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9. MAKE SURE THE PROBLEM IS THE PROBLEM

Foster, Jack Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Einstein said: “The formation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematics or experimental skills. To raise new questions, new problems, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and makes real advances.”

For years grocers fetched groceries for their customers, and were always asking themselves: “How can I get the groceries faster for my customers?” Then somebody invented the supermarket simply by changing the question to: “How can the customer get the groceries for me?”

Henry Ford, it is said, did the same thing. He invented the assembly line simply by changing the question from “How do we get the people to the work?” to “How do we get the work to the people?”

And Edward Jenner discovered the vaccine for smallpox simply by changing the question from “Why do people get smallpox?” to “Why don’t milkmaids get smallpox?”

If the people you work with are having trouble coming up with breakthrough answers to a problem, perhaps you asked them the wrong question and presented them with the wrong problem.

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2. CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH

Foster, Jack Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Remember that the people you work with are not workers or helpers or assistants or trainees or lackeys or gofers or employees or inferiors or superiors. They are people. And if you think of them as people — separate, important, unique human beings — they will sense it and will respond by trusting you, by helping you, by accepting your suggestions, even by forgiving your blunders.

Indeed, if people believe that you are acting in their best interests, they will support your actions, even if what you are doing is not in their best interests.

But if people do not believe what you are doing is in their best interests, they will not support your actions, even if what you are doing is in their best interests.

None of this can be faked, save by a consummate actor, which you probably are not. It must come from the heart. You must care about them as people. You must like them. If you cannot, forget about becoming an ideaist now before you waste half a lifetime striving only to ultimately fail.

Of course some people in management positions feel they should remain aloof from their “troops,” that getting to know them personally weakens their authority and limits their ability to lead.

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18. FORGET ABOUT EFFICIENCY, CARE ABOUT THE IDEA

Foster, Jack Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

With your experience, you probably have many more suggestions. Put them to use. But only if they

When you do these two things, you will be an ideaist, for even though you are not great enough or wise enough for people to surrender their destiny to, you will help them restore their belief in their own guidance.

To help you get started, let me tell you a story:

I used to work with an art director named Joe Forester. Every now and then Joe would step outside his office, cup his hands around his mouth, and shout down the hall at the top of his lungs — “NO SCHOOL TODAY! NO SCHOOL TODAY!

It always seemed to me that those words ought to be emblazoned on the banners of creative departments everywhere. There is something unrestrained and joyous and uplifting about them, something liberating, something that captures the essence of what kind of mind-set it takes to come up with ideas, every day.

For the creative mind-set is truly the mind-set of a child when the day is green and there is no school, and life is endless and everything is fresh and new, and nothing is impossible.

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6. SHUN RULES

Foster, Jack Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Many of the great advances in the sciences and the arts — indeed, in everything — happened because people broke the rules and conventions and established new ways of thinking and doing things. Van Gogh and Picasso, Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudí, Beethoven and Stravinsky, Pasteur and Freud, Dick Fosbury and Pete Gogolak, Gerard Manley Hopkins and e. e. cummings, Kepler and Einstein — the list could make a book.

Creative people know this, know that one of the best ways to get ideas is by breaking the rules. That’s why they dislike rules and rail against them.

So make as few rules as possible.

Let them dress the way they want, and work the hours they want, and decorate their offices the way they want. If they want to work at the beach for a week, or play Frisbee in the parking lot in the afternoon, let them.

As long as what they do doesn’t hurt or inhibit or offend others, what’s the big deal?

Besides, who are you to impose rules on them?

It’s not your company alone. It’s yours and theirs. Together, you are the company.

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14 Forget about It

Foster, Jack Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It is sometimes expedient to forget who we are.

Publilius Syrus

Eric: My wife’s got a terrible memory.

Ernie: Really?

Eric: Yes, she never forgets a thing.

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise

There are three things I always forget. Names, faces—the third I can’t remember.

Italo Svevo

This is something you do only after you follow the advice in the previous chapter.

It is also something that I didn’t get the chance to do often enough in advertising. Usually there wasn’t time to forget about problems. You had to get ideas now. Not tomorrow. Now.

It’s the same in journalism. Just listen to Andy Rooney: “The best creative ideas are the result of the same slow, selective, cognitive process that produces the sum of a column of figures. Anyone who waits for an idea to strike him has a long wait coming. If I have a deadline for a column or a television script, I sit down at the typewriter and damn well decide to have an idea. There’s nothing magical about the process.”

But I think Mr. Rooney is making a law out of a necessity.

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