The harder the problem, the better the outcome
“The more we have no idea how to do it the better the outcome.” Tim Leake, the Global Creative Innovation and Partnership Director at Hyper Island (now there’s a title) shared the thought with me yesterday.
We were talking about how to teach and inspire creativity. Tim runs workshops for Hyper Island while I teach grads and undergrads at Boston University. Usually when I get asked, “How do you teach creativity?” I simply answer that I unteach whatever my students learned previously. I encourage them to take risks instead of play it safe. Urge them to run from the comfortable and familiar with as much speed as they can muster. Implore them to avoid the conventions that yield both written and unwritten rules.
Of course you can’t teach any of that. Students have to learn it. By doing. Creating. Even hacking.
My call to Tim was inspired by the cleverness of his idea to group-author a book on speed in three hours. It’s not a long book, of course, but Rabbit or Roadkill, Agency CEOs Write the Book on Speed is a brilliant exercise in how much you can do, even with a scarcity of time and resources. A thought that aligns perfectly with the idea of doing, creating and hacking.
Tim was kind enough to share the process he uses (I shared some of mine in return) and gave me some wonderful tips on how to do a something similar with my strategic creative classes.
When I asked Tim what he thought the chances were that the exercise might fail or yield little of worth, he shared the best answer of all, “The harder the problem — the more we have no idea how to do it — the better the outcome.”
As I thought about that, something else became apparent. Hard problems — challenges we may never have encountered before — actually liberate us from falling back on the tried and true tactics and techniques we too often rely on. Hard problems force us to think of entirely new ways of solving them. It might be the process we use, the team we assemble, the space in which we work, the idea that we pursue.
Maybe in the world of advertising we should start welcoming tougher problems, or even attempt to invent them ourselves.
We’ll be writing our book sometime this semester. Will share the outcome and the experience when we do.
Here's another great quote, although I can not remember where I picked this one up - "creativity loves constraint." Now think about that in the context of creative assignments, etc -- the much maligned creative brief is a form of constraint. Better briefs might well be the most constraining of briefs - to the other points made, liberating us from the easy.
"Hard problems — challenges we may never have encountered before — actually liberate us from falling back on the tried and true tactics and techniques we too often rely on." THAT IS A GREAT INSIGHT.
Edward, have you read Shop Class As Soulcraft? Matthew Crawford. Thinking as doing. This generation's Zen And the Art Motorcycle Maintenance.