The “Creativity, Inc” retrospective

@AndFinally had the great idea of having a retrospective on the theme of the awesome book Creativity, Inc. It’s about how to build a culture of inspiration.

Here’s one quote from it:

“A company’s communication structure should not mirror its org structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.”

The flavour of the book is best summed up by other people though. As the book title suggests, creativity is a big theme. According to Steve Jobs…

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…

The most consistently creative and insightful people are explorers. They spend an enormous amount of time seeking out new people and different ideas, without necessarily trying very hard to find the “best” people or “best ideas”. Instead, they seek out people with different views and different ideas.

Along with this continuous search for new ideas, these explorers do another interesting thing: They winnow down their most recently discovered ideas to the best ones through their habit of bouncing them off everyone they meet – and remember they meet many sorts of different people. Diversity of viewpoint and experience is an important success factor when harvesting innovative ideas.

The book “Social Physics” captures the importance of the team when it comes to creativity…

Unexpectedly, we found that the factors most people usually think of as driving group performance – i.e. cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction – were not statistically significant. The largest factor in predicting group intelligence was the equality of conversational turn taking; groups where a few people dominated the conversation were less collectively intelligent than those with a more equal distribution of conversational turn taking.

The second most important factor was the social intelligence of a group’s members, as measured by their ability to read each other’s social signals. Women tend to do better at reading social signals, so groups with more women tended to do better.

[I’m skipping the detail about how the experiments were carried out]

What these sociometric data showed was that the pattern of idea flow by itself was more important to group performance than all the other factors and, in fact, was as important as all other factors taken together. Think about it: Individual intelligence, personality, skill, and everything else together mattered less than the pattern of idea flow.

Wen and I found that three simple patterns accounted for approximately 50 percent of the variation in performance across groups and tasks. The characteristics typical of the highest-performing groups included:

1) a large number of ideas: many very short contributions rather than a few long ones;
2) dense interactions: a continuous, overlapping cycling between making contributions and very short (less than one second) responsive comments (such as “good”, “that’s right”, “what?”, etc.)
3) diversity of ideas: everyone within a group contributing ideas and reactions, with similar levels of turn taking among the participants.

A more in-depth review of Creativity, Inc can be found here.


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