The Creativity Project
‘Kill your darlings.’ I have heard this phrase repeated a million times throughout my life, but it has proven particularly relevant in the process of teamwork.
I never enjoyed working with others. Back in school, teamwork was the most overwhelming experience. It often became a battle of who will have the best idea, who will argue the best and, eventually, who will win this sad competition of creativity.
However, my experience with teamwork has drastically expanded over the past year, having been so immersed in collaborating with others at Hyper Island.
Why is working with other people so challenging?
Some time ago, our group task was to find a solution to a problem. Eventually, I got so blindsided, thinking I had the best idea that I barely listened to others. Soon enough, my idea failed and my ego suffered. One of the biggest challenges doing teamwork is to get over your ego. How many times have we thought the idea we just had is the best one at the table? Plenty of times.
In his 2010 book The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely, a professor of Behavioral Economics, introduces the theory of the ‘Not-Invented-Here bias’. The theory is, in other words, ‘if I (or we) didn’t invent it, then it’s not worth much’.
This theory is also called the Toothbrush theory, he explains that ‘everyone wants a toothbrush, everyone needs one, but no one wants to use anyone else’s’.
One argument is that the ownership of an idea makes us value said idea more, sometimes even overvaluing it. We often don’t understand why others find issues in our ideas. Whilst committing to ideas can create great personal drive, we can also end up dismissing others’ ideas, which in retrospect, could become more useful than our own. Ariely’s conclusion is to create a balance in valuing our ideas ‘to figure out how we can get the best and least bad out of ourselves’.
Creativity is about connections
That being said, if we think of our best ideas we realize that they took time to form in our minds. Creativity takes time. A few times, I have had such epiphanies, realizing that this is the idea I had been looking for. But in fact, the process of finding ideas is a much longer, and tedious one. Research into creativity has shown, that ideas are the outcome of many connections your brain has put together. According to Steven Johnson in his 2010 TED talk ‘Where good ideas come from’,‘An idea - a new idea - is a new network of neurons firing in sync with each other inside your brain. It's a new configuration that has never formed before.’
Whilst ideas take time to form in our brains, they’re the product of different outputs in our lives. When I think of all the ideas I’ve had in the past year, I can only realize that they have been heavily influenced by my experiences, what I read, what I discussed with friends or even what I saw happen in the world. As Steven Johnson puts it ‘we take ideas from other people, from people we've learned from, from people we run into at the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms, creating something new. That's really where innovation happens.’
When I overestimated my ‘oh-so-great idea’ and held onto it only to see it fail, my ego suffered. Sure. Ideas are simply that: ideas. They are not a reflection of who I am. Whilst committing to our ideas and visions is crucial, we also need to question them. That’s when the rest of the team can come in handy and help your own creativity, making the process a much more enjoyable experience. We cannot escape external influences. And we better not try to. Even ideas which don’t seem to go anywhere at first glance might lead to outstanding results. By listening to others’ ideas, ideas which aren’t our own, we strengthen our own creativity, both for our own good and for the team’s.
In the next part of the series, I will be discussing the ideal conditions for a creative mindset when collaborating with others.
Check-out Virginie's portfolio here for more of her amazing work. Stay tuned here on our blog for the next part of her series on creativity.
Interested in studying a full-time program at Hyper Island? Our next intake is August 2018. You can apply all year round if you reside outside of the Nordic countries. Applications for Nordic students (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark) open in January 2018.