The Science Behind Creativity?

Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of the most creative business owners in American history. Not only was he one of the “founding fathers” of the personal computer era, but he was able to take a struggling company – Apple – and set it on a trajectory to become the company with the highest valuation in the world (as of March 31, 2014).

In 1982, Jobs won the Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington D.C. During that speech, Jobs discussed his theory on creativity, which essentially boiled down to emphasizing the importance of unique and wide-ranging experiences. Few dispute the validity and value of that lesson; however, many have sought out a more concrete way to understand creativity – both where it comes from, and how we can generate it more reliably.

Recently, an article from the Columbia Business School addressed the very question of whether scientific principles can be applied to creativity. Can science, in fact, be at the foundation of creativity?

In the article, the author indirectly expands on the ideas that Jobs shared more than three decades earlier. However, instead of simply relying on personal experiences, the act of reading and learning from the experiences of others can be used to generate creative ideas. Creative ideas don’t simply come “out of the blue,” the author states. Instead, they are built on the great ideas that came before them. This principle is self-evident from the very fact that this author was likely influenced – whether directly or indirectly – by the speech Jobs gave in 1982, and the creative business philosophy Jobs engaged in during his life.

The article also discusses a study conducted by Professor Oded Netzer, who was able to uncover a “schematic link between the various components of an idea and its perceived creativity.” In the study, which was fairly involved (and can be read about in greater detail by clicking here), Netzer was able to make several conclusions.

  • Ideas tend to fall on a spectrum of either “familiar” or “novel.” Where they fall on this spectrum is determined largely by the individual components – either familiar or novel – of which the idea is made up.
  • There needs to be an equilibrium between novel and familiar concepts in order to make an idea appropriately “creative.” If ideas were too familiar, a separate novel concept could be used to make the idea innovative. If an idea was too novel, then familiar concepts could be found that would make the idea more palatable to the average user.

Leverage this Research to Improve Products and Marketing Strategy

The results of Netzer’s study are obviously on the cutting edge, and it will probably take some time before the ideas truly take hold in the mainstream. Nevertheless, there are a number of lessons from the study that marketers can use in their own efforts.

Most importantly, marketers who want to be innovative and creative must have a strong sense of balance between novel and familiar ideas. Too much in either direction will lead to suboptimal effectiveness.

Beyond that, everyone (marketer or otherwise) can learn from the inherent truth found in the study — namely, that many things in life (marketing and business included) require a level of “harmony and balance” if they are to be successful. While this might seem a bit too philosophical for some, those who are able to internalize these ideas will be combining the best parts of science, business, and innovation into their own lives.

Categories LeadershipTags , , , ,

Five Marketing Myths

With the wealth of articles and how-to guides available online, it would seem that almost anyone with a modest budget could run a successful marketing campaign. Unfortunately, many of these resources repeat outdated—and sometimes just plain misguided—information. Familiarize yourself with these five marketing myths to make sure you avoid these common missteps.

  1. “Just make it pretty.”
    Visual aesthetics should enhance your marketing efforts, not define them. After all, you can design the world’s most beautiful advertisement—which may capture the attention of potential clients—but if you do not deliver clear information identifying the value of your products and services, customers will be quick to move on to competitors who can demonstrate these benefits.
  2. “We don’t need a marketing plan.”
    You wouldn’t drive blindfolded, would you? Launching a marketing campaign without a plan can be just as reckless. Too often, companies invest significant sums of money into campaigns that miss the mark. Perhaps they failed to reach their target demographic or did not realize that the competition was offering comparable products at a fraction of the cost. A solid marketing plan contains all the information you need to understand the factors affecting your business’s ability to operate effectively in the marketplace and to maximize ROI.
  3. “Let’s just build the product (or service) first.”
    If you build it, they will come. Or will they? Startups are prone to the misconception that all they need is a great idea and a consumer base will develop all on its own. Once again, we’re back to driving blind. Market research needs to happen before a product hits the production room floor. The alternative—assuming there is a market for your latest goods and that you already have an innate understanding of this market’s desires—can lead to disappointing returns.
  4. “Don’t waste time on messaging.  Let’s just get out there.”
    Your message is the bridge between your product and your customers. Without it, the two will have a hard time reaching each other. In inbound marketing, your message provides an opportunity to appeal to your target market’s particular wants and needs. It helps potential customers answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  5. “We have to include every feature and benefit in our materials.”
    Sometimes, less is more. Your customers are busy and already bombarded with a flood of advertisements. If you want to make a lasting impression, you’ll have to be clear and concise. Highlight only the most important features of your product or service. Design your sales pitch so it can be absorbed in a split-second. Chances are, that’s as much time as you’ll have to convince a prospective buyer. You can provide more information after you’ve generated the lead.
Categories Branding, MarketingTags , , , , , , , ,