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Cultivating Innovation And Creativity, Not Managing It

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 16, 2010

There is a big movement in B-Schools and Design Schools to generate a new liberal arts paradigm that goes beyond learning how to think critically about an individual’s role in society to learning how to build critically based on people’s connection to cultural context. Call it Pragmatic Liberal Arts or Practical Liberal Arts. I call it Innovation Arts or Design Arts because it focusses on the “as if…” prototyping and creating that goes on in serious play (and which our schools succeed in stamping out by grade 2). I’ll be discussing the idea of a new Innovation Arts paradigm at The Future of Design confab in Stanford next week.

One of the smartest guys I know thinking about creating new social behaviors by changing old rituals is Diego Rodriquez over at the great blog Metacool. He just had an insightful conversation with Michael Mauer, Porsche’s head of design about cultivating, not managing, people. Mauer sees himself as a curator of designers and their ideas. He grows creativity. And anyone who has seen the new Porsche 918 Spyder can thank him for this approach to leadership.

Diego has developed his own set of Innovation Principles. Here they are:

1: Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world
2: See and hear with the mind of a child
3: Always ask: “How do we want people to feel after they experience this?”
4: Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.
5: Anything can be prototyped. You can prototype with anything.
6: Live life at the intersection
7: Develop a taste for the many flavors of innovation
8: Most new ideas aren’t
9: Killing good ideas is a good idea
10: Baby steps often lead to big leaps
11: Everyone needs time to innovate
12: Instead of managing, try cultivating
13: Do everything right, and you’ll still fail
14: Failure sucks, but instructs
15: Celebrate errors of commission. Stamp out errors of omission.
16: Grok the gestalt of teams
17. It’s not the years, it’s the mileage

What do you think?

Reader Comments

Tina Louise

March 17, 2010 1:54 AM

Brilliant and I followed the link to the article that was also a great read - thank you :)

I love the way this made me feel about rejecting the norm and approaching differently.


Tina Louise

Steve Supple

March 17, 2010 12:35 PM

Great set of Innovation Principles. I guess every designer has his own creative/design philosophy. Here's some of mine...
1/ Innovate everything.
2/ Creative success is the result of re-inventing yourself.
3/ Creativity is applied optimism.
4/ Your greatest design may well be yourself.
5/ Don't please everyone, quality is always in the minority.
6/ Your greatest idea is labeled, 'My dream'.
7/ Creativity isn't just a way of thinking, it's a way of living.
8/ Every face has a story, every story is a journey.
9/ What disturbs you is call 'the problem'. What inspirers you is called 'the solution'.


March 17, 2010 1:22 PM

Curator: The custodian of a collection (as a museum or library)

Administrators of business are managers, are curators of the museum of innovations past.

Missing: Three (or Five -- Okay, Two) new behaviors created at Porsche or by Porsche ...or within the vicinity of a Porsche.

Missing: The Porsche concept-car-that-never-ships to production ratio.

While I doubt Porsche would top the list, the auto industry as a whole has a dismal record for fantastic concepts that are A) Only innovative in the most superficial aspects of styling B) Never see production (a.k.a. behavior change) or C) Both

Letting designers blow off steam designing nonshipping concepts is a rather well worn way to exile innovation, not foster it.

George Scheller

March 17, 2010 4:41 PM

Good afternoon

I started out 30 years ago as an export manager for a new technology firm. Selling was in fact a technology transfer and a step by step adaption to requirements of the specific market and client. New technology versions grew. Over time I myself created new technology and patented various products, some of which are on the market. Presently I am working on 2 new projects all of which developped - grew over time. Every thing is new even though one is an expert in a field. The idea must be worked on, pruning is perhaps a description of the process. Baby steps often lead to big leaps, the contrary is equally the case. Is managing a new idea not cultivating the idea - as in cultivating a garden. Both actions require dynamic processes. Where is the difference between managing and cultivating or are both words synonomous in our case?

I have to stop or I will continue for ever more.

Thanks for the invite.

George Scheller - Bad Godesberg / Germany

Jeff Lindsay

March 18, 2010 4:03 PM

"Killing good ideas is a good idea" - that's the kind of blasphemy that merits reflection. Ideas strangle many organizations and mind - when there are too many, when they are disconnected from objectives and reality, when they are distractions and delusions that can never be pursued. So many great failures begin with a good idea. Even mediocre ideas can beat good ideas if there are great skills, good leaders, and good execution. But add an occasional great idea to the mix and the success can be remarkable, if the dream isn't cluttered with lots of distracting good ideas along the way.


March 18, 2010 9:34 PM

it was really very impressive..innovation is very necessary in todays environment where complex dynamic changes occurs..if an organization can't innovate..they'll die soon.plz send me some more stuff about business strategies,innovation,quality management,real life scenarios...thanking you.

Keith Russell

March 19, 2010 2:43 AM

Love the principles!

Now indulge my poetic side.........

Culture rather than manage is a great way to think about innovation. I would build on this and say you have to be more like a gardener than a mechanic. The gardener plants seeds and nurtures them - pulling weeds when they appear so they don't overwhelm the good plants. It takes time a care to grow the plants to the point where they bloom into a magnificently colored flower.

The mechanic does nothing until things go wrong then he/she fixes the problem to get back to where you started. The only thing that develops or grows in the mechanics world are problems. Problems are the signal for the mechanic to move in and solve them! The mechanics role is to prevent and form of change or growth. The gardeners role is to nurture and support growth and change.


March 23, 2010 6:46 PM

IDEO's David Kelley believes creative thinking should be nurtured starting in K-12 (
School curricula could even be inspired by Nick Park and Wallace & Gromit's "cracking contraptions" :) -

Spencer Newman

June 30, 2010 1:15 PM

If you've never failed, you've never tried enough.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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