was the fact that she was also not allowed to fly with the other contestants to a European city to gather inspiration for the final pre-runway challenge, and instead went to visit someplace, well, not so inspiring:
Creativity’s Dark Night of the Soul – that emotional and psychological place where you can’t stop beating yourself up; where you start to think that maybe the struggle is a message, that this is too hard and not meant to be; where you feel that you’re supposed to give up for good.
But the thing is, she didn’t.
She cried – probably more than the viewing audience realized, per her after-season interviews. She asked the producers for a bottle of wine, which she probably drank very fast. And then, she did something amazing.
She WON the whole darn thing.
If you’ve been to that dark creative place, you know that Michelle wasn’t just upset, but was literally defeated.
You know that she had to dig deeper than she’s probably ever dug before.
You know that she had to make the conscious choice not just to finish, but to truly give herself the chance to win – even though she felt humiliated, full of self doubt and oh so ready to just go home.
Making the decision to allow yourself to move forward creatively, even as you are “losing,” is not easy. Some people will even tell you that if you feel struggle, something’s not right.
Granted the idea is to move out of struggle and into ease, but if you throw in the towel when things get very hard, you risk cheating yourself out of possibly the best thing you’ve ever created – and the chance to reach the top (meaning YOUR top, YOUR best, your talent at whatever level, totally realized).
I have the tendency to be fueled by creative struggle, I don’t give up easily in that dark place, but I’ll tell you where I do give up: When I’m “winning.”
And that’s a whole side to Creativity’s Dark Night of the Soul – and to the practice of giving yourself permission to win.
More on that side of the equation next time.
To surviving and thriving even when things are harder than you ever thought they could get,
A couple of weeks ago, I invited you to participate in another Sandbox Challenge with this question:
If you created your own App, what would it be?
I asked for the name of your App, a description of what it does and your inspiration.
This week, I’m sharing the responses right here and also at Idea Tango – and there’s still time for you to throw your App ideas into the ring, too – just continue reading to find out how to do that.
Okay! Here we go:
Ann Quasman’s App (Yes – the very same Ann Quasman who runs the show here at WomanTalk Live)
App Name: The Get Your Ass in Bed App
Description: This App ensures you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
How it works: The App gives you a pulsating electric shock through your phone until, well, you go to bed. Side note: I threw out the idea that the App could shut your phone off, lock it and not turn it back on again until it’s been off for the requisite number of sleep hours, but Ann was having none of that. She felt the electrocution aspect sent a stronger message.
Inspiration: Needing, desperately, to go to bed.
The next contributor shared her idea, but didn’t give the details so I’m filling it in a bit just because I think it’s really interesting.
Carole Cohen McCracken’s App
App Name: The Happ App
(no name was given – so, Carole, if you have one, please share!)
Description: This App measures your level of happiness.
How it works: (again, no details were given, so this is my version of Carole’s idea) The App reads your vital statistics, body chemistry and also other current data about where you are, the audio or visuals around you, your answers to a few questions, as well as your answers to questions about what makes you happy that you answered when you first set up the App, to gauge your level of joy, contentment and excitement. It combines these three metrics to come up with your overall Happiness Quotient for the day. I love Carole’s idea and was thinking that if everyone had this App, we could get a nationwide or global Happiness Quotient for the day, and also see which geographic regions have the happiest people at any given moment.
Want to contribute your idea? Go to Sandbox: Innovation – An App of One’s Own and share your App in the comments section.
To whacky, WONDERFUL and useful ideas,
A recent episode of comedian Dana Gould’s podcast, The Dana Gould Hour, starts with a sketch titled, “Political Talk with Two Guys from Boston – a working man’s look at the socio-political issues of our day.”
The premise is simple: Two heavily accented Boston guys, Johnny and Robby (who work in the air conditioning repair industry), go against stereotype, sprinkling their commentary with intellectual and philosophical gems.
In this particular interaction, the news of the day leads into a discussion about creative types and the mindset required for business success. Johnny says:
Here’s my problem: Some guy will drive by a bank and look at the door and think, “I should walk into that bank and take out a small loan and use that loan to micro-finance 17 small businesses and then amortize my percentage of their profits to fund a larger business. Over 20 years, I’ll have like a giant business.”
I’ll drive by that same bank and I’ll look at the door and think, “I wonder what they’d pay me to clean that door.”
So, which person are you in the story?
Do you see the biggest opportunity and believe that success is possible for you?
Or, do you see only the smaller opportunity, the opportunity that suggests you’ll feel lucky if you can just scrape by?
The fact is, mindset matters in business. Especially, for entrepreneurs – and maybe even more for creative types and innovators. It dictates whether or not we allow ourselves to dream big and, therefore, it also dictates whether or not we give ourselves the opportunity to succeed.
Certainly life can throw us curveballs even when we have a “possibility” mindset. But it’s how we choose to look at those curveballs that makes the difference.
Do we see bumps in the road as further proof of our inability (See! I really can’t do this.)? Or, do we see them as a chance to further fine-tune our ideas?
What I love about the bank story in terms of creativity and innovation in business is that it drives home a really important point – and one that I feel a lot of us forget (at least, sometimes):
Adopting a mindset of POSSIBILITY, so that we’re able to see potential, rather than limits, is actually essential to achieving tangible success. After all, if we can’t allow ourselves to picture our biggest game, how are we going to play it?
While logic, judgement, feasibility, practicality, etc., do (and most often must), come into play at some point in our creative process, if we let limits in too early in that process, we don’t stand a chance of going all the way.
We end up “but-ting” ourselves right off the bigger game playing field.
In my coaching practice, I work primarily with entrepreneurs and creative professionals, and one of the reasons they inspire me so much is because they demonstrate a handful of traits that I think are common to most highly successful people:
- They are really curious about what’s possible.
- When something seems to get in the way of their idea, they get even more curious, rather than discouraged.
- They ask, “what if?” as part of their creative process – A LOT. In fact, many of their sessions start with something like: “I was thinking, what if I …”
- They deflate or shut down when others try to limit their thinking – they don’t stop, they just won’t go to that person for feedback anymore. They want to be around others who are open to BIG possibility.
- They accept failure as part of the process. They understand that they might not be right, but they are open to the possibility that they are.
- They work from a “this will work” premise, saving testing for after the basic idea is fully formed.
- When their internal saboteurs appear, they work directly with them. In other words, they don’t ignore the fear that comes with playing a bigger game, they embrace it, learn from it and move forward anyway.
In short, when they see a door (bank or otherwise), they simply see it as open.
To coming from possibility,
Although there’s currently a call for greater innovation in the U.S., and although many people (including myself) are predicting an upcoming Age of Innovation, there’s no question that true innovation not only does happen regularly in certain places around the globe, but also seems to breed even more innovation.
Okay, maybe in one place in particular. Namely, Silicon Valley.
While certainly the technology industry is more primed for innovation than many other industries (especially, those in which the last time an innovation occurred there was not even a place to post, tweet or meet-up about it), the impressive pace at which tech geeks innovate is, well, kinda staggering. No sooner do they sell their start up to Google, than do they start up with their next idea. In fact, it’s likely that next idea was already brewing before the negotiations for the original start-up started. One example is Dwight Crow who sold his company, Carsabi, to Facebook and used the month off he was given between the sale and the first day of his new job at Facebook shepherding the further development of Carsabi to work on his next big what’s next.
How do I know this? Despite the fact that the nature of Silicon Valley is fairly common knowledge, the start-up technology company scene is now being well-documented on TV – thanks to Facebook Media’s new show Start-Ups: Silicon Valley which gives viewers an insider’s look at least one aspect of the technology industry – the aspect that involves very young people with very big ideas meeting with slightly older people with very big pockets – who not long ago were the very young people with the very big idea themselves.
Even though Start-Ups is reality TV and, therefore, by definition, not reality at all, there’s still much you can learn about innovation from watching these innovators in action. Not to mention, something to learn about business in general, start-ups specifically, drive, failure/success, creativity and much more.
That is, if you’re open to the message.
Because what the message is, boils down to this:
Achieving the end game of your dreams requires major risk taking, extremely hard work and a constant dance between pushing and patience.
And those who do succeed have, without a doubt, failed exponentially more often.
It’s not far fetched to say that a single successful Silicon Valley-born company is probably built on 25 other “ideas” that not only flopped, but flopped fantastically, leaving the start up DOA and the founders floundering.
The thing is, though, they keep at it.
They pick themselves up and start again. And because they know a thing or two about how to innovate – because they took the chance before – they get smarter as they go. It doesn’t mean the next idea or company will succeed, but it does mean that, with practice, they (and we) can get better at innovating – and better and faster at standing tall in the face of failure. Truly seeing that it’s the idea that failed, not us. And only this time.
In Silicon Valley, it would seem that every creative person recognizes the need for an app of one’s own. An idea that inspires them to take on the challenge of creation and drives them to make the space and time – and the chance – for an experience that is, no matter the end result, likely to be nothing less than remarkable.
Which leads me to the next Unlocked Box Sandbox Challenge: An App of One’s Own
This is one Sandbox that will not only be a ton of fun, but which might just be the spark for your own what’s next.
To the start-up called YOU,
The Spark Factory: Creativity vs. Innovation – What’s the Difference? What’s the Innovative Process?Thursday, April 11, 2013
There are many articles already written on the difference between creativity and innovation. In researching the topic for myself, I was interested to find that I agreed only with a small handful of writers (at least, of those I was able to find).
On one hand, I’m not surprised, since there is obviously significant crossover between the two concepts. But what did surprise me were the definitions themselves. Creative/creativity was often defined as something new or original; and innovative/innovation as something implemented. In other words, new seemed to be the differentiating factor on the “creative” side, and implementation appeared to be the differentiating factor on the “innovative” side – the logic being that an idea can be creative, but that it can’t be an innovation until it’s implemented; and also that creative = new/original, which I do not believe to be true.
While I do agree that an innovation needs to be realized to be usable (to be more than simply an idea or concept), I don’t think this distinction gets to the core of the real difference between creativity and innovation.
For example, an idea can be innovative or creative, or both, but the fact that an idea itself can be innovative suggests that the implementation factor is more of a desired outcome (what individuals and businesses want and may need to happen to make the process worthwhile), but not the defining difference. To the same point, I’ve heard and seen countless ideas and things that are creative, but not innovative (and not original), and it wasn’t the fact that they were not yet implemented that made the difference.
In the very first article in the creativity and innovation at work series, I shared a definition of innovation (conceived by Jeff Dance of the digital marketing firm Fresh Consulting) that really works for me on all levels, because it points to what I think is actually the core difference between creativity and innovation, and it also leaves the implementation factor out altogether:
In the same article, I also wrote that I felt that knowing and understanding the definition of innovation is the critical first step in actually innovating, because the definition holds the clues to “how-to.”
So, using Fresh Consulting’s definition of innovation the starting point, what are the key components for innovating? What is the Innovative Process?
Before we get to that, though, a somewhat brief note about creativity:
By definition, the Innovative Process includes the Creative Process – in fact, the Innovative Process is a creative process. However, I feel innovation must go beyond the Creative Process because, per the definition of innovation we’re using, an innovation includes attributes that are not absolutely necessary for creativity alone.
In explanation, I define “creative” as a thing, person, process, product, etc., that stands apart from others in one of two ways (with “new” and “creates value” not part of either):
- By standing apart from the norm (not necessarily by being new); and/or
- By offering a different perspective (not necessarily an innovative perspective); and whether that different perspective creates value or not, is a bit irrelevant, I think, in terms of creativity. It might create value, and if it does, it moves of from being purely creative to also being innovative.
So, with both the above thinking around creativity in mind and the definition of innovation from Fresh Consulting, here’s my take on the Innovative Process and why it is different from the Creative Process:
Innovative Process = Creative Process + Strategic Thinking + Practical Application
Breaking it down:
Creative Process: The Creative Process is part of all creating (including innovation). It is how ideas come to be. It’s phases, as outlined in the Idea Tango series on Creative Process are: Sponge Work (absorbing, noticing, collecting fodder, but not judging); In the Flow (making connections, begin to judge what’s working, what’s not); Inspiration & Insight (getting the big idea, the ah-ha moment and the point in the process at which the creator makes a choice about what will be created); Making it Real (completing the idea, moving from concept to tangible outcome – and, YES!, this is implementation. But again, if we believe an idea can be creative – or innovative for that matter – than whether or not it’s produced has nothing to do with its inherent creativity).
Strategic Thinking: Strategic Thinking is looking at the total environment and asking questions like we asked in the how-to innovate exercises What’s Broken? What’s Brilliant? and What can I Borrow? What can I Balance?. Strategic thinking sees what’s out there now, finds gaps and missing pieces, combines ideas (which all can also be part of the Creative Process), but ultimately strategic thinking serves to provide key insights as to whether or not the idea will create value or not (which is not a necessary part of the Creative Process) – and this is where the line blurs into the final component of the formula, in that strategic thinking is what lays the groundwork for discovering:
Practical Application: Will it be useful? Will it really create value – will it give us something that makes life easier, better, faster, slower, etc? Logic comes into play in a major way (implemented or not), and it’s also easy to see why practical application does not have to be part of creativity. In fact, something can be completely useless (in the hard-nosed sense) and still be quite creative.
As mentioned above, it’s true that strategic thinking and practical application, can and often do, play a part in pure creativity (i.e. strategic thinking is part of getting In the Flow and in finding Inspiration & Insight; and practical application has elements that can certainly be part of Making it Real; but the point is that while they can be part of the Creative Process, they are absolutely essential to the Innovative Process.
In short, where the Creative Process doesn’t demand a formal approach around strategy and practicality – or even require them at all – the Innovative Process does. Those pieces are necessary for real innovation exactly because of Fresh Consulting’s definition of innovation: That to be an innovation, something has to be new and it has to create value.
What are your thoughts on the differences between creativity and innovation? What is your formula for innovation? Shoot my theory down or build on it, it’s all in service of something important: The thrilling opportunity to innovate better and more easily – to take our society and planet into the future with genius and in ways yet to be imagined.
To the work of the coming age,