SEE OLD THINGS WITH NEW EYES BY PRESIDENT CRAWFORD
I think people sometimes fail to recognize their own creativity because they have the wrong idea about innovation – they think it means starting from scratch, making something from nothing– and it can be hard to get started with that mindset. Another way to think of creativity is by working with what you have, as Steve Jobs said: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
To me, the key here is “to connect experiences they’ve had.” That means having many different experiences will give me more material and more chances to be creative. They don’t even have to be my own experiences – I can learn by meeting people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives to accumulate more insights for connection. This is one of the big benefits of being in a community open to rich diversity and conversation, like Miami University.
Creativity isn’t always starting with a blank slate or inventing something out of thin air – it’s staying alert to the multitude of items, events, and ideas in the world around us and keeping the imagination alert to the different ways they could be linked in order to make something new. This could even mean applying something well known to a new application.
Consider post-it notes: an employee at 3M tried to make a super-strong adhesive for the aerospace industry; he failed, and the result was a very weak adhesive. Another employee at 3M also sang in a church choir, and was always frustrated with the paper used to mark his place in the songbook falling out. What is creative about these? It was in seeing that a design failure could meet an unmet need.
Anyone can see the color green; anyone can see the sun; the poet can see the green sun. That’s creativity. As author Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”