Disparate connections

In Creative Curiosity, we described how many believe that truly creative people are constantly absorbing information from diverse fields.

But the creative mind doesn’t just take information in.

It digests it and, more importantly, spots connections where others may not.

From ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’:

“The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations, depends largely on the ability to see relationships.

Here, I suspect, is where minds differ to the greatest degree when it comes to the production of ideas. To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge, To others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. It has relationships and similarities. It is not so much a fact as an illustration of a general law applying to a whole series of facts.

The point is, of course, that when relationships of this kind are seen they lead to the extraction of a general principle. This general principle when grasped, suggests the key to a new application, a new combination, and the result is an idea.

Consequently, the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.”

John Hegarty puts it succinctly in Hegarty on Creativity:

“In the end, everything is connected and the more connections you make the more interesting your work will become.”

Creative curiosity

Buried in all the books by advertising legends, there is one remarkably consistent insight: creative people have voracious appetites for information from diverse and eclectic fields.

John Hegarty writes in his book of advertising life-lessons, ‘Hegarty on Creativity‘.

“The truly great creative people I know are constantly working. Looking, thinking, watching. They are curious by nature, fascinated not just by their own interests and experiences but those of other people too. Everything they encounter is being absorbed, processed, and reformed, eventually to return in some new shape as an idea. I think of these people as transmitters – they absorb diverse, random messages, influences, and thoughts, then reinterpret and play them back to an audience in new and fresh ways.

Being fascinated, inquisitive, informed, and engaged is an all day, every day activity. It doesn’t have an on-off button. It doesn’t have a stopwatch attached. It is constant. A way of living and of being that never switches off. If you don’t want to live like that then don’t follow a creative profession.”

From James Webb Young‘s famous manual, ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’:

“Every really good creative person in advertising whom I have ever known has always had two noticeable characteristics. First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested – from, say, Egyptian burial customs to modern art. Every facet of life had fascination for him. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.”

From Dave Trott‘s book Creative Mischief:

“Really creative people are fascinated by ‘new’ stuff.

But that doesn’t just mean the latest technology.

It means stuff that is new to them.

It might be 100 years old, but they’ve never seen before.

It might be an African sculpture, a Russian film, shocking piece of graffiti, agraphic one label, a strange chair.

The cleverness, for them, is finding something original and unusual.”
From Carl Alley, quoted in Creative Mischief:
“The creative person wants to be a know it all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, 19th century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. He never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen in six minutes later, or six years down the road. But still creative person’s faith that it will happen.”
“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well-informed, or your idea will be a relevant. Stuff your unconscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you”

It also appears in literature from JWTPSFK and VCCP.

I think it’s fair to say that creative curiosity has become widely acknowledged as a fundamental requirement of a creative thinker.

John Hegarty on collaboration

The following excerpt is taken from John Hegarty‘s book “Hegarty on Creativity“.

“Much today is written about collaboration and the need to work or brainstorm with others in order to to bring an idea to fruition.

It’s all very friendly and inclusive but be careful: Collaboration can easily turn into consensus.

Which rapidly becomes ordinary. Sitting around on beanbags holding hands and having a happy-clappy meeting will not lead to greatness.

Some people believe you can create brilliance by brainstorming with lots of people.

Well, you can’t.”

The idea that great ideas are forged more efficiently by small groups, reminds me of George Lois‘ concept of the Group Grope.