Creative Genius : Interview with Peter Fisk

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Interview with author of the new book on creativity, design and innovation


  • 1. Creative Genius by Peter FiskInterview with the authorWhat was the background to you writing Creative Genius?I was astounded by Leonardo da Vinci. From sculpture to geometry, anatomy tomechanics, he embraced the border crossing principles of the Italian Renaissance totransform art and science.400 years before Newton, 200 years before Corpernicus, from helicopters andsubmarines, he saw things differently placing context above subject, recognising thepower of paradox and parallels, embracing fusion and design. He was a man truly aheadof his time, and with the help of art historian Michael Gelb, I explore the seven secretsof da Vinci which are most relevant to business today.We live in what you might call a VUCA world volatile, uncertain, complex andambiguous. Nothing is certain any more. And the strategies, products and businessmodels which have made our businesses great are by no means passports to futuresuccess. We need to think more openly, more discontinuously.But it depends on how you see things VUCA can also mean vibrant, unreal, crazy andastounding welcome to a physical and virtual hybrid, where power has fundamentallyshifted, geography is irrelevant, as are most of the other rules of the industrial age. Thisis a world full of technicolour opportunities ready to be exploited by those with sufficientboldness and imagination.Todays winning companies think differently. They have bigger ambitions, moreinnovative strategies, and take bolder actions. From Apple to Zappos, Air Asia to VirginGalactic, they have embraced a more innovative approach to every aspect of theirbusinesses.The best companies see things differently, and think different things. These companies understand the wider impact they can have, on customers and society more generally how they can enable people to do more, and ultimately make life better. They recognise that competitive advantage is about being different, not just through stronger brands and better products, but by understanding the future better than others. They value ideas and innovation as the essence of business shaping markets in their own vision, rather than living in the shadow of others.For me, innovation is my first love, and so the book I have always wanted to write. Fromnuclear physics to managing the Concorde brand, I have had a yin-yang businesscareer, working with some of the worlds biggest and most entrepreneurial businesses.Each experience offers something new, and it is the fusion of these insights and ideaswhich is most inspiring.Creative Genius is the fourth genius book that I have written a series which I hopepeople find more inspiring than your average business book Stretching andchallenging for organisations and individually, alongside brilliant stories

2. businesses around the world, and practical tools and processes to make new ideashappen. This for me, is the last and best of my genius books.Business Genius challenged business leaders to lead with their heads up in a changingworld, making sense of change, and inspiring their people to think differently; CustomerGenius urges them to work from the outside in, fundamentally on customers terms;Marketing Genius explored the left- and right-brain challenge of competitive andcommercial success. Each book has around 50 case studies, and around as manypractical tools.You can find a more detailed summary, key principles, case studies and toolkits for eachof the books from my website www.theGeniusWorks.comWho should read it, and why?Creative Genius sets out to be the essential innovation for business leaders, bordercrossers and game changers. Its for people who want to do more to take theirbusiness to a new level, to develop ideas beyond our current imagination, and to makethings happen, that have never been done before.Big ambitions, I know But why else do we lead a business, embark on new projects, orstudy to improve ourselves?The book is intellectually stretching and stimulating it doesnt try to be too academic ortechnical, but it does explore the most detailed approaches the creative journeys ofJobs to iPad and Branson to space travel, the intriguing principles of Christensensdisruption and Maedas simplicity, juxtaposed with the disciplined processes from NASAto 3M, and the rigorous demands of venture capitalists and stock markets.Creative Genius is for Leaders who seek a new perspective, have bolder ambitions, and want to create step-changes in their business performance. Managers who want to drive innovation in every aspect of what they do, to embrace creativity, design and accelerate ideas to market. Entrepreneurs who seek inspiration and direction, into a how the business world is not just about money, but a fantastically exciting voyage of discovery.What surprised you the most when researching it?Whilst innovation is so often called the lifeblood of organisations, the top priority whentalking to investors, the rallying call of leaders then inside the vast majority oforganisations it goes little beyond the brainstorm. What amazed me of many of thecompanies I visited was the lack of disciplined innovation strategy, process and co-ordination. Too often it is still seen as focused only on products, a subordinate activity ofmarketing, a nice to have.People are confused between creativity, and design, and 3. What surprised me even more is the speed of change in the outside world. Whilst Cokeis tinkering with its flavours, Microsoft preparing for its next release, even Apple on itsrelentless gravy-train of fantastic devices, the world is moving even faster.Small companies understand the scale and direction of the changing world better thanlarge companies, particularly in the emerging markets of Asia and South America wherenetworks and technologies enable the tiniest business, with the brightest brains, to out-think and out-manoeuvre the lumbering supertanker of the last century who are caughtbetween old and new markets, legacy capabilities and future opportunities.But perhaps the biggest surprise was how much business can learn from other places.Lady Gaga might seem a youthful irrelevance to many business leaders but considerhow she came from nowhere to global dominance in 24 months. On the very week thatLehman Brothers crashed amidst financial crisis, Stefani Gremanotta, and her mentorAkon, were launching The Fame Monster. Bold and provocative, maybe even mindbending, she harnessed the world of social media and digital downloads to make herselfa global superstar. What could your business learn from her?Add many others to this. What could you learn from Damian Hirst about contextualpricing? How can you resolve a paradox like rocket man Burt Rutan? And when sciencesays no, like it did to Zaha Hadid when designing the London 2012 Aquatics Centre, howcan you overcome the challenge? What is the secret of fusion according to Paul Smith?And when it comes to social impact, look east to the fabulous business model of AravindEye Care, or west to the social renaissance inspired by the Guggenheim.These are just some of the more inspiring stories I came across.You say, Reductionism, incrementalism and efficiency: the enemies of effectiveinnovation in business today. Can you expand on this for us?Markets are changing at such incredible pace, with fundamental shifts in culture andtechnology, attitudes and expectations. Consumers are in control, and its not how bigyou are, but who has the best 4. From west to east, big to small, business to consumer the hot fashions are in BuenosAires, the best green tech is in Shanghai, the top web designers in Mumbai, and the mostventure capital in Shenzhen.Are you focused on the big opportunities? Over the next 5 years, female consumers willgrow faster than China by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices, creating an intelligentcloud accessible to everyone anytime. By 2025, the economies of the E7 will be biggerthan the G7, renting will replace buying, water will be the new gold and on Too often, we have our heads down in our spread sheets trying to optimise what we do,reducing the costs, improving the margins, enhancing the product or service levels.Doing things right, but are we doing the right things? As a scientist I appreciate the questfor optimisation the precision of segmentation, the productivity of supply chains,balancing portfolios and scorecards, budgets and service levels, net promoter scoresand stock prices.Working harder rather than working smarter. Extending life rather than creating new.Imitating others rather than thinking different We have become too left-brained forour own good analytical, logical, reductionist. We need to reengage our right brainstoo intuitive, holistic and exploratory.Why should we embrace paradox?Paradoxes throw up some of the best opportunities for innovation. They emerge whensomething currently seems contradictory, incompatible, not possible. Nintendo Wii resolved the paradox of playing computer games (geeky, unhealthy, antisocial) and being good for you (socialising, healthy, sporty). Swatch resolved the paradox of having a cool, high-quality, designer watch, but still be so affordable that you can buy a new one every year. Tesla is resolving the paradox of how to have an environmentally friendly, electric or hybrid car, but still have the speed and styling of a Ferrari.Setting out to resolve a paradox requires new thinking, to challenge the conventions thatled to its inherent conflict, and to explore how a positive combination of two oppositescould be valuable.What, for you, are the five factors that will define the future of businesses?Success in the 20th century was characterised by size and scale, in the 21st century it isdefined by ideas and impact. The five factors that will define the future of business are 1. Ideas. The new currency of success individual and collective imagination isdetermine