Are creativity and innovation gifts from god or the product of preparation, practice and training?
Dance is like design, the question is always about how much art (the craft) and how much creativity. Celebrity choreographer Twyla Tharp choreographed Push Comes To Shove (1976) which featured Mikhail Baryshnikov and is now thought to be the best example of the crossover ballet. The crossover was a perfect example of creativity in a highly disciplined art.
Tharp has written a book about creativity – The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. In the book she shared what she has learned about creativity and how those lessons apply to anyone with creative impulses. She believes that creativity is not a gift from the gods, but rather the product of preparation and effort. Some truth here but not sure I totally agreed with that.
While we’re on the subject of creativity, I would like to share a reprint of my interview with London Business School (LBS) on new thinking that is crucial to innovation, first appeared in LBS Alumni News and then LBS IMPACT.
What do you see as your impact on the world?
My LBS degree was my second graduate business degree. I was able to have the luxury to put more focus on the quality of the learning in one specific subject area rather than multiple foundation components. I was excited about learning from inspiring teachers such as Sumantra Ghoshal, Tom Stopford, Jules Goddard and many others. They inspired me to think about deep management and leadership and helped me to realise the difference between good managerial practices influenced by bad management theories and good management theories applied through bad managerial practices.
Business and government leaders are experiencing a profound crisis of trust and even legitimacy and that has triggered a loss of confidence in traditional ways of ‘managing’. The very core of many management theories is being questioned and ‘management’ is close to, if not passed, the point of failure. My mission is to help Fortune 500 companies make sense of what’s going on and to rethink, re-imagine and reorganise for a future of unprecedented uncertainties and opportunities through applied design thinking. I operate at the intersection of design thinking, competitive strategy and organisational change.
What indelible mark do you want to leave on the world?
As a side project, I publish a design thinking and innovation magazine called M/I/S/C/ (Movement/Intuition/Structure/Complexity), the idea came to me when I was in Milan trying to decide what magazine I wanted to read on the plane. I really wanted one about innovation and change but the ones on the shelf were not hitting the mark. So I decided to start one. It is doing amazingly well selling in over 22 countries. Now we’re doing a Spanish edition as well as an iPad edition. I hope it can take on a life of its own and leave a mark by inspiring future managers and business thinkers.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt?
I learnt that it is very important to embrace failure. I should have failed more and more often when I was younger. But unfortunately people did not encourage ‘embracing Failure’. I didn’t take many risks and I played it very safe with every project I started. I did everything I could to make it work because failure was seen something that holds you back. I know now that you learn more when you fail often. Trying to avoid failure only prevents growth but once you alleviate that fear many more opportunities present themselves to you. Slowly, ‘failure’ is starting to gain acceptance and it will make future professionals much stronger and wiser.
What was your biggest mistake?
Not listening to my intuition. It’s difficult to trust yourself when everyone and everything around you is telling you something different. Trusting your gut is one of the most important things you can learn. Also, not leveraging the opportunities that come with any crisis. Every situation presents obstacles but also opportunities – you just have to look for them.
What is the next step for you?
I’m very excited about helping companies power into the future through design thinking. It is the reason I go to work (or the airport) every morning. Our company started as an experiment and is now fast becoming the most talked about innovation firm. The next step is to secure a global presence and build the next generation of leaders that will propel our growth. The future is exciting.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.