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Innovation Blog

Build Your Supercreativity Machine

By Shlomo Maital

(This is a shortened version of a talk I will give tomorrow, Monday June 7, at the Rotman School of Business, Univ. of Toronto, in the Design Expert Thinkers series,  on “Unchain your Supercreativity – Build Your Supercreativity Machine”).


In the past year, I’ve been in North and South America, Europe and Asia.  And in 2008 I was in Africa.     Wherever I go, I encounter a mass epidemic.  It is not AIDS.  Nor avian flu, or H1N1, malaria, or any other illness.  It is unrecognized and largely untreated.

The epidemic is that of boredom.

I find that masses of people are doing jobs that are routine, uninteresting and deadly boring.  As a result, the flame of their creativity has gone out.  Many people, especially managers, believe that it has gone out forever.  Unlike Prometheus, who brought fire to the world, they feel their creativity fire has been doused by routine and cannot be relit.

So, as a personal mission, I am declaring war on boredom.  Not by fighting something negative, but by trying to foster something positive:   Creativity.  Creativity is the process of building useful novel ideas.  Innovation is the process of implementing those ideas, making them happen, and changing the world with them.   Every person must have a supercreativity machine.  Supercreativity is the quality of being able to produce creative ideas endlessly, as a mighty river, from morning to time, through days, weeks and years.   A machine is the systematic process that makes this happen.  Everyone needs one.  It has to be built.  And it CAN be built.  I would like to try to provide you with some of the parts.

Warren Buffett once said,  “the chains of habit are too light to be felt — until they are too heavy to be broken.”   Supercreativity begins with breaking the chains of habit, by trying new things that may be strange or uncomfortable, in all walks of life — food, dress, acquaintances, travel, etc.

A key question to begin:  Do you design your life? We are all designers, and our most important design project is our own lives.  Yet most of us allow our lives to proceed almost randomly.  Randomness is a design idea — but it rarely yields works of beauty.  Take control. Design creativity into your life.

Here are some parts for your creativity machine:  Curiosity (incessant); Laser-sharp questions; Strong Allergy to Habit; Passion;  Empathy;  Tunnel Vision (sharp focus on a key question); Wide Angle Vision (zooming out to explore the world and how others deal with the key question).

Here is an example of the ZIZO zoom out / zoom in process that can yield a supercreativity tsunami.

Begin with a simple sentence: A definition of the thing you wish to innovate.  Automobile:  a car is a vehicle that provides transportation, and is assembled from parts.   Challenge each part, each word, in the sentence. (Zoom in).  Henry Ford asked:  Why should a car, in 1909, be produced by a team of workers from a pile of parts dumped onto a shop floor, and assembled randomly, until there are no parts left.  How could it be done otherwise? (Zoom out).  Ford visited a Chicago meatpacking plant and watched how carcasses are placed on pulleys, and at each station, processed by a worker, cutting a different cut of meat, until at the end nothing was left.  Why not do the same for making cars? Ford asked.  Why not pull the chassis with a winch, and have workers at each station add different parts?  The result was to create the modern Industrial Revolution.

Here are 11 things you can do, to start your supercreativity machine and put it into action.

* Believe that ideas are only the first step, NOT the last; * Do one scary thing every day   * Learn to persist.  * Seek new experiences always.  * Ask questions, in long series, including follow-ups.  * Learn to love the journey, not just the destination (creativity itself is enjoyable, and generates ‘light’, apart from what the fruit it produces);  * Think wild, then — back off to reality;  * Declare war on boredom   * Have fun, and seek fun!  Creativity thrives in an environment of fun   * Find your passion — then pursuit it.  Passion is the rocket fuel for the supercreativity machine.  * Seek out your DIScomfort zone.  Creativity operates in the geography of discomfort,  not comfort.


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
June 2010
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