I’ve been reading Tina Seelig’s book “inGenius” the past few weeks and her ideas and perspectives about creativity have been trickling into my psyche. How do we recognize our own ways of seeing the world and how do we enable ourselves to be more creative through the spaces we inhabit and the people we spend time with? How do we approach our own creative process of brainstorming and risk taking, both building on and letting go of the ideas that come to us in the moment?
Inspired by a recent conversation I had with Mark Albion, a mathematician turned Harvard Business School Professor / branding expert turned do-gooder, I started to think about this idea of genius. What is genius? Is it an extension of Tina Seelig’s notion of creativity – for example, the idea of putting information together in ways that have never been done before? Is it the ability to perceive radical ideas when others just see something as status quo?
At what point do individuals, or organizations, or even projects tip from a good idea to a great idea? How do we maximize our creative juices to support innovation?
What I’ve noticed is that the experts master the basics before they are able to create brilliance. The master mathematician starts with algebra and calculus, understanding the basic concepts before developing his or her own assumptions about the world, and starts to create problems and solutions that test his or her theories. The master artist sees the world in shapes, sounds and colors, and learns about the basic patterns and approaches to capturing these aspects in watercolor, or oil, or photography. The master coach understands how to hold the space, ask powerful questions and perceive trends in her clients before she is able to develop a new model, or way of seeing how people fit in the world.
By experimenting with the basics, we are able to test and challenge what we believe to be possible. We are able to gather data, through failure and experience that contributes to what emerges as new ideas and solutions within our fields.
This notion of mastery brings me back to the idea of apprenticeship I wrote about a few months ago. How do you channel your own creative genius and embark on a personal commitment to brilliance by studying those who have done exceptionally well before you? Who, in your field of work, is ahead of the curve and how do you work with them?
As Mark Albion wrote to me in a follow-up email, “Masters know how to think in the box before they think out of the box.” How are you starting to think in the box, so that you can think outside of it?”