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This chapter is from the book

How Creative People Behave

Paul MacCready, founder of AeroVironment, recognized that he had a restless mind that was always darting around. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, however, named MacCready the Engineer of the Century for creating the world's first man-powered and solar-powered aircraft. He never stops coming up with innovative ideas, and he hires creative teams to carry them out. When discussing his innovative productivity, he plays down his abilities, but admits that he's especially good at synthesizing concepts and making connections. He says daydreaming is particularly productive and he has had some of his best ideas while on vacation.

Bill Gross is another example of a uniquely creative individual. Ben Rosen, co-founder of Compaq, described Gross as an extraordinary entrepreneur, a terrible manager, and a tragic figure of the Internet bust. His brain really sets him apart. He speaks fast and bubbles over with ideas and optimism. Together with his overpowering intellect, he has a personal charisma that entices people to follow him and buy into his visions. It seems as though ideas just pour out of him with each being more original than the previous one and each having genuine promise.

Many business leaders talk about creativity and innovation, but few believe their companies are doing a good job fostering either one. Dr. Stanley S. Gryskiewicz, who has studied organizations for 25 years, says that innovation requires both creativity and implementation of new ideas. He found that some organizational structures are better at supporting innovation and creativity than others. The ones that were considered innovative had to be consciously designed to encourage creativity. He suggests that innovation and creativity involve positive turbulence. This is not chaos, but rather turmoil that provides the stimulation needed to encourage change. Organizations that make a commitment to supporting creativity will need to budget sufficient resources to carry it out, and they will need to consider both the individual's and organization's needs. Companies such as Nortel Network's Broadband division committed 10–15% of their budgets at quarterly management meetings to obtaining new ideas from the outside world.

Dr. Alim Louis Benabid, a French neurosurgeon researching treatments for Parkinson's disease, came up with the idea of electrical stimulation of the brain to control tremors. He used electrodes during surgery to stimulate and identify specific parts of the brain needed to correct the disease. This gave him the idea of using electrical stimulation for long-term ailments, not just as a diagnostic tool. He worked with Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based maker of medical electrode devices. With their collaboration, he developed Aptiva, a safe device approved by the FDA in 1997. The success was attributed to Medtronic because it was “safe” to take this kind of innovative risk. This electrode treatment shows great promise. Drugs are only effective for a few years for Parkinson's patients, and often have unpleasant side effects. Electrodes have the advantage of affecting only the precise spot where they're needed in the brain. Scientists are now looking at other possible uses for deep-brain stimulation, such as for treating epilepsy and possibly some psychiatric disorders.

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