How to Fly a Horse is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it to anyone engaged in a creative endeavor. Yet, one important part of the creation/innovation process is not covered and that is the need for a diversity of experiences. As Steve Jobs said in a February 1996 Wired magazine interview:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
Steve Jobs expressed this same idea much earlier in a June 1982 Academy of Achievement speech:
If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does or else you’re going to make the same connections [as everybody else], and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award.
In this same speech, Jobs said something else that is very profound:
In my mind growing up [I thought that] the world was just sorta something that happened… and you didn’t really try to change it. You just tried to find your place in it and have the best life that you could… and there were some pretty bright people running it. As you begin to interact with some of these people you find that they are not a lot different than you.
Again in a later interview, Jobs goes into more depth on the idea that the people running the world are not any smarter than you are:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.
Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources — and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.
For some reason, this is very difficult lesson for us to learn. We have, I think, a very rigid and limited definition of what an advantage is. We think of things as helpful that actually aren’t and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leave us stronger and wiser.~ David and GoliathMalcom Gladwell
In a review of David and Goliath, Seth Godin states:
The point [of Malcolm Gladwell’s book] is that we are ALL capable of doing great work, ALL capable of doing work that matters, ALL capable of heroism. Why then, do some succeed and others never even try?Silicon Valley works for the very reason that a broken inner-city fails. Because of cultural expectations. People become heroes when they’re surrounded by a culture that allows them to dream it’s possible.
We spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which these kinds of material advantages limit our options.~ David and GoliathMalcom Gladwell
From a video essay about creativity we learn:
All of history’s greatest figures achieved success in almost exactly the same way. But rather than celebrating this part of the creative process we ignore it.
This missing chapter in the story of success reveals the secret to doing meaningful work. But in the modern world, full of distraction, do we have what it takes to do great things?
We are ALL capable of doing great work, ALL capable of doing work that matters, ALL capable of heroism.
And as Daniel Pink tells us in Drive:
When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery— the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.