Ideas vs. Ideas


Now that school is done I have some free time to catch up on reading and all the other things I was putting off. I had clipped a page from the Globe at the beginning of May. I already read one of the articles on the page about a new car being designed in Germany, but I was eager to read the longer article reviewing a new book: The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson.

The premise of the article is that when different disciplines, perspectives or viewpoints intersect, new ideas and innovations are more likely to occur. And while I fully agree with this concept, I couldn’t help but think that all of the theories he outlines are nothing new. Then it hit me, he is talking about designers.

“People who break down their associative barriers…They are aware that there are multiple ways of approaching a problem, promoting divergent thinking and a willingness to break the rulebook.”

However, Johansson doesn’t seem to mention that this kind of thinking is natural or innate in some people; this is why  Idisagree with him. For example he discusses the culinary work of Marcus Samuelson, a talented Ethiopian born, Swedish raised chef. He credits Mr. Samuelson’s diverse background and extensive travelling with his ability to challenge the norms of cuisine. He fails to mention that Mr. Samuelson may think differently and imaginatively because that is the only way he knows how.

The rest of the article outlines the creativity tips Mr. Johansson suggests in his book. Because the book is clearly marketed toward business types looking to add some “innovation” to their work, I am a bit disconcerted. What still seems to be missing from the business world’s concept of innovation is that you don’t need to train executives to think differently you just need to hire people who already think this way. This troubles me as a designer because it seems impossible to show the business world what we are capable of. If they want new ideas and people willing to “break the rulebook”, they need to start rethinking where they look.

Photo: Vicki & Chuck Rogers

6 Responses to “Ideas vs. Ideas”

  1. My thoughts on this are that it would be hard to hire people who think this way naturally unless you wrote the job description in a certain exclusive way. You can’t, for instance, hire based on MBTI or KAI. You can certainly weigh experience that shows a proclivity towards a certain creative style.

    But on the other hand, ‘rule breakers’ aren’t valued by everyone. They are notoriously hard to work with, many have a competitive streak and don’t like to collaborate with other creative people. This is especially true in the world of science and technology. I know extremely creative engineers who won’t collaborate with anyone outside their field of expertise, and scientists who won’t share ideas for fear they’ll be stolen before they are published. In a business bureaucracy, rule breakers are often seen as wild individuals who won’t conform to company policy.

    My experience is that you CAN teach people to be more creative, and you CAN teach creative types to collaborate – if you get them early enough in their careers. You can create cross-disciplinary teams of complementary creative styles and get a lot of things done if everyone agrees to treat one another collegially and collaborate freely.

  2. While I see your point, as a designer myself I know first hand that my colleagues and myself are clearly creative and able to demonstrate this effectively.

    I agree that rule breakers aren’t valued by everyone and that is okay, however creative people are not “notoriously hard to work with” in fact the creatives of today are among the best collaborators ever. Because I am referring to designers, I know it is in our nature to act as a connector in group situations, unlike other creatives with a more focused outlook.

    The problem as I see it is that some businesses feel it is more effective to train traditional business people to be creative rather than hire those already possessing these skills. Designers are talented and can provide value in many situations, if they are only given the chance.

  3. It’s refreshing to see a field where people collaborate as a matter of course. The worlds of business, science and technology are not always like that.

    An article I just linked from my blog might add yet another perspective. Lean Six Sigma is taking over a lot of businesses, to the detriment of creativity:

    LSS is seen as a quick-fix measure to reduce costs and boost profits, but to LSS, the creative process isn’t efficient. Those who can increase efficiency and effectiveness are being valued more than those who can produce novel ideas.

  4. After reading that article I have to agree with your final point. LSS has its place in the ubiquity world, but when you are attempting to innovate, like 3M, creativity must take priority over efficiency.

    I think there is a problem with the perception of creative endeavors. They tend to be viewed as inefficient and wasteful, however without them nothing can happen. A true balance needs to be found, as you smartly pointed out.

    interesting read, thanks for the link

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