The chemistry of inspiration

Snippets of a quote from James Watson bookmarked via Ideaport has been flitting through my consciousness the past few days.

Getting out of intellectual ruts more often than not requires unexpected intellectual jousts. Nothing can replace the company of others who have the background to catch errors in your reasoning or provide facts that may either prove or disprove your argument of the moment. And the sharper those around you, the sharper you will become.

Just now, something in my train of thought reminded me of the interviews conducted about two years ago for the “Shopping for Innovation” article.

In the end, of course, finding and cultivating a successful working relationship with a design firm is an emotional process—you’re looking for chemistry.

Leaders of creative teams, whether internal or external, could not emphasize enough the importance of chemistry when it came to selecting the right people or studio to collaborate with. That’s the magic of the eureka moment, the creative breakthrough, the inspirational muse, the shared exchange of energy that comes from the conversations that lead to the insights and ideas that we as designers use to solve the ‘wicked problems’ that come our way.  And I read somewhere today that there some things you cannot analyze, like love or the creative muse – the chemistry just is. I felt it in Nokia last month, perhaps that is why I came away without the words to explain the energy we felt in the room as they made their various presentations. They were a team.

Its easier to reverse engineer it I think, that is where the T-shaped people and the plethora of innovation processes and methods arose from – successful melding of teams attempting to categorize, coalesce and encapsulate their oddly unique successes. And any creative individual recognizes the emotional power of a working team – its not easy to let go or move on if you’ve found people with whom you’re almost telepathic with. My first design studio was just such an emotional relationship for me, I was involved deeply with the company even as some members of the team would come and go, the core remained. And when they splintered into three separate units some few years later, we followed our team leader out the door.

Perhaps there is no logic or analysis nor 12 step program to reach that holy grail of the right mix of chemistry, passion, intelligence and insight that clicks into the magic – there’s just a measure of luck and timing, knowing how to value what we find and trusting our hunches. Just ask today’s foremost makers of this magic – Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ives – or your favourite design team or muse.

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