Creativity: Snapshot of a Business “Classic”

Creativity (Chick)Opinions vary as to what defines a “classic” business book. My own opinion is that it offers insights and counsel that are of timeless value. To paraphrase Bernard of Chartres, a 12th century monk, their authors are the shoulders upon which each new generation of leaders stand. For example:

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
HarperCollins (1996)

Note: His last name is pronounced “me-high chick-SENT-me-high” and I recommend the Harper Perennial paperbound Reprint Edition (2013) of this remarkable book.

Csikszentmihalyi observes, “Once the incubation stage has run its course, which could be a few days or several years, it should lead a person into the insightful stage. This is where [and when] the feeling of ‘eureka’ happens, where the ideas incubated have fermented into a possible solution that can be tested and implemented. Sometimes the insight can seem as though it came from nowhere; other times it still takes intense focus on the project to yield a productive insight.”

With regard to flow during collaboration, in Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, co-authored with Brooke Manville, they offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.”

It is not only possible but highly desirable for members of an innovation team to reach a state of flow individually and thus — by then sharing their work — reach and then remain in a state of flow together, at least for a period of time. That was certainly true of the Disney animators who collaborated on classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and Pinocchio as well as of those who worked together in the Lockheed “Skunk Works,” were involved in the Manhattan Project, and produced breakthrough innovations at Xerox PARC.

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