Killer Ideas vs Idea Killers

kinnon —  October 22, 2005 — Leave a comment

Jobs--3As mentioned elsewhere, Kathy Sierra is one of my favorite writers. Her Creating Passionate Users is a must read blog. The Concept Clarification Effect talks about how great ideas are too often destroyed in the process from concept to production. Her post is a partial riff on Time Mag’s Steve Jobs Oct 24th cover story. (Requires subscription.) From Kathy’s post:

When you’re really really on to something magical, you can guarantee there will be devil’s advocates, naysayers, and vicious critics every step of the way. Yes, sometimes those critics will be right, but if we aren’t brave enough to fight through it when nobody knows for certain, then everything good will be stuck in the concept stage, and we’ll be left with… all of the boring, undifferentiated, or lame products we have now.

I’ve spent most of the past thirty years learning and working in creative environments. (I really DON’T enjoy being able to say that.) As a writer, director and editor, I’ve worked with clients who’ve been willing to go with the wildest ideas – and have had some spectacular results. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with people who wouldn’t know great creative if it bit them in the ….. And the results have been predictable.

Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind talks about how North American society is moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age:

Today, the defining skills of the previous era – the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age – are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous – the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning – increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. (emphasis added)

Creativity matters. Design matters. Idea generation is critical. Too often the power of the gatekeeper destroys the fresh idea. These “key-keepers” live in an unfortunate world – believing that doing the same thing over and over will produce better results – a sign of madness. Or they dumb down brilliant ideas to appeal to “conventional wisdom” – creating pedestrian products in the process.

Do a comparison the next time you’re at a Best Buy or equivalent. Play with Apple’s iPods – and then check out the competitors. The design of the iPods, the ergonomics, the tactile feel – blows the competition out of the water. Apple gets it.

Sierra quotes Time in how Bill Gates has produced mediocre imitations of Apple’s creative and won at the checkout counter.

“Jobs doesn’t care just about winning. He’s willing to lose… He’s just not willing to be lame, and that may, increasingly, be the winning approach.”

If lame still worked, Ford and GM would be at the top of the auto heap. If lame still worked, we’d all be using Walkmans. If lame still worked, network TV would dominate American eye gates. If lame still worked, newspapers would be increasing circulation. If lame still worked, we’d all be in breathless anticipation of Windows Vista (rather than OSX on Intel). If lame still worked, I’d be writing this on a PC laptop, tethered to an ethernet connection, posting it to a user group. And you wouldn’t be reading it.

UPDATE: Read Part Two here.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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