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Archive for the ‘Defining Creativity’ category

Where is "Creativity" found?

September 4th, 2009

One of my chief purposes in creating a course on Creativity & Entrepreneurship for UC Berkeley engineers and MBAs was to prove a point:  creative genius and innovation can be found in many aspects of the start-up or intrapreneurial venture.  It’s not just new products or services, but in my experience, you can find highly creative approaches in leadership, business model, marketing, manufacturing, sales/channel approach, financing and fund-raising.

After 12 years in the venture capital business I like to say “show me a strong Entrepreneur, and I’ll show you a highly creative thinker.”  It’s not only the nature of an entrepreneur to get creative & think differently – but it’s pretty much a REQUIREMENT – the sheer number of challenges one has to face to get a venture from concept to exit is mind-boggling these days and new challenges crop up at every turn in the process.

But where do creative concepts and approaches typically come from?

The ultimate student of management, Peter Drucker, identifies 7 sources of innovatoin in his book Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which was nicely condensed into an HBR article called “The Discipline of Innovation” (HBR 3480).  He says new ideas are found from:

(1) unexpected occurencesdrucker1
(2) incongruities
(3) process needs
(4) industry & market changes
(5) demographic changes
(6) changes in perception
(7) new knowledge

I love #1 an #2, because they are also the reason a GOOD JOKE works – the “unexpected” or “incongruent” punchline leads to a creative new outcome – which leads us to (hopefully) laugh.  In his book The Medici Effect, Frans Johanssson likes to call the place where creative thoughts occur “The Intersection.”  The intersection is the spot in your mind, or reality, where thoughts from 2 or more fields or disciplines intersect, creating a new concept or idea.

Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo and author of  numerous web and marketing books actually takes the argument in almost the OPPOSITE DIRECTION.  In a January 2009 blog post writes “For me, creativity is the stuff you do at the edges. But the edges are different for everyone, and the edges change over time.”   The edge, as in “leading edge”, means being on the fringe of a movement and demonstrating a new approach that leads the pack, which others have not yet thought of. Depending upon your own experience, the edge might look creative or it might look mundane.  Creativity is in the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps The Edge and The Intersection are quite related.

When my friend, Scott Adams (the quintiscential entrepreneur) conceptualizes a Dilbert cartoon strip over his morning coffee, his mind has the ability to pull incongruent thoughts together in unexpected ways.  Scott, who certainly seems to think at “The Edge” with his sarcastic observations of life,  creates the Dilbert cartoon strip somewhere along the  “The Intersection” of restrictive business rules and every-day life principles.


Hats off to all those creators and entrepreneurs – living on The Edge, driving in The Intersection, and (hopefully) enjoying The Ride.

Creativity course at Berkeley – 2009

September 2nd, 2009

Luck is believing you’re lucky.”  Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

This past week, I launched a new course at UC Berkeley, completely designed from scratch, called “Innovation, Creativity & The Entrepreneur” (“ICE”).  First class was on Wednesday and room was overflowing with students from Cal’s Engineering School (grad students) and MBAs from the Haas School of Business.  I feel very lucky to be able to teach this class at my favorite university.

growing ideasI’ve been teaching these past few years at Haas School as a Professional Faculty member, and my course is “New Venture Finance” which is offered through the Entrepreneurship program. During the last few years I started thinking:  what is my true passion and how might I make an impact on Cal students with my ideas to help shape their careers in a valuable way.  The idea for “Innovation, Creativity and the Entrepreneur was born from two primary experiences in my “youth”.  I’ve long attended the Creative Problem Solving Institute’s annual summer gathering (CPSI) in Buffalo, NY (see: CPSI 2010).  Each summer, thousands of “Creatives” from many disciplines gather to share seminars and topics on creativity from eduction, business, consulting, art, and more.  These conferences, which I’ve been attending since my teens have been a great source of inspiration over the years.  Perhaps an even bigger impact was a course on Creativity & Entrepreneurship – which I took while at Harvard Business School by John Kao (author of Jamming). Kao offered man whimsical looks at where creativity plays a role in business and in leadership – a view that I’ve often used in my 30-year career in the Silicon Valley.

My last dozen years as Managing Director at Outlook Ventures and my prior work at Apple Computer, Viacom/Paramount’s Media Kitchen, and entrepreneurial stints at Yahoo, NetChannel, Overture, My eLife, and many others have helped me validate some of the concepts of creativity and innovation within the entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial setting.

The course at Cal will also explore Creativity and The Entrepreneur – but I’ve expanded the “curriculum” based on my hands-on and personal experience with hundreds of highly creative entrepreneurs over the years. cal_logo What really makes them tick?  Where do great ideas come from? What were the innovations that contributed to some of the greatest companies of the 21st and 20th century?

More importantly, the goal for the class is to help each student better understand where they can use their own unique and personal creativity in the entrepreneurial realm..because I believe everyone has one form or another of creativity…just waiting to be discovered.

Hopefully this blog will be useful in sharing with a wider audience the many findings and musings from this first class and well-beyond…                 ~R~