This will never work (Vol 1, No 27)
Hong Kong’s radio stations are lousy. They hardly ever play any music and when they do, the DJ’s keep interrupting the song with their comments. On the talk radio side, it’s generally some rant against the government or whether Ms. Wong should cut her loss on China Life since it’s fallen 2% today.
Partly due to the lack of decent programming, I’ve started to listen to more podcasts lately. Since most episodes are around 30-45 minutes, they’re great when you go for a run.
Where does creativity come from?
Yesterday, when I was on the treadmill, I happened across Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” podcast.
If you’ve read any of his books like “The Tipping Point” or “Outliers”, you know he makes some amazing observations and he is a master storyteller.
One question that he was asked on this podcast was on his creative process, i.e. how does he come up with his ideas? His answer was “Specificity” and that being specific is a key trait of interestingness.
What does he mean? In his example, it’s like instead of saying “I really like that Hitchcock film”, people with a high degree of specificity in speech and thinking would say, “I really like that 30 second moment when that character said this, the camera panned away and that’s when you realised this was happening”.
And it is this level of specificity that makes things interesting.
He didn’t really answer the creative process question directly but what is clear is that for the creative idea to be interesting to other people, it needs to be highly specific.
Did you cheer for Nadal? You did the right thing
The second interesting remark that Gladwell made is that he always cheers for the favourite team/player. He roots for the favourite not because he’s on the bandwagon but because he feels they are under tremendous pressure.
The favourites are expected to win and the underdogs are expected to lose.
If everything plays according to script, the underdogs would lose but they shouldn’t feel too bad since they kind of expected it anyway.
But if you’re the favourite and the overwhelming favourites like the 2015-16 Warriors that went 73-9 or the Undefeated 2007 Patriots, when you lose, you’ve got to deal with the additional overhang of being “The Greatest Team that Didn’t Win”. In other words, the favourites feel the sting of defeat much more than the underdogs.
Interesting observation? But you see what he did there. He took a conventional idea, turned it upside down and wham, it’s brilliant and “interesting”.
So, here are two takeaways on creativity:
- Be highly specific
- Do a handstand, turn ideas upside down
Now, if you cheered for Nadal to win his 11th French Open title or the Warriors to sweep the Cavs, tell your friends you only did it because you felt sorry for them.
This will never work