“Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steelmaking." -Richard Florida
Without a good dose of curiosity, wonder, and interest in what things are like and in how they work, it is difficult to recognize an interesting problem. Openness to experience, a fluid attention that constantly processes events in the environment, is a great advantage for recognizing potential novelty. Without such interest it is difficult to become involved in a domain deeply enough to reach its boundaries and then push them farther. True, it is possible to make one creative discovery, even a very important one, by accident and without any great interest in the topic. But contributions that require a lifetime of struggle are impossible without curiosity and love for the subject. A person also needs access to a domain. This depends to a great extent on luck. Being born to an affluent family, or close to good schools, mentors, and coaches obviously is a great advantage. It does no good to be extremely intelligent and curious if one cannot learn what it takes to operate in a given symbolic system.
Access to a field is equally important. Some people are terribly knowledgeable but are so unable to communicate with those who matter among their peers that they are ignored or shunned in the formative years of their careers. Michelangelo was reclusive, but in his youth was able to interact with leading members of the Medici court long enough to impress them with his skill and dedication. Isaac Newton was equally solitary and cantankerous, but somehow convinced his tutor at Cambridge that he deserved a lifetime tenured fellowship at the university, and so was able to continue his work undisturbed by human contact for many years. Someone who is not known and appreciated by the relevant people has a very difficult time accomplishing something that will be seen as creative. Such a person may not have a chance to learn the latest information, may not be given the opportunity to work, and if he or she does manage to accomplish something novel, that novelty is likely to be ignored or ridiculed.
Access to fields is usually severely restricted. There are many gates to pass, and bottlenecks form in front of them. In the arts, the attraction is more to the centers of distribution, where the major galleries and collectors are located. Just as a century ago aspiring young artists felt they had to go to Paris if they wanted to be recognized, now they feel that unless they run the gauntlet of Manhattan or Los Angeles they don't have a chance. One can paint beautiful pictures in Alabama or North Dakota, but they are likely to be misplaced, ignored, and forgotten unless they get the stamp of approval of critics, collectors, and other gatekeepers of the field.
Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
“I have the world's largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world... perhaps you've seen it.” -Stephen Wright
See the Obvious: Remember, nothing evades our attention quite so persistently as that which we take for granted. Or, as the noted explorer Scott Love once put it, "Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat's car. But only the wisest of cats would think to look there." What resources are right in front of you? If you step back away from your situation, what are the most obvious things you can say about it?
Along the lines of "seeing the obvious," I can't resist relating the following delightful story. It seems that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. They pitched their tent under the stars and then went to sleep. In the middle of the night, Holmes awakened and exclaimed, "Watson, look up and tell me what you deduce." Watson opened his eyes, and said, "I see billions and billions of stars. It's likely that some of these stars have planetary systems. Furthermore, I deduce that there is probably oxygen on some of these planets, and it's possible that life has developed on a few of them. Is that what you see?" Holmes replied, "No, you idiot. Somebody stole our tent!"
See the Wonder: As children, we're awestruck by most of life. Everyday events - from the chirp of a cricket to a telephone conversation with faraway relatives - seem nothing less than miraculous to the average three-year-old. Yet somehow, as we grow into adulthood, that sense of wonderment gets drummed out of us. Too many of us sleep-walk through our lives, focusing on trivial matters ("that car took my parking place") and get locked into narrow ways of thinking ("my way is the right way").
As scientist Lewis Thomas put it, "Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that the mere fact of our existence should keep us all in a state of contented dazzlement."
Expect the Unexpected or You Won’t Find It
-Roger Von Oech