Marty Neumeier on “The Rules of Genius, #8: Stay in the Dragon Pit”

Neumeier-1Marty Neumneier is the Director of Transformation for the Liquid Agency as well as author of several bestselling books in which he explains how almost anyone in almost any organization can help to achieve breakthroughs in creativity and innovation. He has introduced a weekly series of mini-commentaries, “The Rules of Genius,” now featured by the Liquid Agency Exchange. You are also welcome to take the Metaskills Quiz. By answering ten questions, you will discover your personal creative style or talent “handprint.” Please click here.

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The “dragon pit” is the gap between what is and what could be.

It’s a space filled with discomfort, darkness, and doubt. Most people would rather grab the first rope thrown to them—what is—rather than stay and fight the dragons guardingwhat could be. But what could be is where the ideas are. A genius is someone who can tolerate the discomfort of uncertainty while generating as many ideas as possible.

The unresolved conflict of the dragon pit is actually a prime source of creative energy. The gap between vision and reality produces creative tension, which can only be released by a new idea. Without creative tension, there’s no need to push forward to an alternate reality. Inevitably, the result of tension-free thinking is business as usual.

The secret of creativity is to keep your ideas in a “liquid state.” Let them mutate, morph, and recombine as they bump into one another. Avoid the tyranny of no and the naïvete of yes, all the while holding onto to the hopefulness of maybe. Often this requires courage, especially when the stakes are high. The cave you fear to enter, goes the ancient proverb, holds the treasure that you seek.

Creative thinking requires that you leave the known and venture into the unknown. This can be difficult if you’re deeply knowledgeable about your challenge, your discipline, or your industry. The known is an attractor state, a default position that pulls your mind like a magnet.

When you find yourself stuck in your own knowledge, get unstuck quickly. Ask yourself why you’re stuck. Is it a lack of information? If so, get it. A lack of skills? Go develop them. Is it that the solution doesn’t exist? Move on to the next dragon.

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To check out all of the “Rules” that have been featured thus far, please click here.

Marty Neumeier is a designer, writer, and business adviser whose mission is to bring the principles and processes of creativity to industry. His latest book, METASKILLS, explores the five essential talents that will drive innovation in the 21st century. His previous series of “whiteboard” books includes THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY, about the role of design in corporate innovation; ZAG, named one of the “top hundred business books of all time” for its insights into radical differentiation; and THE BRAND GAP, considered by many the foundational text for modern brand-building.

He has worked closely with innovators at Apple, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, HP, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft to advance their brands and cultures. Today he serves as Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, and travels extensively as a workshop leader and speaker on the topics of innovation, brand, and design. Between trips, he and his wife spend their time in California and southwest France.

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