Momentum Depends on Creativity


And creativity involves working with others.

Coming up with a concept or a good idea is not the hard part. Making it, putting life into it, is almost without exception the result of a collaborative effort.

From my experience — and from research and studies — there are at least two ways to operate inside organizations: one is the formal structure with management, functional teams, business units, etc., the second one is the informal network of "go to" people.

When you want to get things done, you activate your connections.

Dunbar connections

Dunbar's number is a
theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can
maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which
an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to
every other person

This number is set at 150 connections.

I used this premise to explain the concept of weak ties and make the case for customer communities.

Working the Pixar way

In the conceptual age, we all need to get more creative, because we're faced with problems of increased complexity. In many kinds of complex product development and service delivery, creativity means involving people from different groups and disciplines.

We need to learn how to work effectively together. This is not just collaboration, although it's part of it. It's about being able to co-own the accountability to bringing the idea to life. The best examples of creative collaboration are (still) in movie making#.

Greg Satell posts about the networked organization. What I like about Gunther Sonnenfeld's comment is that it highlights the need to keep things contained:

The Dunbar phenomenon is interesting when you think about thresholds in an accelerated network, or an accelerated society of networks.

A great example is the creative agency Taxi — it realized it’s threshold was about 30 people, and then started creating iterations (Taxi 1, Taxi 2. Taxi 3 etc. etc.). A couple of things happened when it did this: 1. The network itself developed emergent practices (to include best practices) almost organically; 2. The work efficiency and quality of the work improved by leaps and bounds. Many have posited that intangibles tied to creativity also improved (freedom to think, modes of expression, etc.)

Which is another way — a better way? — an organization can scale beyond building a hierarchy.


I've been thinking specifically about the delicate balance of building momentum and having enough resources. In my experience, informal small networks can accelerate the prototype version of getting an idea done, then an expanded team can help flesh it out, refine it, produce it, so to speak.

This method supports creativity bursts to keep the idea moving forward into implementation. Put too large a group up front, and the idea gets killed before it even has a chance to take shape. You do need a champion, someone — a person or small partnership — who owns making it happen or passing the baton to keep it alive.

So don't kill the brainstorm, just plan it in releases and keep everyone focused on moving the idea forward to build enough momentum so you can shape it and make it happen.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.

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