Human beings are successful for many reasons, but being tool users is a critical success factor, adaptability is another. Early on we realised that a nail is good for joining things together and that a rock is a good way to bash it home. Over time we refined the rock to operate more efficiently, and the hammer evolved. Over several thousands of years we have expended considerable effort into special versions to do specific hammering jobs and adapting it for other jobs (e.g. making metal pots) but they all build on the original “bashing” idea. During the industrial revolution the nail developed into a rivet as wood was replaced by metal; this became the most popular way of making steam engines, ships etc. that powered the wealth of nations. We developed better ways of riveting, automating where possible, the rise of the all metal aeroplane relied on many new things but rivets were there to join the wing surfaces to the ribs, etc, forming strong, light and aerodynamic structures called the modern aeroplane. In the meantime war drove shipbuilders to find new ways of efficiently producing Liberty ships… welded together using machinery and less skilled people. Welding is incredibly common in many artefacts that we take for granted; new formulations of adhesive are also used as a welding substitute where heat generated by the process is a problem, the sleek Palm V is an example of a glued case that made the aesthetic practicable. There are some screws there too, but that’s another story.
What’s the point of this: none of these ideas and their subsequent conceptual and physical manifestations sprang from a single idea: the world around us is a result of purposeful experiment and the coming together of ideas. It is rare that a single idea becomes an innovation; usually what we think of as an idea is really an idea fragment or idealet.
Only by finding other relevant idealets can we cluster enough to create the critical mass that goes forward to become a Model T Ford, a DC-3 airliner, a Sony Walkman, a JCB backhoe loader, or an iPod.
So we need some sort of mechanism or process for finding ideas and combining and recombining them to see whether they make any sense, whether a pattern emerges that tells a story that motivates people to do something.
Thanks to Hugh at GapingVoid for the two sketches
So we need a network of people willing to share ideas and play with them to see what emerges. Hugh MacLeod drew the sketches above (gapingvoid.com) that illustrate What needs to happen. The How things happen is the process and protocols that are put in place to enable it if you feel you are lacking ideas that break through barriers and present themselves to decision-makers. By the way this lot is called creativity… and you don’t need “Creatives” to do this, just thinking people who have been given permission to think!
Why is this important?
Well the headline in The Daily Telegraph of Dec 7th, 2006 read
Be creative or die, warns design chief [Sir George Cox]; Innovation expert fears Britain’s small businesses aren’t yet attuned to the world
He had published the Review of Creativity in Business in Nov 2005 which defines three key concepts
Creativity is the generation of new ideas – either new ways of looking at existing problems, or of seeing new opportunities, perhaps by exploiting emerging technologies or changes in markets.
Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas. It is the process that carries them through to new products, new services, new ways of running the business or even new ways of doing business.
Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.
Sir George once said “If Bill Gates had started in the UK he would now be the biggest software distributor in Guildford.” I happen to know the person who built the biggest software distributor in Guildford and he was a member of the CID- always out and about looking at new technology, new channels of distribution and new ways of doing business. I wouldn't mind being as successful as him, but being the Bill would be pretty amazing too! So what is the difference... something to do with clients staying in their comfort zone?
The point being that it is C+I+D that yields robust results; miss any one and you do not have a sustainable story for your customers to tell, miss two and you won’t even make it to Guildford! But if you don’t start with plenty of C(reativity) why get out of bed in the morning?