Imagining innovative behavior, vividly

I don’t believe creativity is about thinking outside of the box.  I think it’s about making connections across otherwise unconnected boxes; it’s about pattern recognition.

So, if you will, please indulge me as I communicate a creative link I just made across the writing of two of my colleagues/friends/fellow bloggers, Bob Sutton and John Maeda.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens when human nature meets the need for organizations to be scalable and sustainable, and I think Professors Sutton and Maeda have — quite independently — hit upon a key point.  First, Maeda:

When I was younger, I often tended to think the worst of others when
I felt sleighted in some seemingly unfortunate way. "I have been
wronged because other person X has intentionally wronged me with motive Y." I punish the other person by publicly expressing person X’s (alleged and) imagined motive Y.

Often you discover that your imagination has done its work the way it
should — it imagined something happened in elegant detail without ever
actually happening. The net result is not only embarrassment, but even
worse your own poor intentions or habits with respect to others are
revealed. You imagine most vividly what you do yourself.

The best route is to avoid situations of thinking ill of others by
enacting exemplar behaviors yourself. You are likely to be in a better
position as you are in a better mood and more resilient to adopting
negative behavior — thus affecting your surrounds with the positive
energy necessary to do amazing things in this world.

And then Sutton, as expressed in two points from his "15 Things I Believe" manifesto:

You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it
comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned
social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.

Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel
bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting
like them.

I believe quite strongly that people are more likely to engage in innovative behavior when they are in a flow-like state of happiness.  It’s hard to be innovative when you are unhappy yourself, because as Maeda says, "You imagine most vividly what you do yourself."  And it’s hard to engage in innovative, value-creating behavior when you’re only looking out for Number One — all the innovative cultures I’ve had the pleasure to work in were notable for their relative lack of narcissistic behavior.  If, as Sutton says, "… unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm…", then innovative behavior should be one, too.  People aren’t innovative or not, but their behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes are.

Thank you for the connection, John and Bob.