Sunday, August 8, 2010

Have you been neglecting your imagination?

Burt Rutan speaking to a packed audience at Airventure in Oshkosh Wisconsin, July 2010.

Once you find yourself in a routine, it's easy to neglect your creative side. Creativity is too often stifled. It's time we fix that.

Creativity can be shut down by the expectations of the world. We have a drive to fit in, to meet the expectations of others. Standing out is risky. Having unproven ideas is risky. Your idea might seem stupid and nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of people they respect.

So what if your idea doesn't work. A few minutes or days of embarrassment perhaps? A reprimand? A "That's not how we do things here"? Laugh that stuff off. Any organization that's not willing to entertain new ideas will become obsolete before they know it.

Even Albert Einstein knew that "Imagination is more important than knowledge".

The real risk is in not taking any risks. Instead, dream big and then figure out how to make it happen.

One guy who does: Burt Rutan. He was the airplane designer responsible for many recordbreaking airplane designs. A third of his designs don't work at all, which is fine, because that allows him the mental freedom to come up with innovative designs that do. At a recent talk he explained how important creativity was to his designs, and how kids and adults these days need to harness their creativity.

Google harnesses its employees creativity by allowing them to work on whatever they want for 20% of their work time. It used to be 10%, but they increased that amount after realizing that many of their flagship products were initially developed during this time. Google engineers are smart people, but they unleash their creativity on problems that inspire them. Between gmail, Google News, and Google Earth, among many others, liberating their employees' creativity is essential to developing their business.

Knowledge isn't essential anymore. Creativity is. You can look up what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but Columbus, or any other collection of data can't be creative for you or draw out the interesting connections. You need to do that.

Creativity is the part of whatever you're doing that isn't going to be taken over by either computers or by cheaper offshore labour elsewhere. It requires a measure of boldness and daring, and it accepts the possibility of failure. It's a choice between imagining what's possible or being content with the same old thing. Dream big. The rewards are worth it.

You might also like:

Creative task? Rewards lead to worse results.

Fail Early, Fail Often

Lunar Lessons: Ready for More

And if you haven't seen it already, watch Black Sky: The Race for Space to see Burt does for fun.

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