Creative spark

Ideas are easy, im­ple­men­ta­tion is hard, says mar­ket­ing guru Guy Kawasaki

The Australian - The Deal - - News -

Guy Kawasaki shines a light

Some­times he calls him­self an “evan­ge­list”, but Guy Kawasaki’s bio cites him as mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist, author and Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist. At 61 he has spent more than 30 years work­ing in tech, from a job at Ap­ple where he helped mar­ket the Mac­in­tosh line, to a writ­ing and speak­ing ca­reer, to Google where he ad­vised on Mo­torola. For the past two years he has been “chief evan­ge­list” for Canva – the Aus­tralian graphic de­sign web­site based in Syd­ney’s Surry Hills. Kawasaki will be the key­note speaker at The

Aus­tralian’s Creative Coun­try fo­rum in July. Here he re­flects on the creative process and what com­pa­nies need to do to rein­vent and reimag­ine their busi­ness.

Do you think there is a “creative” gene in the sense that some peo­ple are re­ally much more in­nately creative than oth­ers?

Guy: I don’t know if it’s ge­net­ics, up­bring­ing, or sim­ply luck and tim­ing, but it sure looks like some peo­ple come up with more creative ideas than oth­ers. Let’s face, you and I are not an­other Steve Jobs. But I re­coil at my re­sponse be­cause it im­plies that peo­ple can­not be creative be­cause of their ge­net­ics, up­bring­ing, luck, or tim­ing. This sets in mo­tion a down­ward spi­ral, which is wrong too. The best an­swer is to ig­nore my an­swer and what peo­ple say. If you want to cre­ate some­thing, go for it. Don’t ask per­mis­sion. Don’t sec­ondguess your­self. Just try. By the way, an out­stand­ing book for any­one who wants to ig­nore the naysay­ers, in­clud­ing the in­ter­nal naysayer, is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ue­land. This book isn’t only for writ­ers. It’s for any­one want­ing to do some­thing creative. This book changed my life [see ex­tract on the op­po­site page]. Can you teach cre­ativ­ity? An­other hard ques­tion. I don’t think that train­ing is nec­es­sary or suf­fi­cient. If you don’t have for­mal train­ing, you can still be creative. And if you had train­ing, you might still not be creative. I sup­pose train­ing can ac­cel­er­ate or heighten cre­ativ­ity, so it won’t hurt. But if I had to pick be­tween train­ing and in­spi­ra­tion, I would pick in­spi­ra­tion as the more de­sir­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Is there a dif­fer­ence be­tween cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion? Yes, in­no­va­tion is cre­ativ­ity that’s been com­mer­cialised. I mean this in a pos­i­tive way. Can you name two or three peo­ple you have worked with who are/were very creative? I’ve worked for two very creative peo­ple. Martin Gru­ber at Nova Stylings, a fine­jew­ellery man­u­fac­turer in Los An­ge­les, and Steve Jobs of Ap­ple. Martin could see what pel­lets of gold and loose di­a­monds could be­come. Steve could see what chips, plas­tic, glass, and rub­ber could be­come – and what peo­ple would come to be­lieve they need. When you think of these peo­ple, what do you think were the most im­por­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics that made them so creative? If I knew this, I would write a book about it! Creative peo­ple like Steve Jobs have a dif­fer­ent op­er­at­ing sys­tem that mere mor­tals like me can­not fully com­pre­hend. What should a com­pany do to lift the cre­ativ­ity lev­els among staff? The most im­por­tant fac­tor is the re­al­i­sa­tion that if a com­pany doesn’t in­no­vate, it will die. If you can in­ter­nalise this be­lief, then you re­alise that with­out in­no­va­tion, all is lost, and cre­ativ­ity is the source of in­no­va­tion. Which na­tions are the most creative? We hear a lot about the draw­backs of ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in places like Ja­pan and China where there is more em­pha­sis on rote learn­ing than in some coun­tries in the West. Does this have an im­pact on how they op­er­ate in the creative space? I have no idea which na­tions are the most creative. I don’t know how you can mea­sure this, and I don’t know if it mat­ters if you could mea­sure it. I’m not a big be­liever in macrolevel statis­tics. That is, mea­sure­ments such as gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, gross na­tional prod­uct, un­em­ploy­ment rates, to­tal ven­ture­cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. I live at the mi­cro level. I don’t care if the na­tion you live in has the worst STEM [science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics] scores, a pa­thetic rep­u­ta­tion for in­no­va­tion, and no ven­ture cap­i­tal. All I care about is that two guys or gals in a garage, spare bed­room, or dorm make a pro­to­type out of an idea and take it to mar­ket. The big pic­ture is over­rated. I just want to see in­di­vid­ual ef­forts. Do creative ideas come out of hard work and de­ter­mined think­ing or do they come from left field? Creative ideas come from left field, right field, cen­tre field, in­field, dugout, stands, and park­ing lots. It doesn’t mat­ter where the idea came from. They all need hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed. Frankly, ideas are easy. Im­ple­men­ta­tion is hard. Lots of young peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar have been en­cour­aged to think that un­less they come up with left-field ideas they are fail­ures, but are we putting too much em­pha­sis on ideas and not enough on ex­e­cu­tion? Who is telling young peo­ple this? Prob­a­bly old peo­ple who haven’t in­no­vated and im­ple­mented for a while. When I was young, I thought that ideas are the key. Now that I’m old, I be­lieve that im­ple­men­ta­tion is the key. You want a great idea that’s im­ple­mented well, but even a lousy idea that’s im­ple­mented well can suc­ceed. But a great or lousy idea that’s im­ple­mented poorly will al­ways fail. Can you share what you think was your most creative busi­ness idea? My most creative idea was when I was ad­vis­ing a com­pany, and there was a big suc­ces­sion plan is­sue for the new leader. Ev­ery­one was try­ing to read the tea leaves about who the di­rec­tors would pick for the next leader – it was go­ing to be a tricky process no mat­ter who we picked. My idea was to let the ex­ec­u­tives of the or­gan­i­sa­tion de­cide. The di­rec­tors didn’t make the de­ci­sion. This forced the com­pany ex­ec­u­tives to work to­gether to come up with their own de­ci­sion. With power comes re­spon­si­bil­ity, as the say­ing goes. It was one of the clever­est things I’ve done.

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