Apple, Asimov and Creativity

The whole arena of creativity is beset with a central challenge: how do we get better at creativity? This is something which has taxed and challenged a whole series of people for a huge amount of time, and has also delivered polar opposite views in approach.

In the recent interview with Jony Ive, the design legend at Apple, he provides an insight into a whole group of issues which impact on creativity, including the importance of personal influences and research, and how small groups bring a lot of value to the creativity process. The challenges of this focus of creativity, of peer contribution and discussion within an environment of considerable commercial secrecy suggests that the group or team aspect, and in particular the concept that this needs to be a hard won membership, has an important role to play in fostering creativity.

This week, there’s been an article looking at thoughts on creativity by one of the greatest creative minds, Isaac Asimov. His output included a whole series of concepts which slowly transformed into reality over dozens of years, as engineering caught up with his visualisation.

The MIT technology review article looks at an essay from Asimov from 1959, exploring the impact of cross fertilisation of ideas, but also the crucial concept of ‘alone time’, in which an individual spends quality time developing ideas.

The great agreement between Jony Ive and Isaac Asimov is the the concept of open, small group discussion of individuals with different experience but a willingness to participate and share in the development of new ideas. The cross fertilisation of different world views and experience is worth the effort, and brings about creative insight that would be hard as an individual.

In the world of strategic procurement, this element of creativity in the development of a new way to acquire and use a group of goods or services seems poorly understood. On occasion, the very concept of having a creativity session after weeks of gathering data has been challenged by participants – ‘why bother, we already know the answer’ has been heard more than once.

However, bringing together a group of like minded participants, who are keen to explore and develop a better way, is an essential part of the whole prices. There may be particular directions which look more promising, but getting good quality input which opens out possibility and potential, while embracing the absurd without judgement, is a real driver of potential.

Given that this area is so little understood, it is worth adding a reminder at the start of all options generation and creativity sessions which seeks to explore the way in which creativity works, the openness of the sessions, the need to suspend judgement until later. If we can improve the quality of these often neglected but vitally important moments, we can add significantly better value to the business.

Mark Hubbard thinks about procurement at Smart Brown Dog Ltd.