Think Different

Think Different

I believe everyone is creative.

But unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to convince people that they’re creative. No matter how hard you may try, many people believe creativity is something you’re born with – that you either have it or you don’t.

Why is this important?

Because the world is changing unlike it ever has before. Of course, the world is always changing. But this time, it’s different. This time the changes are coming so fast, it’s nearly impossible to keep up. And amidst all the chaos and change, the one thing that seems to separate the companies that survive and ones that falter is a passion for embracing the innovation and creativity in each of their employees.

Think of all the progress we’ve made in the past 25 years. Now, compare those advancements to the previous 2,000 years. We’re moving at a speed never seen before. And to survive, companies need to disrupt and innovate.

If I told you in 1999 that Kodak would be gone in 2 years, you would have jokingly laughed with me. “No way!” you’d say, “Kodak’s been around for a century…”

Same thing in 2005. If I had told you that Blockbuster would be gone by 2010, you would have seriously laughed at me.

But who’s laughing now? It’s the companies that disrupted these two giants (e.g. Apple and Netflix), and redefined their industries in the process.

The next decade will be the most disruptive period of our lives, as Artificial Intelligence rips up the rule book and challenges every paradigm we’ve ever known, leaving in its wake hundreds of companies and brands we grew up with and admired. It’s the same cycle that brought down Blockbuster and Kodak…only it’s going to be even faster and more furious.

So, how will you compete in a world that is becoming automated faster than we can think?

The first step is to have a purpose – a WHY? Ask yourself what it is you stand for? If your answer is “quarterly results” or “a paycheque”, you’re gone! If your company (and each team member within) doesn’t have a clear purpose, you won’t be able to innovate and think beyond the curve of your existing industry.

Did you know that Kodak developed one of the first ever digital cameras, all the way back in 1975? It’s true. But did they bring it to market? No, because they feared it would cannibalize their film business. If Kodak had a clearly defined purpose that focused on creating better ways for their customers to share images – and this purpose was held true above all else – they would have dominated the digital market. But instead, they let the money drive their decisions, and were left in the dust.

Similar disruptions are happening all around us, especially when you mix in the crowd-sharing economy. Soon no one person will own a car. We’ll share them. So, what does that mean for the automotive and architectural industries and urban developers? Will garages and superhighways become as relevant as a video store or film developer?

And if 3D printers can print anything we want at home, what will that mean for the tool industry, the do-it-yourself retailers, and furniture manufacturers?

The only constant is the ever-increasing pace of change, at an increasingly exponential rate.

So, what will evolve as the strongest human core element to compete in this brave new world? Creativity. The ability to think differently and design creative solutions for challenges big and small. Those with a purpose and the creative ingenuity to see it through are the ones that will win.

But haven’t we all been told that we’re not creative?

Ask a group of adults if they can draw and watch how few hands are raised. Ask a classroom of 6 years-old’s, and every hand shoots into the air. We were all kids once, but the stagnant corporate environment has drummed into us the idea of looking for the “one right answer.” That you’re either right or you’re wrong. So much so, that we’ve simply stopped looking for the other, more creative answers. We’ve been iterating instead of innovating, making marginal improvements on what worked the year before.

As Head of Innovation and Creativity at The Walt Disney Company, I worked with some of the most creative people in the world. Not just animators and “Imagineers,” but also “Cast Members” (which was Walt Disney’s creative term for his employees); everyday Disney employees who, when given the tools to think differently, came up with innovative solutions to real issues. For The Walt Disney Company to grow from a simple mouse cartoon into an entire entertainment empire, they needed a lot more than iteration and marginal improvements. They needed to foster an environment of creativity, where every single employee was encouraged to raise their hand and share their creative ideas.

Think back to the 6-year-old you. The you who believes that anything is possible. The curious you who always asks “Why?” The you who knew you could draw, and raised your hand to prove it. The you who turned a cardboard box into a rocket ship or a castle. This 6-year-old is who will be leading the next revolution. Creating the next big ideas. Staying ahead of the curve, and changing the world in the process.

Steve Jobs was right: “The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I believe we are all creative, and I hope to change the world by helping everyone realize how wonderfully creative they can be.