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Archive for the ‘Defining Creativity’ category

Creativity at Any Age

February 20th, 2010

I read this week’s Wall Street Journal article “Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity” (WSJ, Feb 20, 1010, p. W3) with fascination…

The article, by Jonah Lehrer, suggests the following:

  • Scientific & technical revolutions are often led by younger minds (think Newton, Watson, Einstein, Madame Curie, Jobs, Andreessen)
  • Certain fields lend themselves to innovation by younger minds, including Physics, Math & Poetry, Chess
  • There seems to be an inverted U-curve that describes human capacity for creative thought, with the top of the u-curve coming somewhere between the ages of 25 and 50.
  • The disciplines of  Biology, History, Novel-writing, and Philosophy might not peak until their late 40′s
  • Many individuals have increased their creativity later in life by switching fields of study (thus potentially applying learnings from one field to another in a “intersectional” manner (see my prior blog post on this called “Intersectional Creativity& Mash-ups”)

One key part of this argument I do buy is this:  when we are young, we are likely to take more risks and we are likely to be less encumbered by rules bestowed upon us by marriage, work, community, church, etc.  In other words the YOUNGER MIND, in general, does have the advantage of being FREE to make key connections that the older mind has to work harder to achieve amidst a cadre of society-driven rules which have been enforced for a longer period of time.

While I don’t disagree with the premise that certain professions require young/fresh minds to attack them, the author neglected to mention the wide variety of creative careers that have taken off for LATE BLOOMERS in many fields.

Old Farts Have Been Creative Too!

The NY Times article highlights “Five sicentists who made their marks while they were young”, including: Archimedes (in his 20s when sitting in the bathtub), Marie Curie (just turned 30 when investigating radioactivity), Galileo Galilei (speed of objects falling in late 20′s), William Lawrence Bragg (x-rays and crystal structure; Nobel laureate at age 25), and J. Robert Oppenheimer (Manhattan Project lead, first discoveries at 23 years old).

Indeed, these great discoveries (involving major sciences) were made by youngsters who could view the world in an alternative way and remove themselves from the scientific “rule-sets” of their days. (Archimedes was quite fortunate to thrive in an ancient society of Greece that rewarded created thinking)

But there is a variety of evidence that older humans have the capacity for creativity & innovation – well into their “retirement” years.

Here are a few I immediately dug up:

1) Ben Franklin - perhaps one of the greatest of all American Inventors – invented the Lightening Rod at age 44 and discovered electricity at 46, drafted the Declaration of Independence at age 70, invented bifocals in late 70′s.

2) Henry Ford - founded Ford Motors in late 30s and geared up production lines in his late 40′s.

3) Sam Walton – launched the first Walmart, in , at age 44.

4) Ray Kroc – was 52 when he incorporated the innovative new approach later called “McDonalds”.

5) Ray Kurzweil - author of more than 10 books on topic of scientific thought and futuristic thinking, has come up with some of his most impressive new ideas long after the age of 50 (he was born in 1948 and is 62 this year).  His book The Singularity Is Near was published when he was 55)

6) Alfred Hitchcock - his best and most creative films were done after the age of 50.

7) Guru Singh – one of my friends and mentors, Guru Singh, who is now over 60 is one of the most creative authors, teachers and global social conscience innovators that I know. Check out his blog !

Can you think of other examples?

Conceptual vs Experimental Innovators

A great article from Wired Magazine, written in July 2006, reminds us that Genius can come at many ages. Researcher David Galenson (Harvard) underscores the difference between creative activity can be found in two forms: “Conceptual” innovators and “Experimental Innovators”.  The Conceptual Innovators tend to come up with their ideas at an early age, in big dramatic leaps into new vectors – the Experimental Innovators seem to have a slower path to the great “aha” moment, trying many variations over time (think: Thomas Edison).
I like to think about Bill Gates – he appears to be a Conceptual Innovator in his youth in the area of software, but in later life (post 50 now), he is starting to innovate in new areas  Oddly enough, a number of employees attracted to Microsoft, including Jeff Raikes, Nathan Myrvold, Paul Allen – all seem to be blooming in new creative ways – I suppose they are “experimental” innovators now.

In my role at UC Berkeley, I try to surround myself with the ideas, theory, practice and real world examples of great minds, creativity and innovation…and it seems to come in many forms and many ages.  It all gives me comfort in knowing that at age 49, I still have plenty of time to make my major creative contribution to society.  

What are your thoughts on this topic? Respond below or  Tweet me at http://twitter.com/randyhaykin

Innovation and Creativity at the University

January 7th, 2010

In 2009, I was given the opportunity to create and teach a new course at UC Berkeley’s “Management of Technology” group, serving both master-degree candidates in Engineering as well as MBAs at the Haas School.  All in all we had 46 students in the class. The class is called ICE –“Innovation, Creativity & The Entrepreneur.”

I am personally very grateful for the opportunity to teach this particular course.  First of all, I am interested at this point in giving something back to others – and this class represented the ULTIMATE way to give something back to the younger generation – this is the future generation of innovative leaders.  And, Creativity is a life-long passion of mine.  Lastly, the results of the class were extremely rewarding (read on, below).

Why a Class on Creativity/Innovation AND Entrepreneurship?

While colleges & corporations all over the world are stressing Innovation, and even Berkeley itself has several leaders in the field of innovation, such as Professor Sara Beckman and Professor Henry Chesbrough, I researched ENTREPRENEURIAL Innovation in 2008.  We do have a very excellent Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation here at the Haas School – the emphasis is on hands-on student learning for future entrepreneurs.  I teach New Venture Finance each spring from within this Center.  Several classes within Lester Center integrate ideas on creativity and innovation into their curriculum.

Outside of Berkeley, I could find very little in this area – few cases,  very few articles, few courses taught on the subject (Harvard Business School had a course of this nature in the late 1980’s, taught by professor, John Kao), and the last book I could find on the topic of Innovation and Entrepreneurship was a book by that very name by Peter Drucker in 1985. (If I’ve missed something in my research, my apologies – I’d LOVE to learn about it).

Plenty out there on Innovation and Corporations, but little on entrepreneurship…maybe entrepreneurs are EXPECTED to be innovative…but of course they are not  necessarily, in reality.

Topics on Creativity

The class basically covered these topics on Creativity & Innovation:

  • Definitions of Creativity & Innovation in the working world
  • Company Environment – how physical space, values, beliefs & culture affect innovation
  • Leadership – how to enhance or kill Creativity in the entrepreneurial environment (see my previous post on this topic)
  • Measuring Group and Individual Creativity
  • The Creative Problem Solving Process
  • Management of Global Creativity
  • Creativity in Design
  • Innovations in Product Development
  • Innovations in Marketing (see my previous posts on this topic)
  • HR , Company Culture and Innovation (see my previous posts on this topic)
  • How business models affect innovation

Speakers really enhanced the class !

At UC Berkeley, we are very fortunate to be closeto  the Silicon Valley (and I’m fortunate to know a lot of people!)  During the 15 week class we had a variety of excellent speakers parade through the halls of the Haas School on their way to our classroom.  I am highly indebted and grateful to the following seasoned professionals for their time and great presentations:

New cases developed for this class

As luck would have it, I had superb support from Anne Marxer who is a MBA candidate at Haas and did a great job as my Teaching Assistant.  We also were very fortunate to get 4 special case studies done – Case studies were also superbly written by Jenny Herbert Creek (on Netflix’s Cultural innovations) and Rekha Ravindra (on Reply’s business model innovations) – thanks ladies!

Professor Linda Hill, a long-time mentor and well-know professor/administrator at Harvard Business School, co-collaborated with me on a case on Digital Chocolate, which was nicely written by HBS West Executive Director Alison Wagonfeld.  The case is available world-wide now through the HBS Publishing – see: http://hbr.org/product/digital-chocolate/an/410049-PDF-ENG?N=4294958507%2520516161

Getting Innovative

Of course, no classroom on innovation or creativity would make sense unless we tried to be a little innovative ourselves. I surprised myself by managing to come up with at least 4 innovation in this classroom, that the students seem to enjoy.  Some of the  approaches were bit out of the ordinary and took advantage of existing technologies:

  • Classroom Innovation #1: the Virtual case – With expert videographer and Cal grad Suzanne Lamar, I created four unique cases and tested them out on the class – each case was filmed at the company and then presented on the web in snippets (each no more than 2 minutes long, a total of 6-8 per company).  Students were asked to write down answers to questions on each clip, in addition to reading a short case study on the company.  The result: students seem to retain more of the learning, and internalized the material, plus had more fun.  For great examples of this, see:  http://www.haykin.net/learning/index.html
  • Classroom Innovation #2: unique use of Wiki – I asked all 50 students in the class to each come up with 2 examples of Marketing Innovation (from anywhere in world) off the ‘Net and enter their findings in a wiki which was organized by marketing topic. The result was so rich and useful for a 2 hour class – but in reality we created enough material for the basis of an ENTIRE COURSE on Marketing Innovation.  During my lecture, I shared a framework on marketing with the class, then stitched together examples they had all posted – in real time and using video, audio, etc.  We had an amazing time.
  • Classroom Innovation #3: unique use of Online forums - we used this as a classroom tool to allow better participation by students.  Some students were shy by nature and said less in class.  I created a discussion forum online that only the class could see and comment on.  Those students who were quiet in class had a chance to “speak up” and many of them left comments all semester long.  Plus the students interacted (debated, complimented, compared) with each other in these forums.  The forums also provided great feedback for me from the students on class tools, speakers, etc.
  • Classroom Innovation #4:  the Personal Innovation Plan – one final brainchild I had for this class was called the “PIP” (personal innovation plan). During the 15 weeks of class, I asked each student to keep a Personal Journal of what they were learning, their thoughts and ideas.  Then,  I asked each student to  come up with a full person plan of how they would put the class into action in their own lives – using what they had learned all semester.   About half the class presented their PIPs to me, and the other half delivered physical PIPs.

Here are some examples of the amazing plans that the students presented, some of them were WORKS OF ART:

  • A colorful desk calendar that provides photos, quotes, memorable learnings from class for each month of 2010
  • A live multi-media website the integrates all the course material, assignments, personal journals
  • A desktop full-scale model of House in the movie “Up!” from  Pixar containing a hidden journal and go-forward plan
  • A magazine interview revealing personal findings and learnings
  • An amazing short story about a Bunny (who was in fact the student in disguise)
  • Interpretation of a few weeks of dreams and how they fit into the creative process
  • A Powerpoint slide show of images/photos along with orginal music
  • A comic-strip representing all that was learned in class
  • Original Music demonstrating several aspects of the class

Through this approach, and innovations during the semester, I felt that I got the privilege of getting to know the 46 students in my class more intimately than most other professors at US institutions.

If you have any questions about this class, I’d love to hear from you at Haykin@haas.berkeley.edu, or leave your comment at bottom of this blog!

Do youTwog?

December 28th, 2009

As an LMG (Lifetime Marketing Guy), it’s hard to ignore social media these days.  Many years ago, many of my peers started using LinkedIn; next  we succombed to Facebook – today, most professionals I deal with (in the Silicon Valley) are on both these networks, and several specialized ones as well (such as Gaia if into spirituality, MySpace if into music, Tripit if into travel, etc).

Social Media Evolution

Among my more adventurous venture capital, entrepreneurial and professorial friends, the next step was tackling Blogging.  Several of my friends became pioneers in this area (although for some of them, this has gone from “wired” to “tired”).  In Evolution Of Man2009, the latest hot thing has been Twitter.  Monitoring and interacting on Facebook, LinkedIn or one’s blog are no longer enough for keeping up with the steady pulse of the ‘Net.  The problem is that these are essentially Asynchoronous (I can check every so often, but not all the time). The Real-time ‘Net – which twists and turns every hour of the day. Thus in 2008-2009 Twitter has become the “next big thing”.  This is active and requires a whole new way of thinking.

Passive Participation Will Not build My Brand

As a marketer today, you might study the 100 million blogs already out there, the vice-grip that Google has on most of the Internet and conclude that it has become much tougher these days to become noticed and gain momentum in social media.  Assuming I am  not already a rock star, famous author, or Tony Robbins in the “real world”, I basically have to work hard to get noticed on the ‘Net today. And, I have to build this notoriety one Tweet or one Blog entry at a time.  It isn’t enough to Blog anymore, nor is it enough to jump into the river of Tweets.  Passive participation in all of this will not do much to build my pesonal brand on the ‘Net.   It’s now necessary to “Twog”.

I Twog, Therefore I Am

What is Twogging?  According to previous definitions, it used to mean “the World of God” or “the world of Golf”.  Twogging is my name for a combination of blogging and twittering. A creative intersection, or mash-up (see my previous blog post on Intersectional Creativity), if you will.

Actually, Twogging is much more. With current technologies, one can not only blog (asynchronously) but one might also Twitter (real-time). And, if one is tweeting, then one might as well also pull in feeds from LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook – and publish tweets out to all these popular sites simultaneously. Thus, write one thing, and you essentially go out over 5 or more channels of communication to your audience.  Twogging.

The Art of the Twog

I suspect that marketeers in the coming year are going to get very good at Twogging.  They will find ways of using incentives, posting questions, auto-answering real-time requests, and other means for engaging the audience … all in a CLOSED LOOP system that allows them to pull customers/followers from Twitter and send them to a blog, pull blog readers and send them to Twitter, pull LinkedIn/Facebook contacts and send them to either.

Managing all this has been an artform professed by “marketing consultants” who understand the power of “integrated marketing”…but  I suspect we’ll see a lot more social media management sites and software available in the coming years…dashboards that allow one to Orchestrate all this.  Some of the leaders in this area today are:

- TweetDeck – originally developed as a desktop client platform for managing tweets, I think this company will find it is inappropriately branded as it moves forward -  it allows one to manage feeds/comments from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook simultaneously and will likely grow into a Dashboard of sorts for both real-time and asynchronous communications

- Twhirl – another desktop client that runs off Adobe Aire – and integrates FriendFeed, Twitter and likely more in the future.

- Squidoo, About.com – although these companies has been around for several years, they could be well-positioned for Twogging if they realized that they could enable their users to live in both an ansynchronous and real-time world. At present, neither of these sites capture the components of real-time updates, micro-blogging or tweets.

Finally, the Big Boys (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn) have an opportunity to become the dashboard of choice if they adopt and “open standards” approach to things and allow users on their systems to create the “My Yahoo” of the social media world.  Google’s purchase of Blogger in 2003, its success with iGoogle (as a home/starting page for so many ‘Net users), its promotion of the OpenSocial API standards and its 2009 launch of FriendConnect, all place it as the center of Twogging.

DoYouTwog3 copy

I myself am Twogging as I post this…both building a following on Twitter, updating my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn AND continuing to place useful posts on my blog site that will continue to build my persona on the ‘Net…

Technorati ID:  HRWX3KB46RVV

“Intersectional” creativity & Mash-ups

December 22nd, 2009

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun… Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14)

One of my students at UC Berkeley (thanks, Vikram!) pointed out in his Final paper (“personal innovation plan”) the similarities between mashups and “intersectional” creativity.

What is Truly Intersectional?

“Intersectional” creativity is that which occurs at the intersection of several cultures, realms, or even business departments. Frans Johansson, in his book The Medici Effect, presents some strong arguments as to how many great “inventions” and new ideas of our generation come out of this confluence/intersection/convergence/collision of pre-existing ideas.   This, as opposed to a “directional” innovation that is born out of evolution.

Some examples of intersectional creativity:

The intersection between 2 cultures: Trip Hawkin’s (founder of EA) company Digital Chocolate combines a team in Scandinavia (Finland to be exact) with a team in India, a team in Spain, team in Mexico and a team in San Mateo, CA, to create award-winning social games.

The intersection between Realms of knowledge: an Architect in Zimbabwe,  borrowed ideas from desert-living termites (who keep their hills at constant temperature throughout the day, despite several changes in the weather) to design and build a cost-effective, energy-efficient apartment building that stays cool without the use of air conditioning (source: The Medici Effect)

- The intersection between company departments: Pixar is well known for what CEO Ed Catmut describes as the “Collaboration Culture” (see my previous blog on Pixar).  Departments in creative, technology and business fields must work closely together to ensure success of the company’s films.  The result: 10 out of 10 major films of this company have been huge hits by industry standards – no other company in the entertainment industry has this record.

Of Mashups and Men

We’ve seen a crop of new Mashups over the past  few years based on Web 2.0 technologies – some (not all) of which I would term “creative.” For practical purposes, I refer to a Mashup as an application that integrates the best of one or more web services/applications to form something new (and hopefully useful).

One might argue that  the biggest example is Twitter.  The Twitter team came from a history of web 2.0 mash-ups, namely Odeo.  Odeo was originally a pod-casting company, but like most p-casting companies, it fell to the way-side because the usefulness of p-casting requires ubiquitous hardware and a change in basic consumer behavior.  However, the Twitter team discovered that internal mashup between instant messaging technologies and short blogs (or status updates like Facebook) could provide a real-time link between team members. This “intersectional” discovery came from the need for internal members of the Odeo team to communicate with one another. It then became clear that it might be productized.

Google Maps & Earth are another great examples of  mashups.  Google was already mashing geographical data (satellite and terrain) with street/address coordinates  before the company acquired KeyHole Software.   Now Google is adding StreetViews to maps and geo data for even more detail.  And, Google Earth takes its original mash-up between available satellite data from around the world and geographical interface to a new level by allowing 3rd parties to add models of specific buildings and entire cities around the globe.  Other companies are racing to be the first to map INTERIORS of each building (mashup of architectural data and building coordinates).

Thousands of Mashup examples

And of course, there are thousands of other mashups developed by small and large developers that have not yet gained the visibility of Twitter or Google Earth.  Here are a few examples:

  • musical mashups in which video and audio from various sources is mashed together, like the mixes from MashupTown
  • video mashups combining sound, video and images from various sources, like this quite popular one of George Bush and Tony Blair
  • e-commerce mashups such as
  • location-based services, that use GPS or mapping information to identify or meeting up with near-by friends, such as Loopt
  • “augmented reality” mashups that overlay real-life data on top of virtual visual data, such as the newest application from Yelp that overlays its data on top of Google Maps/Earth data

An interesting, but not complete, directory of web 2.0 mashups is found at WebMashup.com and many application-oriented mashups at The Programmableweb.com

Creative Abrasion vs. Creative Collaboration

October 2nd, 2009

Much has been written about collaborate teams within organizations to encourage creativity and much has been written about “Creative Abrasion” – creating a culture where ideas are challenged and new “intersections” are constantly made.   The two ideas are not mutually exclusive; they can co-exist within one organization, even though they may seem to be Opposites.   In fact, companies that are able to encourage both behaviors seem to be benefiting in the present economic environment.

Can a company culture support both?

Creative Friction

What do we mean by Creative Abrasion and what  causes this sort of friction within companies?

The terms was apparently created by Jerry Hirshberg, founder and president of Nissan Design International (NDI).  Xerox Parc leader John Seeley Brown refers to “creative abrasion” as: ideas that really rub against each other productively as opposed to destructively.”

A good example of creative abrasion was the birth of the Apple Macintosh computer.  It’s a well-known fact that Jobs took the original team out of the mainstream organization, created a sort of “skunk-works” within Apple, to complete the entire product (hardware, software) without having to deal with the hierarchy or politics of Apple corporate.  What is less often discussed is WHY this particular team was so successful.  Jobs – a stickler for detail – who often became involved in the smallest of details, created an environment of creative abrasion among team members.    The heart of creative abrasion was DIVERSITY, although it might not have seemed this way from afar.  The team members themselves, where hand-chosen by Jobs – and included a very wide array of artists, musicians and deep thinkers – even though you could label them all “software programmers”.

Diversity of talents, viewpoints, cultural differences, etc – this is what enables abrasive behavior, because the team with diversity will challenge itself.  Here is what Jobs himself had to say about this:

Creative Collaboration, too

At the same time, many  companies deep in creative culture stress the importance of collaboration among employees, across departments and even with customers.  Ed Catamult, CEO of Pixar, writes about the “peer driven” collaborative process for problem solving and creating movies: “Everyone is fully invested in helping everyone else turn out the best work…it’s all for one and one for all.”    Collaboration, on the surface, seems to make sense.  If the technology group at Pixar, can work well with the Production and the production team can work with the story-writers, and they all can work with the technologists to create incredible graphics, then it would seem collaboration is key to success.

Some good definitions and thoughts on forms of collaboration were discussed recently by Hagel, Seeley Brown and Davison on the Harvard Business School Publishing blog.

Collaboration seems to be the opposite of Abrasion – or is it?

Creative abrasion and collaboration can co-exist

The way these both can co-exist if leaders determine the best spot in the problem-solving or ideation process for each of them.  For example, the typical problem solving process goes like this:  choose/identify specific problem à generate (ideate) possible  solutions to the problem à choose from among best solutions à test out possible approaches, refine à choose best solution and create action plan for it.

When  creative abrasion occurs in the identification of problem, or identification of best solution, then politics, opinions and different ways of looking at the world may get in the way of making decisions.  If abrasion  occurs, however,  in the Ideation step, however, it allows for a confluence of opinions, options and ideas to emerge.  Creative abrasion can be very helpful because it unleashes the Power of Diversity.

When collaboration occurs during Problem Definition and refinement, and in Solution-gathering , the organization benefits – the company components are all working together in setting up for success.  But like-minded thinking and collaboration in the Ideation or brainstorming phases of a project may lead to “ho-hum thinking and lack of new ideas.  Pixar describes it like this – during meetings peers work together, but once the process of ideation is over, the ultimate decision as to which ideas to implement falls to the movie’s directors.

Ultimately a skilled creative leader is able to recognize the needs for both collaboration and  and organize the process, participants and stages of development in such as way as to benefit from both “Creative Abrasion” as well as “Peer Collaboration”.