As I was putting the finishing touches to Marketing in 2014, I kept coming back to the question of how we go from bad to better in our development — personally and as organizations, by working on the problem.
This is particularly relevant as content overload, attention crunch, and production pressures cospire in forcing us to stack rank what is important to success. Scaling up excellence takes work, and once resilient companies and business models are being challenged at a faster rate.
It is a topic I have tackled often, how creativity is developed and honed with use. Deliberate practice makes for better and for pushing beyond the obvious to arrive at new creations. As Steve Jobs said:
“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there.
But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.
Most people just don't put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.”
It takes persistence and grit to make the company and business better. Keeping solutions simple is a process of chipping away at the superfluous. Jobs' quote reminds me of Michelangelo and his comments on finding the form within the block of marble.
Vision is important, yes. What it takes to make it happen is work. Creativity and ingenuity are part of it. They help you persevere through the chipping away at the block of marble phase. As Ira Glass explains#:
“Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit.”
Chipping away we must to fix what does not work, close gaps in the experience, design service and products people want to come back for and use. For the artist as for the visionary, it is solitary work, it must be. Because when Michelangelo saw the David inside his block, there was no drawing he could copy, no specs on how to chip away to achieve his desired effect from a less than ideal beginning shape.
Vision, taste, and the informed judgement of the very few pros should then be our guide in doing original work. Seneca tells us why (Letters to a Stoic):
“Be careful [with] this reading of many different authors and books of every description. You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable … To be everywhere is to be nowhere … [The same goes for] people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all.”
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.