CREATIVITY IS OUR ONLY HOPE

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i. I’m writing a new book on creativity, working title, #hughbook.

ii. YOU CAN READ THE NEW CHAPTERS HERE; you can also FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER.

iii. It will be a sequel to my first book, “IGNORE EVERYBODY”

hughcards table

SO WHAT IS THE BOOK ACTUALLY ABOUT? 

SHORT ANSWER: “CREATIVITY IS OUR ONLY HOPE.”

INTRODUCTION:

In the old days, you could get by quite well without too much creativity. So long as you got up every morning early did your chores, life on the farm pretty much took care of itself; things didn’t change much.

Sure, sometimes creativity was necessary to solve problems (“How the heck am I going to get all these darn hay bales into the barn by sundown?”), but most of the time all you needed was a strong back and a work ethic to match.

Not any longer. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella recently described the world we now live in as a place “that values innovation more than anything else.”

Basically, we now live in a world where everything we actually need can be easily supplied by 10% of the world’s population, according to Brown University’s Mark Blyth.

And the only way to be a part of that 10% is to know how to innovate, how to invent.

And innovation starts life out as an act of creativity. Innovation without creativity simply doesn’t happen.

So if I’m bugging you to be more creative, it’s not because I want you to quit your day job to go be an artist or poet or something, but because I want you to actually be able to feed yourself.

The world is changing, scarily so, and creativity is our only hope. There is nothing else.

[I’ll be uploading more of the book onto this blog as I write it. Again, check here for updates. Thanks.]


THE DAY I REALIZED I WAS IN THE WRONG BUSINESS


[Millionaire Or Artist”, New York, 1998]

[More thoughts from the #hughbook etc.]

THE DAY I REALIZED I WAS IN THE WRONG BUSINESS

Spring, 1998. West Village. Manhattan.

I was in The Corner Bistro, doodling away on my business cards (a new habit I’d only picked up a couple of months before), when suddenly I had a moment of clarity.

At the time I working as a mid-tier copywriter at a mid-tier ad agency working on mid-tier accounts and not doing too badly. I wasn’t setting the world on fire or anything, but I liked the job, I liked the people and the work wasn’t too odious. Plus there was the added benefit of living in New York, a city I adore.

“It’ll do for now”, as they say.

But then suddenly I did some rough math in my head.

I figured that after all my expenses- New York rents, New York taxes, New York suits and ties, New York shoes, New York gym memberships, New York cocktails, just New York everything- at the end of the day I was taking home about a hundred dollars.

One hundred dollars. All those late nights and weekends at the office, all those insanely long meetings talking about nothing, all that business travel and Powerpoint presentations and stress and noise and rushing around…

And all for a lousy hundred.

Then I looked at the little doodles I’d been drawing…

“I bet I could get someone to give me $100 for one of these, instead,” I said to myself.

And that is kinda what happened, in a roundabout way. I gave up advertising to become an artist.

Right then and there. I remember it clear as day, my so-called illustrious advertising career just up and went, vacating my body, like a ghostly spirit.

The rest is history.

No, the art thing did not happen overnight. Yes, there were many stumbles along the way. Yes, a lot of people thought I was crazy at first, myself included. No, it didn’t play out quite the way I thought it would. Yes, I had to pivot many, many times. Yes, there are many other wonderful people involved, yes, it’s still playing out and yes, I’m still constantly pivoting and no, I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Yes, I could have stayed in New York, could have hung on to the advertising gig, hoping to get the big break, hoping for some kind of New York career miracle to happen.

The kind of miracle that a lot of people I knew back then are *still* waiting for…


The product doesn’t get to kick ass until the user kicks ass, first.

[More thoughts from the #hughbook etc.]

I remem­ber the day, back in the early 1990s, when I first came across the great busi­ness wri­ter, Tom Peters. Most TV shows are for­got­ten within hours of watching, but this one still stays with me, over two deca­des later.

Tom was doing a PBS pro­gram on the Mit­tels­tand, those ama­zingly plucky, medium-sized Ger­man com­pa­nies that somehow manage to com­pete suc­cess­fully on a glo­bal level, in spite of their rela­ti­vely small size.

Tom was inter­vie­wing Horst Brandstät­ter, the owner and CEO of Play­mo­bil, the famous Ger­man toy company.

And this is the part I REALLY remem­ber– to paraphrase:

TOM: Hmmm… These Play­mo­bil toys of yours… they do ama­zingly well, all over the world. So what’s their sec­ret? What do they do that’s so interesting?

HORST: It’s not what the toy does that’s inte­res­ting. It’s what the child does with the toy that’s interesting.

BOOM! A moment of cla­rity. One that sticks with me, like I said, twenty five years later.

What Horst said is true, whether you’re run­ning a small mom n’ pop cheese empo­rium in Green­wich Village, or a mul­ti­bi­llion titan like Intel or General Motors: To borrow hea­vily from Kathy Sie­rra, the pro­duct doesn’t get to be kick-ass until the user kicks ass first.

Don’t talk about your­self. Talk about something else. Aim for something higher. Talk about the user. Remem­ber Play­mo­bil. Never for­get the child pla­ying with it.

Thanks, Tom…