How to get called a creative genius: when function follows form

March 7, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog, Creativity, Tips

[This post is part of a series on creativity. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

When you have a problem to solve, the problem defines the solution. When the solution solves the problem we say the form followed the function. Such solutions can appear elegant, creative, obvious, or other things depending on the person viewing it.

Architecture and design often value form following function, as well they should, because clients tend to come to them with problems they need solved. The problem existed before the solution.

You can go the other way, and when you do, people start calling you a creative genius. I don’t mean to have a solution in search of a problem.

I mean a good idea generally has the seed for another good idea, especially if you know how to generate good ideas from other good ideas. Note that the standards that made the first idea good don’t have to be the same standards for the second idea.

This method is to take an idea that works in some field, understand why it works, then change it (ideally in a way that has been shown to work), and look for where it can apply.

This method differs from a solution in search of a problem by starting with a successful idea and by transforming it in a way that has been shown to work. This method resonates with me because it describes how I came up with the idea that became Submedia: I saw how a zoetrope worked, applied a transformation that generally works, saw where it could apply, and applied it. Now, over ten years later, Submedia is still going strong. Oh yeah, and people call me a genius for it.

I’ve also consulted to people looking for creative breakthroughs who get called creative geniuses (hence “more success to the successful” under my name at the top of my the blog). This stuff isn’t hard to convey one on one with a blackboard.

Recognizing a successful idea is easy. They’re all around. Knowing transformations that predictably work is the challenging part. Or used to be before Jacob’s book and class and the research that led to it.

There aren’t that many transformations to learn to know enough for people to start identifying you as creative. When you get them, they’re fun and easy to apply. Moreover, they’re systematic (hence the otherwise apparently contradictory name of his class: Systematic Creativity in Business), even though others tend not to pick up on the systematic nature.

I’ve come to see what others call the style of someone they call creative, like a painter, sculptor, designer, inventor, or whatever, as a sign they’ve found a series of transformations that work for them.

I also think that’s the root of phrases like “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” The people who are described as most creative often describe themselves as the biggest thieves. They just apply their style to (in my terminology: the transform) other people’s work. The general public never sees the insides of their brains, only the final product, so they call the people creative.

In future posts I’ll try to describe a few transformations demonstrated to be successful. Jacob had a whole book to do it. I’ll try first to describe the research that led to their development, which preceded Jacob.

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1 response to “How to get called a creative genius: when function follows form

  1. Pingback: Creativity | Joshua Spodek

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