Creativity, Innovation, & Laziness — A Linking Mess For The Week of 1/27/14

LinkingMess2Largely by accident, there’s a theme to this week’s three articles. All three are about creativity, and each offers a perspective that some might consider unconventional, at least in the buttoned-up corporate world. For people who work in the creative realm, each of the ideas pushed in these articles will seem familiar.

Masterful inactivity – The Economist

This first piece, entitled “In Praise of Laziness,” describes an approach in which workers are less engaged with meetings and small tasks and instead have big gaps of time to be creative. A study at Harvard Business School reports that workers are more creative on low-pressure days vs. high-pressure days. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But, at the same time, wouldn’t you think that creativity would also result from a flurry of activity and engagement with coworkers? 

Why innovate when you can copy? – The Economist

Many business leaders may not trumpet it from the rooftops, but they embrace a philosophy that emphasizes imitating over inventing. Consider that the iPod wasn’t the first digital-music player, the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, and the iPad wasn’t the first tablet. Apple just made them more intuitive and attractive to consumers. There’s even a book entitled, “Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge.” Innovation is the overused mantra of many companies these days, but few actually create new and groundbreaking products and systems – and even when they do, they might be upstaged by the imitators; a study estimated that innovators only won 7% of the market for their product over time.

Learn how to be creative – The Wall Street Journal

This longish piece suggests that anyone can be creative because creativity is a skill, not some sort of magic bestowed on just a few. The article emphasizes cross-pollination of fields of expertise, extols the virtues of alcohol and even grogginess, and suggests that even novel concepts are usually just new combinations of things that already exist. There’s a list of 10 things that will help your level of creativity – some of which will surprise you – and anecdotes about the invention of Post-It Notes and the “I Love New York” campaign of the 1970s.