For much of the last 150 years of economic history, the smartest people gravitated to where the money was. The money, today, is looking for where the smartest people are. To stay relevant, every venture of any size is looking for creativity. Because wherever you find creativity – and, by extension, wherever you find talent — innovation and profits soon follow.
Dan Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, put it this way: “The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
So how is one exactly supposed to respond to all that? I think there are two areas where we can learn to become more proficient: one can loosely be labeled “high concept,” referring to the personal aptitudes we can develop that foster creative thought and action in ourselves, and the other is “high touch,” referring to many of the skills and practices myGreenlight teaches that enables people to expand their networks and thus their access to other creative people.
Management guru Bill Taylor, a recent guest on the Social Capitalist, was particularly astute when it came to ideas for improving our high concept aptitude. Specifically, he introduced a profound idea that suggests all kinds of exciting ways to improve creativity:
What you see shapes how you change.
Many of us get stuck in a rut of how we view the world. We tell ourselves a story of what our job is, what our company does, who the people we work with are — and that story becomes our reality. We let what we know limit what we can imagine; the result: a failure of imagination. What could your job be? Where might your company go if only it had a new direction? Who of your coworkers are hungry and capable to join such a quest of change?
To get out of the rut, evolve the story, and pose new questions that invite transformative answers. Taylor’s simple but brilliant advice boils down to, “Get out of the damn office! Stop hanging out with the same ol’ crew!” To do something new, special, exciting, and important, look beyond your own profession or workplace or even field. Pick up magazines you’ve never thought to read. Join Twitter and start following artists, entrepreneurs, technologists, jugglers and see what they’re looking at, linking to, and inspired by. Look to interesting professionals and great organizations in any field to see what’s working for them – and then begin to have a new conversation about how you can apply their ideas to your challenges. Lift and shift, as the innovation wonks are now putting it. That’s how stories get rewritten.
TALK TO ME: How do you ensure you’re being exposed to new ideas?
As a writer and entrepreneur, this is critical for me. Some of the things I do include constantly curating the list of blogs I read and sites I frequent, going to see art at galleries and museums, and periodically choosing a subject to learn and obsess over. Recently, that’s been the gamification trend and mixed martial arts. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to attend more, and different kinds, of conferences. I’d love to hear how others do it.