Category Archives: creativity

Clever + Clever + Clever = Innovation.

Often ‘brilliant’ leaps of insight are directly supported by a few clever solutions, and beneath them piles of failed attempts.   This  is why keeping track of all the failures and brainstorming the possibilities is so critical to making those final leaps of ‘genius’.

A good example is those various wood and metal puzzles, designed to test intelligence, where the ‘right’ answer is the often the out of box one, and initially it seems impossible. ..but after you’ve done just once it seems obvious. Similarly those who pass the SAT with 1600, often the score has nothing to do with raw talent but rather just better preparation.

Of course wading through failure, isn’t fun.   So key steps in making those leaps for me is a)reframing the failure, b) iterating c) interrelating dissimilar ideas.

The ease of dealing with Failure is directly proportional to the strength of your bigger visions.  Example: Imagine you are kid, playing in the street, you fall and scrape your knee, if bored, you might bawl for a bit.   If it’s in the process of chasing after the ice-cream man about to go to the next neighborhood, and you’ve got a dollar in your pocket and the hunger, it bare registers.      The intensity of the goals you set for yourself follows a formula: Intensity = how many times it will benefit me near, and far, how much time will it save me vrs how much energy I’m spending and the opportunity costs.   As touted in the Secret, “you get what you ask for”  All those variables can be independently adjusted by focusing on which ones you want and not the ones you don’t…remember that thought is like a firehose spraying gasoline onto the fire, there is no way to quash the fire by pointing the hose at it.

Iterating is the moments where, innovation collapses taking the complex into the moment of elegance. It’s forced inefficiency that paradoxically leads to better things. I’m sure that many of you have experienced composing a long email to a friend over a sensitive matter only to have the response lost when the browser or machine crashes. Forced to recreate the response the second time you find how to say things with half the sentences and usually find some way to convey something that didn’t occur to you the first pass.

Interrelating and Percolating are the ideas that innovation can’t be forced. It like a good cup of tea or coffee take time to brew. Or that trick picture you can’t see clearly when looking directly at. By forcing yourself to look at something else your interested in, it gives your brain perspective that when looking back, and a new collection of seeds to try in the soil.

Allowing for percolation is particularly hard for me when I’m obsessed on some difficult problem, typically taking hours…but often just taking a walk around the block, focusing on the colors and breathing I come back and find *poof*a solution presents itself.

“creation as self expression dwarfs possession”

I really identify with that. It’s a quote, like one of the many excellently selected in the fourhourworkweek book someplace. It’s a good starting point for inspecting how does one define success in life?

While I’m a sucker for innovative design, and always invest in the best (frequently lustable) tools that amplify my creative capacity. Material possession has never really been that important to me. While not Conventional Rich status symbols,I’ve tried possession, a little: I have owned high end audio, high end PC’s, $200K projectors out of flight simulators, high end bicycles. I have designed jewelry and fashion, lived in nice places, minutes from the beach. All are cool, but in the end, they fade into the background of day to day life quickly.

Part of this has come from moving 26 times (I’m 33), initially due to military parents, and then later because it’s fun. I’m constantly having to evaluate if I really want to keep stuff, get rid of it. I have a Quality of Life calculation QOLC I’ll share in the future, I use to help evaluate both strategize purchases and what I get rid of. Repeated following it has made it easy to gain increased freedom while others my age have chosen paths to invest in houses or heavy businesses. Which is my biggest complaint about physical goods they are too often anchors and excuses not to move, often from unhappy life’s. Big brick and mortar businesses are big mouths to feed, that are always hungry. Just tonight I was talking with the CTO/friend and telling him about the upcoming month-long trip, and the concept of going away for several weeks was almost unfathomable to him.

Critical thinking also helps combat materialism as well, most of what is accepted as status symbols are just manufactured. by advertising, a game you can avoid, or take advantage of if you know the strategies. First up is limiting exposure to mass-media. Tivo it if you must. A simple example: Ever really wanted to see a movie? all the trailers, buzz, billboards but just never got around to it due to getting busy and then in six months staring at it on the movie shelf, you realize you’d rather do something else..ooh like that other movie coming out!

Very few things have lasting intrinsic value, almost anything can and has been manipulated (which of course people are paid to do), and pretty much everything in the future will be directly and quickly copyable. Technology changes pretty much everthing. Paper used to be handmade reserved for the rich, now it’s used for every bodily fluid for cents. Today Rapid prototyping means that any physical you can conceive of that can be modelled, can be made in hours, and in turn China can mass manufacturein days. 10-50 years from now Kinkos will copy or print out your sweater, china, radio just as easy as they do color printouts, molecule by molecule. Drop by a pawn shop sometime, take a look at the various rings on discount per carat then go to a new jewelry store and compare the difference. Now take a look at manufactured diamond costs. Autos are fun too. I get a smile everytime I watch the Arial Atom video, and geek out when I hear it’s available in electric. and like most electric cars built for performance cost 1/3-1/4 the status symbol. “Classic Cars” values have plummetted as the people interested in collecting them have largely been passing on.

Without material possession what’s left? This actually gets into filling the void, at some point once you’ve gotten freedom in your Time, $ and Mobility, you’re left with largely what emotions do you like? and how do you achieve them in a repeatable sustainable way?

Tim apparently likes thrill, which I can totally respect. I’ve tried thrill I can recommend it, but in small doses: I have done 100kilometer bicycle races, 50mph on a bicycle down windy gravelly edges roads…wearing nothing but cycling gear and 2″ of rubber contacting the asphault . I have driven F1 race cars 160mph, flown acrobatic gliders, flown in acrobatic aircraft, performed solo music in front of a hundred, open-mic with lots of tech gear with minimal setup/breakdown numerous times, conducted bands in front of 3000 people, put on art shows, given speeches for 300. Spun fire, Performed improv comedy, improv jazz, dixie land jazz. Helped put on a few conferences etc.

I have some friends that really get into gameplay, and unfortunately for myself, I just can’t get into them for more than 10 minutes. But to contrast,  one of the reasons I love programming as it’s the same puzzles but the rewards let me create easier and faster. For myself I really get into the high of creativity and flow. The joy of sitting with a pen and paper doodling , or in the music studio, or dancing with poi, or solving some creative problem solving is a physical manifestation of dreams.

At the end if you have a good memory, only so much truly novelty one can buy and retain. In a day there is can only eat so much, sleep in one place, listen to so many hours of music. So one has to find something beyond the immediate physical. For an innovator like myself, constantly seeing ways to make things better, there is only so much of the world that I can buy as good as my own vision for myself…thus it falls on ones own shoulders to fill the gaps, and it’s fun! and some of the best highs I’ve had. One of the reasons I keep many entrepreneurs and innovators and creative types, as close friends is we all see the world as playdough…malleable and negotiable, that others consider cast in stone.