Sunday, October 19, 2014

What is creativity?

What is creativity? I have attempted to answer this question a few times here and many times in my own mind.

There is no real confusion in the minds of those who do it. But for the outside world, there is often a confusion between aesthetic creativity and problem solving creativity.

Most people only recognize the former as creativity while missing the latter. So, if you ask people, the common answers that you will get on creativity is about music, movies, filmstars and such like. And often creativity is also confused with being 'fashionable' or 'wearing the right clothes' or 'I am different'  and this is creative, no doubt - because even being different is creative, but it may not result in any direct contribution to anything.

So, if you are called in as a 'creative' expert to beautify/colour/spruce up some junk that someone else made, then believe me, you are being aesthetically creative (most likely) or perhaps helping a lazy person survive in the organization, but not really adding value. In other words, you are in the business of constructing decorations as Edward Tufte says. (Honourable exceptions, graphic designers with a knowledge and expertise and people in similar professions.)

Enough rant. So, what is my definition of creativity?

Can the above set of people, create those presentations they are called into spruce up? And if they can, why are they not called into create them? (therein lies part of the answer). Therefore, this kind of creativity is superficial creativity (caveat: it is likely that such people can be genuinely creative). Refuse this kind of work each time it comes to you and ask yourself what is the knowledge you can equip yourself with in order to get there.

But real creativity cannot come with deep knowledge. Without knowledge, you will be employed only for superficial creativity. With knowledge you will be employed to solve real problems.

Creativity then, is your ability to have a deep knowledge of any (or many) fields - and yet being able to step out of the imposed boundaries of those rules and think differently and solve a problem.
If you can, with a deep knowledge of music, create a different music? Think AR Rehman.
If you can, with a deep knowledge of surgery, create a different approach? Think Aravind.

Therefore, If you can, with a deep knowledge of <substitute your field of expertise> solve something there, that is it, you are creative.

Without knowledge, there is no creativity. Perhaps there is, in children - who are being creative without really knowing anything.

If you can retain that healthy attitude of questioning of a child with the knowledge of an adult, you may be onto something.

Friday, October 3, 2014

One track or explorer?

When I was in MBA, one of the favourite lines we heard about job hopping MBAs justifying their job hopping was this "You have may 30 years experience, but it is actually 1 year experience multiplied 30 times".

While not exactly true (and it is a much longer topic to discuss), it is an important think while thinking about a long term career.

One way to make a career is to do one thing and get really good at it (and there is no escape from getting better at something if you want a good career).

Key questions if you are a one thing person is: Are you doing that one thing for fear of not exploring other things? And if you are in that one thing are you contemporary on all those things that you need to be upto date in those things? The world is changing rapidly - are you on top of them? Are you in touch with the latest developments? Do you experiment? Do you try out new things (both for yourself and for your team)? Or are you happily claustrophobic in your office? And what is your delta year on year? (Check that such a person is not a close minded person while you hire a person of this nature.)

The second way to make a career is to keep your eyes open. This is about exploring 'Adjacent Possibilities' (I think I read it somewhere in a different context - aha, found it). 

These adjacent possibilities chaps are different from the 'one track' people. They try different things. Fail in a few, work in a few, are not afraid to change direction, handle change - but they are constantly growing, learning and trying out new things. The one track guy may also be doing it, but the Adjacent possibility guys have to do it - it is an imperative. It is more likely that your adjacent possibility guy may be a better choice if you are looking at someone who is open minded, flexible, creative etc. (They may lack focus, but I hope your recruiting process takes care of that).

Evolving thought, so, pardon the lack of coherency!