Five Go-To Reads on the Creative Process

Elizabeth Streb is an extreme choreographer, MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the visionary behind the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics. Behance's 99% recently published a brief, but terrific, interview with her entitled On Taking Big Risks and the Power of ActionHer thinking brought to mind the article that I am republishing here, one of the very first that I wrote, on the lessons that artists' creative processes hold for business innovators.

Innovation--the creation of a product or process that is radically new, unique and different--is the holy grail in today's business world. What many of those who beat its drum rarely mention is that the path to true innovation is rooted in pure creativity. To innovate brilliantly requires facing down the deepest challenges of the creative process: high anxiety, ambiguity, seemingly impassable roadblocks, even failure.

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A Neophyte's Guide to the Singularity

I have capitulated. I have stopped avoiding the Singularity.

For the past couple of years--at least--I have been catching threads of chatter about the concept of the Singularity--loosely, the point in time when, through Artificial Intelligence, genetic engineering or other technological manipulation, a superhuman intellect is born. I have heard just enough to be weirded out. So I've avoided the topic all together.

Of course, I have also been curious. So this past weekend I decided to commit a few hours, dig in, learn more. And I proved Lev Grossman right. In Time he wrote, “People are attracted to the Singularity for the shock value, like an intellectual freak show, but they stay because there's more to it than they expected.”

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Five Books Every CEO Should Read

This is a list to embolden.

Earlier this summer, I dipped my toe into the waters of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in an article entitled Love is the Single Bottom Line. As I wrote then, I've been following the evolution of the conversation about CSR for a number of years. Over time I have come to conclude that the CEOs who take a truly responsible approach to their work simply get down to business, doing the right thing because it's what they believe in, commit to. In their companies goodness is not a department, it is naturally embedded into every fiber of the organization.

These five books have influenced and bolstered my views. All are firmly rooted within the framework of capitalism, profit-making, girded by a passionate belief that companies run well are powerful forces for good in society. Three are written by CEO-founders of large, global enterprises. Two by investors (there's overlap--Vanguard Group founder John Bogle is both).

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Get Out and Play

 

Stuart Brown champions play. Doctor, psychiatrist, founder of the National Institute for Play, I first learned about his work when he appeared in conversation with Krista Tippett and Paul Holdengräber several years ago at the New York Public Library.

Since then he's been a featured speaker at a TED-sponsored conference on play, published a book--Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, and regularly co-teaches a Fast-Company-featured class--From Play to Innovation--with IDEO's Brendan Boyle at Stanford's d. school. At the same time, in the spirit of that d. school class, play has become something of a trending topic for companies seeking to catalyze creativity and original thinking in their employees and workplaces, and it continues, as always, to be a subject of passionate consideration in parenting.

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Monday's Miscellany

 

Fab.com is a daily deal site à la Gilt, targeting design aficionados. Launched less than two weeks ago, it truly is fab. Beautifully executed--naturally--it features a great mix of small items and serious investment pieces by household name and emerging designers, as well as small, regional artisans. Upcoming sales include mod furniture from Objeti, hand crafted New Moon rugs from Nepal and super-glam chandeliers from Avenue Lighting.

The other reason that the company is fab is that CEO and founder, Jason Goldberg, is an active practitioner of transparent management, and his blog posts, both pre- and post-launch, are a terrific companion guide to the site. They provide insight into the behind the scenes ins and outs of launching a start-up from a CEO who is clearly interested not only in building a great product but also a great company--and, so far, is hitting the ball out of the park.

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Phil Jackson's Spiritual Mashup

This photo makes me laugh--especially Dennis Rodman, second from left. What a handful. It was taken in 1997 after the Chicago Bulls had won five out of the six NBA championships they would take under Phil Jackson, before he moved on to coach the LA Lakers.

This past weekend I had a conversation with a friend that prompted me to pull Jackson's book Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior off the shelf. He wrote it in 1995, when he was in the middle of his run with the Bulls. It was re-released in 2006, and I read it after that, several years ago.

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Ferocious Integrity

Last summer as I was thinking about how to tackle several thorny personal and professional situations in my life, I picked up Susan Scott's book Fierce Conversations. At its core this is a book about relationships, not conversations. But as Scott says, "The conversation is the relationship." And when conversations are superficial, controlled, inauthentic, avoided, heated, dishonest, or uncomfortable, then so are relationships.

Fierce Conversations is a self-help book for leaders. Scott wears no kid gloves, though she's not tough, just direct and straightforward, detailing a clear, methodical approach to conducting honest, effective conversations, accompanied by underlying principles to keep those conversations on track.

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Catalyzing Creativity

Innovation--the creation of a product or process that is radically new, unique and different--is the holy grail in today's business world. What many of those who beat its drum rarely mention is that the path to true innovation is rooted in pure creativity. To innovate brilliantly requires facing down the deepest challenges of the creative process: high anxiety, ambiguity, seemingly impassable roadblocks, even failure.

Although the business world has tried to translate creative processes into business-speak, I still find artists the best guides on navigating and channeling creativity effectively. Their processes are rooted in tolerating, working with and even valuing uncertainty and failure. Their lessons carry great weight for those seeking to understand and catalyze creativity in the business world--to innovate brilliantly.

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Fierce Smarts

Fierce smarts turn me on. They crackle.

In October I caught wind of a marketing campaign fired by fierce smarts: the promotional effort for Jay-Z’s forthcoming book, Decoded. An interactive scavenger hunt, pages from the book appeared imprinted on billboards, Gucci jackets, parked cars, pool bottoms and roof tops in New York and London, Miami, Las Vegas and New Orleans (see photos of a few of them here).

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