A few weeks ago I went to meet up with an old friend who lives in Sweden. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and have supported each other in good and bad times.
I no longer live in my home country of Sweden so my visits to see some of my friends are not regular enough. Unfortunately, in this instance making arrangements about where and when to meet up turned into an argument. I felt really sad. The meeting that was supposed to be a happy event turned into a fight and both of us had to express ourselves and really say what we felt.
Thankfully, it all turned out ok and we spent a few hours catching up and sharing some nice stories.
What this did to me was that it challenged my thoughts about meeting up. We had some different ideas about how to arrange things, but the outcome was great for both parties.
We both dared to express what we felt and how we wanted things to be done, and that is what I believe we must all do more often when we work using our creative force and innovative spirit.
Steve Jobs and John Sculley
An idea is rarely fully developed until it has gone through the magic process of having input from several people. I recently watched an interview with Steve Jobs on Netflix entitled ‘The Lost Interview’ in which Jobs shares his views on creativity.
Do you remember when Apple almost went bust under the leadership of John Sculley, the former CEO of PepsiCo? Sculley and Jobs had a huge argument about the creative process and how to develop new products and the rest is history – everyone has heard the story about Sculley kicking Jobs out of Apple. Jobs claims that Sculley suffers from a disease, a disease that makes you think that 90% of a great product is a great idea.
Jobs argues that a great idea evolves by a team taking it through the creative process, and that includes arguments and different ideas interacting with each other. This then creates a product that is shaped for success. He also added that he has worked with the top experts in his field and when doing this it is challenging to manage people. You have to let their creativity add value to your final product.
Have you ever agreed to go along with a suggestion because you had to stroke someone’s ego? If your answer is yes then this person may suffer from the same disease as Sculley did: thinking that you only need a great idea to develop a great product.
When do you feel creative?
When does the next level of creativity come and knock on the door? And how do you know it’s there? I’ve spoken to lots of people about this and the creative force often turns up at very odd moments.
Grainne McGuinness, a TV and film producer based in Belfast, told me that it was when she was a sleep deprived mother of two young children that she had the most fantastic ideas: ‘Sleepless nights and the joy of spending time with my kids made me come up with some amazing off the wall ideas, one of them Bia Linn, a cookery show for kids.’
We never know when we will feel creative and who would have imagined that sleepless nights could contribute to your creativity? Maybe it’s when we let our ideas go through the tumble-dryer in our mind and mix them with other people’s ideas that magic happens. What do you think?
I once said that one of the most disruptive things you can do is to work with people who can never be wrong. Have you ever had that experience? If often happens when people are not open to listening to new ideas and suggestions. Creative people love to bounce thoughts of others and get other people’s perspective.
When you produce a TV programme you are dependent on many talented people to make it happen. You need them to help you; you can’t do it by yourself. You might have the idea, but it’s thanks to the group and their creativity that you are able to create something wonderful. Great marketing will not sell a bad product in the long term. Any customers you do get will leave you.
Too many ideas
I once spoke in front of a group of digital marketers whose principal problem was that they had too many ideas. They worked for a large supermarket in the UK and they didn’t have a process in place to help them nurture their ideas. Instead, they often felt overwhelmed by all of the creativity around them and they often killed ideas because there was no time to do anything about them.
What you want to do as a supermarket is to create a great experience for your customers and to make their time spent shopping quicker and easier. How do you then channel all your ideas internally? This question comes down to the culture of the business, the way things are done.
Did the digital markets I spoke to not have enough room to try out their ideas? Should they have set up a beta website where they could try out their new digital ideas? Should they have established an unofficial marketing lab where people could go and be a bit artistic? They think their limits are time and people, but is it really?
People need to express themselves and if you are not letting them do that then you are not going to be able to root out the best ideas.
Creativity can be painful and hard to catch, so when it happens you need to be ready for it.
This article was first published in the London Business Journal – you can read the whole magazine here.