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.