Tina Seelig The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People

how do you come up with great ideas and then make them happen this is what I spend my days doing I run the Stanford Technology Ventures program which is in the management science and engineering department at Stanford School of Engineering and my goal is to help students figure out how to come up with the big ideas and then bring them to life now I've been doing this for out 14 years and I want to tell you a secret I decided I wanted to write a book on creativity a few years ago and I started to file my computer and the file said not another book about creativity it's like not one more book this is not going to be just one more book and I sold the idea basically with the name which is ingenious and so the title was good enough that my publisher said yes let's do it but I got to the end of the first draft and I realized you know what it was just one more book about creativity so I started over and I started over and I started over until finally I realized I was looking at the material through much too tight a focus and I needed to open up the lens and look at the creative process and the process of bringing ideas to life through a very very different perspective and I created a model which I call the innovation engine and what I'm going to do is over the next few minutes take it apart and put it back together and I hope you agree with me that this is a really interesting way of looking at how do you come up with ideas and how do you actually bring them to life now when you look at the innovation engine you'll notice there's some things that are sort of the obvious place that you would start if you're talking about creativity you would typically start with thinking about imagination right so let's start there okay now we're all imaginative when we're kids okay we all go to school we come up with really interesting things when we're in kindergarten and over time we start seeing that creativity and our sense confidence our creativity dwindling why is that it's because a lot of the questions we get gassed in school are like this what is the sum of five plus five now what's the answer to this question great okay come on say it in louder ten okay we know it's ten because there's one right answer for this problem and unfortunately the more we go in school the more we get questions like this Warren was you know whatever what's the number abogados number okay you might get to be more complicated questions but there's only one right answer really creative people don't look at the world like this they look at problems through different lenses and they reframe the problem for example instead of teaching math like what some of five plus five you could ask a question like this what two numbers add up to ten how many answers are this to this how many answers a lots okay how many a lot infinite number right negative number fractions this is critically important because often the answer is baked into the question you asked and so if you don't question the questions you're asking you're not going to come up with really innovative solutions I mean I can give a very easy example that to bring it to life so this wonderful new book that's 99 new is coming out with we could right now brainstorm about a great launch party for this book and you might think that's a great question to ask but I could change one word in that question and say let's come up with a great launch celebration and all of a sudden we've opened up the range of possibilities from a party to a celebration does that make sense okay so framing and reframing problems is one fabulous way to increase your imagination but there are other ways okay this is just an example from a show of how we are constantly reframing and framing even in a an image like this even in the same picture your challenge to look at things from different perspectives so another way to increase your imagination is by connecting and combining ideas now most inventions don't come out of nowhere they come from putting things together and really interesting and surprising ways I do this with my students at Stanford by having them practice the art of shindig ooh now Shindo who was the art japanese art of creating unuseful as' inventions now what does that mean it means putting things together in surprising ways they're not useful they're not useless but when you put them together interesting things happen let me show you a couple of examples okay we've got little umbrellas on shoes pretty cool you laugh because it's really clever it's interesting and unexpected what about this one shoes with dustpans a third way to increase your imagination is with challenging assumptions it means going beyond the first right answer and I love to do this by giving assignments that are really surprising that I've never seen before and that really challenged the students to come up with very interesting solutions for example here's a very an example of a design brief from one of the projects that I gave to a bunch of students all over the world their challenge was to create as much value as possible value measured in any way they wanted starting with one trash can the contents of the trash can would you like to do this kind of fun well the wonderful thing is these students end up spending a bunch of time thinking about what is value to them they came up with some really interesting insights value was community and friendships it was health it was happiness it was feeding your family and of course there was financial value let me show you a few examples of some of the things the students came up with this is a team from Ecuador they started with a garbage can filled with yard waste yard waste I probably wouldn't have started with this one here's what they did pretty amazing made a beautiful mural or a girl who was in Ireland her mother had just cleaned out the sock drawer in her brother sock drawer all these old holy socks different colors black gray white okay she took them she cleaned them she cut them up sewed them back together and made this sweater pretty amazing so creativity can be enhanced by reframing problems connecting combining ideas and by challenging assumptions but you know what this is not enough this is not enough and it's certainly not enough if you want to really make things happen because you need to start with a base of knowledge knowledge is the toolbox for your imagination the more you know the more you have to work with think about it if I want to come up with a brand new solar car or a cure for cancer I need to know something about engineering and biology I need something to work with and so how do we how do we get knowledge well of course you can come and listen to talks you can read books but one of the most powerful ways to get knowledge about the world is by paying attention we normally don't pay attention to our world in a way where we really find interesting opportunities and often the solutions waiting front right in front of us a great example that I love because it's so mundane and yet so fascinating is a fellow named David Freiburg who was commuting from San Francisco every day and he made an interesting observation just looking out the window with his car he noticed that the bike rental station that was near the train was closed on days when it rained and he thought wow that's really interesting how many other businesses are influenced by the weather and you realized how many types of companies are affected by the weather ended up starting a company called climate corporation where they basically sell weather insurance to all different types of companies this would never have happened if he hadn't been paying attention so we have imagination we have knowledge but there's another important part of your innovation engine and that is your attitude if you are not driven motivated and have the confidence that you can solve your problem you will not solve it it is not easy it's not easy to come up with really big ideas and it's certainly not easy to bring them to life unfortunately most people see themselves as puzzle builders this means they're looking to kind of have their box top and they know what the picture looks like and they know where they're trying to get but here's the problem what happens if you're a puzzle builder and you're missing a piece in the puzzle what happens you can't finish the puzzle you're stuck you know you said your boss sorry you know that part is out of stock okay you say sorry we can't get there true innovators true entrepreneurs are not puzzle builders they're quilt makers they take all the things they have at their disposal all the things even if they're kind of strange and surprising and they figure out how to leverage them to make amazing things happen this is really important you need to see yourself as a quilt maker as opposed to a puzzle builder so now we have the inside of your innovation engine and let me tell you how this works it's really quite simple your knowledge is a toolbox for your imagination your imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of that knowledge into new ideas and your attitude is a spark that gets it going but here's the problem I'm going to ask you to show of hands how many of you are really innovative folks who were stuck in environments that don't allow you to express your creativity or have ever been ok quite a number of people the reason is no matter how innovative an entrepreneur we each are we're often find ourselves in environments or work with clients who are in environments that don't really foster this type of innovation so we need to look at the outside of the innovation engine so let's go there let's look at the first piece habitat now habitat is quite complex and multi-dimensional there are the people you work with they're the rules the rewards the incentives but one of the things we often don't pay attention to is the physical space now think about it when we're kids we are in classrooms like this with lots of colors with lots of manipulatives with lots of flexibility could you be creative in this type of environment you bet okay then you graduate from kindergarten and you go through school and all of a sudden you end up in places like this now you laugh because we've all been in these type of environments where the chairs are lined up in rows and columns are bolted to the floor if you talk you get in big trouble I spent my entire growing up writing silences golden silence is golden guess what that's why I'm the teacher now okay so the fact is you go into this environment and you're very sigh fell'd and then we worry about these kids aren't as creative anymore and of course they're again being given these problems like what's the sum of five plus five okay and then they graduate from there and they go and work in these environments and again we worry about wire people not so creative I'm fortunate enough to teach my classes in the design school the D school at Stanford and our classroom looks much more like this where everything is flexible and movable and nothing is too precious you know you can write on the furniture if someone spills something no big deal anything can be moved it's like more like a stage that you can set for whatever you're doing because guess what the space is the stage on which you play or your life and when you stand on that stage or walk into that room you know how you're supposed to behave now really innovative companies and I'm sure many of you are in these situations know this they create spaces that when you walk in you go this is a place where creativity innovation entrepreneurship new ideas are welcome you know this is a picture I just found from Google in Zurich you know this is obviously walk in here it's very playful or a Pixar where they have a slide right in the in the entryway again you walk in and you know this is really a place where fun and ideas are welcome so habitats important but so are the resources that you have at your disposal now what's the first thing that anyone thinks about when they think about resources let's say it together money okay people think of money okay I've never asked that question and gotten a different answer okay people think about money and I'm often in places the world where people say you know what I just don't have enough money to do things and I say you know you have to be kind of you're really limited in your thinking because most of the resources you have are well beyond money think about it this is a spectacular space built with a lot of resources but you know what if there were no people in the room nothing would happen okay this space is an exciting place because of the people who are here not because of the money that built this beautiful place that brought us here there are also important things Natural Resources that we often don't see processes we put in place and the community that we can draw upon for our ideas so we need to think when we're building that quilt that patchwork quilt look at the resources we have far beyond the money we have but all the other resources now speaking of community the last piece of the innovation engine is culture what is culture culture is something that infuses an entire organization one of the most important aspects of culture is how we deal with failure now I have to tell you I don't like the word failure because as a scientist when I do things that have surprising results what do you call that you call it data okay and when you're a scientist and you get data that isn't expected that's actually where the most interesting things happen is when you get things are unexpected you can mine that and come up with some really really interesting inventions and ideas really innovative firms notice I'm going to play you a short video clip that comes from IDEO and I'm sure many of you know the design firm IDEO this is the prototype they put together for a I phone app for kids called monster maker and this was their way of dealing with doing short little quick experiments so that even if it fails you haven't invested a lot of time or money or technology this is the way you want to stale by doing rapid prototypes that give you a lot of data quickly to determine if you're going in the right direction music this is possible dancers for monster nation music starts and I'm the player so I can and I touch the monster cookies best man smooth oh there's different one addict and over long as I want it has signature moves and we're probably off mic I'm dancing that's what answer me so great so this is an example how you can do a short quick experiment let me ask you uh was this effective yes you know I showed this once to an auditorium and there was some little girls sitting in the back at the very end they crawled up to the front and wanted to download the app okay that was a great experiment and if it hadn't worked you know what they probably spent a few hours on this they go back to the drawing board and do something else so being able to do lots of rapid typing and experimentation and celebrating the things that don't come out as you expect it but guess what cultures much broader than that culture is like the background music of any organization it is so powerful that you think about it when you when you go to see a movie and there's music it tells you whether you should be in whether it's suspenseful or romantic scene it actually tells you how to feel and I'm going to play you two video clips to demonstrate how this works this is a video clip I found from a coca-cola bottling plant in 1919 and it's a one-minute clip I'm going to play it twice once with well one type of music another the second time with a different music I want you to think about how it makes you feel whether you'd want to work there and whether you want to drink what's in those bottles okay kind of like Disneyland sort of a fun place what about this one I think you got the point okay culture is important the culture affects the way we feel the way we think we way we act and so we need to think about the culture when we create environments so that we want people to be really innovative and be willing to experiment especially if there's a fear that the results won't come out as expected so now we have the outside of your innovation engine but let's put the whole thing together and see how this works all in concert okay now you might say okay these are all interesting parts but why are they woven together in this Mobius type strip the reason is that none of these things stand alone they all affect each other and without one the others can't function for example imagination and habitat are parallel because the habitats we create are the external manifestation of our imagination if we can't imagine it we can't build it and then the habitats we build of course affect the way we think and the way we act and certainly our imagination this is true with resources and knowledge the more we know the more resources we can unlock and the type of resources we have in our environment determines what we know for example you know the more fish I have in my environment the more likely I know about fishing and the more I know about fishing the more fish I'm going to catch make sense and finally culture and attitude the culture is a collective attitudes of the individuals and every individual contributes to that culture and of course we're all affected by the ambient culture of the organization the wonderful thing is that you can start anywhere on this innovation engine to get it started there's no beginning and there's no end you can start as an individual by building your base of knowledge the more you know the more you have to work with right the more I know about any topic the more I have tools for my imagination I can start if I manage a company by building a habitat that stimulates the imagination of other people I work there I can start by leveraging the resources and knowing what they are and leverage and resources in my environment the fact this innovation engine is so powerful and we each have the key to our own innovation engine and I invite each of you to turn it thank you very much you