Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mingle and Swap

If you’ve got four minutes and want to have your mind blown, take a look at this entertaining (and educational) video from Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From, which was just released today. If the book is as good as the video, I’m sure you’ll be seeing more about it on this blog in the very near future. (And what is it about watching someone draw on a whiteboard that’s so hypnotic?!)

Johnson brings a fresh perspective to examining how breakthrough ideas are formed. Instead of focusing on the psychology of innovation, he asks why certain environments seem to produce more original and exciting ideas than others.

His conclusion: many of the best ideas come from the “collision of smaller hunches.” Environments that enable people to bring their inchoate ideas into contact with other people’s are where the magic happens.

This reminded me of something our Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi NY, Con Williamson, recently said about his creative management style. He described it as a “Big Italian Dinner.” Get a bunch of smart, creative people into a space where they can feel comfortable being loud and opinionated, and wait for breakthrough connections to form.

It works. If you look at history, the big bursts of creative thinking often happened in a comfortable public space. Johnson points to the coffee houses in the age of the enlightenment, or the Parisian salons of modernism. In both examples, these places offered creatives a venue where they could get out of their private space, discuss their ideas and collaborate.

As a CEO of an ideas company, it’s nice to be reminded that a big part of my job is to create the type of workplace environment where ideas can “mingle and swap” as Johnson puts it.


Ian Sanders said...

You're right Kevin, that's a powerful video with some great take-aways.
If people are struggling with creating the time and space to generate ideas, I'd urge you to watch David Allen (author of 'Getting Things Done') recent 'Do Lecture'. He reminds us "your mind is for having ideas not holding them". Forgive the tangent, but if you watch the video it's pretty relevant to making ideas happen.
Check it out at http://dol.ec/DavidAllen

Jennifer H-F said...

Amazing speech today at SSX, Kevin. You always inspire me. I already love working here, but you make me remember why EVERY TIME I hear you speak.

P.S. I'm the nerd who asked you to sign her book at the end of the meeting. Thanks for obliging!

Rita G., Parma, Italy said...

Hello Kevin.
What a great post!
Steven's eye-capturing drawing while he speaks is absolutely great.
My first thought went to Tony Hart on BBC's Vision On, one of my favourite TV programmes as a child when living in London many years ago.
Well, I agree with Steven on the majority of the points but, coming a bit more down to earth, there is one that cannot be missed and it's about getting the idea off the ground.
From personal experience, a good idea is worthless if it is not "sponsored" by someone who has the money and sometimes a company to transform it into something people and other companies can buy.
Usually, inventors have ideas but money. At least there's some sort of justice in this. So, once a good idea is born it's crucial to create a first "rendezvous" with money hoping the latter falls in love and from there.... lots of reciprocating happy sex together.
I'm obviously not speaking about real sex but it's of vital importance to make ideas meet the financial means to make things happen.
By the way, thanks for sharing your views on so many different issues in such an inspiring way.

Rita Gasparelli
Parma, Italy

THP said...

"the type of workplace environment where ideas can “mingle and swap” as Johnson puts it."

The opposite of an ad agency creative department, was my first thought. Present company excluded, I would hope.

I always used to drag my partner to a café, to the hammam, to a _____ when we needed to brainstorm. And we'd invariably get a call from the CD "er, where are you???".

Tina, very freelance freelancer

Sara said...

Inspiration comes from people passionate for little things in life. Thanks for your heads up in Madrid- Expomanagement 2008-Lovemarks

Susan P. said...

Certainly a few interesting video. Re Steven's outline of the lengthy process in developing the web... My instinct is to suspect that once that kind of LARGE innovation occurs...that ensuing amendments and innovations are much shorter in development. I'd be interested to know how long Web2 took and how long Web3 will take (aside from any planned 'hold ups' etc).

But I do assume that in any field, once a major innovation has transpired, that it clears the way for those who follow. (As a general principle).

Cameron Gallagher said...

I love his outtake, that 'Chance favours the connected mind'.

He really seems to be convinced that the 'interaction of hunches' is the thing which is driving the engine of progress.

I have to say it's a fascinating idea...

One might almost call it the chemistry of ideas, given it's similarity to the chemical reactions of different states.

Ie in a fast Moving state like 'Gas' there are far more chemical reactions occurring than that of a Solid.

Very interesting indeed

Ant (myfamily.com employee) said...

Beautifully illustrated point - that collaboration and conversation is the key to good ideas.

I also think that there are lots of inhibitors to innovation that are intrinsic to large organisations, which leaders need to work hard to undo if they are to succeed.

For example, performance incentives aren't usually based on trying lots of ideas, since that would be seen as inefficient. Six-sigma has a lot to answer for!

I'd love your thoughts on what you think inhibits innovation in large organisations. I've put my thoughts in a post here: http://bit.ly/9VaBMe